Kabbalah and Ghosts
The bus weaved left and right, following the serpentine curves of the road. Very few roads in the state of Israel follow a strait course for very long, and this one did nothing to buck the trend. Sitting in the bus seat, my back and shoulders throbbed with a dull pain from carrying my 60 something pound backpack, or bag of my life, and tinges of nausia began to unfold from the base of my skull. My middle brother and travel partner Wes, sitting to my right across the aisle, looked to be in the same state of anguish. I at least had the luxury of an ipod. We were both ready to get off the bus.
We were headed for Svat, a city located in the northern part of Israel. It is a city aged with the history of millenia (plural), a city of antiquity, fought over by Jews, Arabs, and Knights Templar just to name a few. As if this historical soap opera wasnt enough to make it interesting, it
became a center of Jewish mysticism and seemingly magical spirituality, or Kabbalah. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the population of Svat was enlarged by an influx of Jewish immigrants fleeing the Inquisition and persecution in Spain. Many of the new arrivals were Kabbalists, or seekers of mystical truth. The movement of Jewish mysticism in Svat apparently started long before this migration, but never the less, mysticism began to take stronger root and flourish like it had never done before. In the city's hills are buried the famed figures of Judaism's Kabbalistic past, whose places of rest are visited and prayed over in regularity.
Now, everyone I am sure has been through a town, or the street of a town that claims to be magical, or channel spiritual energy; this claim is usually backed up with a decent number of shops that sell all things crystal, items that naturally heal, a huge heap of tarrot cards, peculiar jewelry, and managed by some spacey white lady with a flowing tie died forest green dress (hiding crocs), all to the background noise of flowing water or flute music. I know these shops well, as I am a repeat customer. While these towns are fun and entertaining, they are the most of them false backed. Tourist ploys. You don't come away feeling impacted. Svat takes this same principle and makes it serious with an almost 2,000 year old history. A history of blood, of swords and scimitars, of occupation by Arabs, Turks, Mamulucks, Crusaders and of course Jews. Svat is a throne of mysticism with the weight of one of mankind's oldest religions behind it. Ladies and gents, Svat is the real deal.
All of this, unconsciously I believe, began settling into my mind. Weighing upon my mind. Whether I knew it or not, after just setting foot in the hill-top city, I had began to feel it's presence. My brother and I got a clean, quiet and cozy room to ourselves in a Kabalah school/boarding house called Ascent Institute. As per usual, after a particulary grueling day of backpacking, I fell into a deep sleep before my head hit the pillow. However my sleep was not pristine, and it was disturbed. I remember being pulled out of sleep
by a feeling of fear. In my dream impaired state, I felt and feared the presence of something supernatural in the room, or in the school, or maybe just the aura of Svat itself. I did not come fully awake, and soon fell back into a deep sleep. But I do remember feeling that airy and gnawing feeling of anxiety, that feeling just before fright, while lying in my hostel bed. While not a traditional believer in mysticism or magical realism at the moment, I am a believer in the power of Svat. There is no other city like Svat in the world, and those places claiming to be so simply cannot hold a candle to it.