Time and again, Bali reveals itself to be all about synchronicity.
It all happened because Alexsandra and I chose to dine at Sari Organik (otherwise known as Oded and Nila’s place): As we were seated, I heard a dog barking with conviction, turned to see what the commotion was all about, and told the two men (unlucky targets of all the attention) that Bali dogs probably aren’t accustomed to seeing men in beards. Never mind the helmet, skullcaps and white strings hanging from their shirts (tsitsis). I was sure it was the unfamiliar sight of the long beards. One comment led to another, which is how, within a few minutes of conversation with the pair of them, Alexsandra and I found ourselves being invited to dinner last night in southern Bali.
It was an auspicious day to be invited to dinner. Daniel and Barry had sought out members of the tribe from all around Indonesia, inviting them to a special gathering and dinner at Liat’s home. Liat, the inimitable macrobiotic chef, caterer and proprietor of the Earth Café, had returned from summer travels and was, once again, hosting her weekly Friday night dinners. I hadn’t yet met Liat, but her name is legendary among the vegetarian/vegan/macrobiotic/raw foodies in Bali. There was no way we (and Kristin, who joined us) could turn down the invite.
It was an evening to remember: We entered the front courtyard through a remote-controlled gate. The open air dining area was brightly lit and bristling with energy; adults and children speaking a mix of languages, mainly English, French, Hebrew and Indonesian. The lower floor was covered with paintings of Ganesha and Om bas-reliefs alongside mezuzot and batik pieces with writings in Hebrew. About fifty people were seated around a U-shaped series of tables. Covered in white tablecloths, dotted with vegetarian dishes galore: carrot, beetroot and green salads; humus, baba ganoush, eggplant with tomato sauce, potatoes, fish, challah bread and a real treat. The wine (imported from Israel) flowed all night. Liat’s catering staff (maybe 8 women) kept busy cooking and serving a constant flow of nutritious and delectable dishes.
The evening was dotted with speeches and prayers, songs and stories. People huddled in small groups, discussing food, art and spirituality, building a synagogue in Bali, the history of Jews in Indonesia – and dolphin therapy. Perhaps it was while we were immersed in the latter topic that I was suddenly reminded that a beach and the ocean lay only a few minutes away. And we were not in Israel… but across the world, in Bali.
Shabbat in Bali. After months of attending Balinese ceremonies, festivals, cremations, this time, even for one night, they were closer to another home. Shal-Ommm… Who would have thought it possible?