90 Minutes in Shlomi

As part of our coverage of the HaTanach competition, Israel Story producer Yochai Maital and I visited the small town of Shlomi, which is about an hour's drive out of Haifa — essentially as far North as you can possibly go in Israel. Taking the bus from Jerusalem you watch the landscape flatten into dry fields and then gradually bubble into rolling green hills again, until you reach Haifa itself which is built into the side of a mountain: staggering houses upon houses like cinema seats up the steep slope of Mount Carmel. Driving back toward at night with all of the city lights turned on felt like driving straight into a wall of stars.

I think every time I see a new city in Israel, I say, "no, this is my favorite place."

This family spoke very limited English, and my Hebrew is nonexistent, but I can still tell you they were maybe the most hospitable people I've ever met — bringing us coffee and almonds and candy bars, and huge bundles of fresh mint from their garden before we left, at which point the father insisted on driving us back to our car ... literally maybe fifty feet away from their home.

Pictured: the sun sets across the street from the family home of one of the HaTanach semifinalists (straight ahead is Lebanon, to the left is the Mediterranean Sea). This little guy was very vocal all through the interview. Playing soccer in the yard. Mother and little brother on the second floor porch.