The following write-up was written originally as a TravelPod travelogue entry.
The taxi drivers outside Kathmandu airport know all the Israelis ask for 2 things, either Swissa or Bet Chabad (Chabad House). They always explain, "Bet Chabad not guesthouse", "Swissa not guesthouse"! But the Israelis insist..,
There are many Bet Chabads around the world, each different, everything from the actual "mission" of the place to the feeling inside it, many times I've heard people mention that Bet Chabad Kathmandu has the best vibe. The feeling of being home, the absence of any religious "pressure" to do or take part in prayers and the openness of Rabbi Chezki, Chani his wife and the rest of the Chabadniks that visit is what makes it such a great place.
At first you notice the small sign pointing to the stairs, then the painted walls on the way to the second floor "Glatmandu Resturant" "Bet Chabad" etc. the door has a big "Welcome" painted on and swings both ways. After walking in, you notice the myriad of different things going on... from people eating kosher Schnitzel and Humus, playing on the guitar that is always somewhere here, reading the different notes on the board, travel books and reports or just books. Walking in deeper you notice the small synagogue area and the Internet right next to it, people uploading photos and chatting with family. The phone rings, one of the Nepalese staff picks it up, then hands it over to the nearest Israeli he can find, he answers in Hebrew then calls out into the room "Is Danny here? Danny Shmueli? Your mother is on the phone!" someone calls back "Danny left a couple minutes ago, tell his mother to try again tonight, he'll probably be back"
In the evening, cinnamon tea and cake, lessons given by Rabbi Chezki which sometimes lead to philosophical conversations that last until late at night, while people slowly drift back to their guest houses to go to sleep. Meni (One of the Chabadniks) asks who is planning on staying last and someone from the Internet announces he is waiting for a phone call and it will be a while, he is left with instructions on how to close for the night and the last few night birds hang on the Internet or waiting for phone calls, while Israeli music plays in the background, someone has fallen asleep on the sofa and the chess boards, taki, backgammon and books are placed back on the tables waiting for people to play/read them tomorrow. The final phone call arrives and well after midnight the last person leaves after a short struggle with the lock, Bet Chabad waits empty until morning.
Shabbat and Holidays are of course the highlights of Bet Chabad activity with Kiddush and Candle Lighting, meals, conversations and explanations about religion and other things. After the first meal Friday night there is "story time" where around the table people tell stories or remarks, sometimes about Bet Chabad, sometimes about religion and sometimes just funny anecdotes. It's a special feeling in the air, and almost every time someone says something moving or just amazing.
What makes the Kathmandu Bet Chabad so special is the people, you can meet anything here from non-Israeli Jews from India, Australia and England. Israelis who live in Kathmandu or Delhi, people of all ages, religious, anti-religious, those who knew they'd come, those who don't know how to tell their families, Religious movie directors who are in Nepal filming, Crazy Trance DJs who are in Nepal doing drugs, people on their cell phones talking to their boss alongside people on the Internet talking to their children or grandchildren, people who came in for some kosher food, religious materials, advice or prayerbooks.
When you walk in, next to the donation box in a book where people write their thanks to Bet Chabad, hundreds if not thousands of heart warming entries are found, just as this write-up is a bit different from the rest i've written on e2. I'd like to use this entry to thank Chezki and Chani and all the great Chabadnikim I've met here: Shmulik, Dudi and Chaim from Passover/Shavout and Meni and Shmulik from this season (Hanukah). Thanks for everything!
Nepal's Bet Chabad is located in the Thamel
area of Kathmandu and is open all most all year round. It hosts one of the biggest Passover Seder
s in the world and is visted by hundreds if not thousands of Jewish Traveller
s (mostly Israeli Backpacker
s) every year.