I love Lag Ba’omer. Why do I love Lag Ba’omer? Well besides for the fact that it’s a good excuse for a BBQ, I love it because it makes me think of Meiron, which in turn makes me think of Israel, and Israel makes me feel like home. I spent seminary in the Holy Land over 10 years ago, and I just fell in love with its spiritual and physical beauty. Just looking at pictures of Jerusalem tugs at my heartstrings and I yearn to go back. When I got married, I told my husband, all I want is for you to take me to Israel! Well seven years and two children later, I got my wish. Last year we won roundtrip tickets (!) and we couldn’t imagine a better time to go then for Lag Ba’omer. We decided to spend Shabbos at Kibbutz Lavi in Tiveria, so that we could drive straight to Meiron after Shabbos. It turned out to be a beautiful hotel in an equally beautiful kibbutz, with nice accomodations and delicious food.
How can one describe the scene of Meiron on Lag Ba’omer? Thousands of people from every walk of life, pilgrimaging up the mountain towards the Rashbi’s holy kever…each person beseeching the tzaddik for their personal salvation, collectively asking for our redemption…a thousand glowing candles burning bright…prayers…tears…brotherhood…holiness…(I apologize for lack of pictures, but had I brought my good camera to Meiron, it would no longer be my “good camera”, but rather my “broken to pieces by throngs of people camera”).
As beautiful as it all sounds, practically speaking, it was anything but easy. We had two young children, a double stroller, thousands upon thousands of people, darkness (we went at night)…Going from parking lot to bus to the base of a verrrry steep hill which we needed to climb with our stroller. But we made it to the other side, and it was worth every push and shove!
After a late night in Meiron, we could not resist making the ascent to Tzfas to visit the kever of the Arizal. Tzfas is one of the four holy cities of Israel (Jerusalem, Chevron and Tiveria make up the other three), and it is truly magical. The scenery from the mountaintop, the ancient shuls and the holy sages that are buried there are just some of what makes the mystical city special.
Traditionally, we make bonfires on Lag Ba’omer to commemorate the light that the Rashbi brought to the world through his Torah learning. On our drive back down to Yerushalayim, we could not resist stopping for some “Al Ha’esh”. Decks, a beautiful restaurant located in Tiveria was the perfect spot to get our BBQ fix. It is situated on an extended Deck (hence the name) overlooking the kineret, making you feel as if you are on a boat. There are glass windows from ceiling to floor with blue crystal waters as far as the eye can see. Decks serves traditional Israeli fare, as well as an extensive “Al Ha’esh” menu which is served on a personal BBQ at your table. The food was incredible, the scenery breathtaking, and the day totally and completely unforgettable.
So, without further ado, in honor of the holiday of Barbeques, I give you my favorite BBQ potato salad recipe:
BBQ Potato Salad
Good Housekeeping Magazine
3 pounds medium red-skin potatoes (about 12), cut into 1 inch chunks
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
1 ¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper (coarsely ground)
½ cup mayonnaise
2 small celery stalks, thinly sliced (optional)
2 scallions, minced
Bring potatoes to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 8-10 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Meanwhile in a large bowl, mix vinegar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper with wire whisk. Drain potatoes. Add hot potatoes to bowl with vinaigrette; gently stir with rubber spatula until evenly coated and absorbed. Cool for 15 minutes. Add mayonnaise, celery and onions and mix. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.