It’s been a jam packed few days as we transitioned from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by way of the desert (a little indirect but I guess like Moses we weren’t good at asking for directions?).

Wednesday morning we were treated to the first of a few talks by different sectors of Israeli society. Assaf Luxembourg, a third or fourth generation Israeli, spoke about the tech industry. He also gave us some tips to experience Israel- act a little Israeli, eat some hummus, and interact with its people.

We stopped by Rabin Square (I posted the melody of Shir Lashalom on the last blog) where Rabin was assassinated as we recreated the scene and discussed Yigal Amir’s bastardizing of the Torah to think that this was what God would wanted (Israeli society pre and post-Oslo was tensely critical of the Peace movement, with some sections of government/religious authorities calling for someone to “take care of” Rabin (often depicted to look like Hitler).

A birthright group joined in a circle to sing “Lmaan Achai v’rei’a”-for the sake of my brother and my neighbor- a melody written by Shlomo Carlebach (text is used in our liturgy) and quite appropriate for the experience.

We traveled to the Weizzman Institute, named after the the 1st President (figurehead position) of the State of Israel (also a scientist) and a leading hub for R&D in the world. After an interactive welcome center we took some free time in Old Jaffa, visited the flea market (Where I heard this classic on the radio from my high school Israel experiences being blasted from a car radio),

and finally left Tel Aviv and headed to Kiryat Gat. It was at this time I started looking into top kosher restaurants in Jerusalem (for Thursday night’s free night), and low and behold our hotel in Tel Aviv had a 15th floor restaurant ranked #3 in all of Israel. Oops!

Rabbi Sharon Shalom is an Ethiopian Orthodox Rabbi who serves a congregation of mostly Holocaust survivors. He is an engaging speaker who talks about his journey, his adjustment to Israeli society and the importance of speaking with the heart.
Musically speaking, the Rabbi is also a Hazzan and says that depending on what life cycle he officiates (really for whom), he will use the nusah and customs of that couple- he gave an example of Sheva Brachot being chanted a number of different ways!
It was also crazy to hear the Rabbi use an Ashkenazic pronunciation of the Hebrew and even have Yiddish phrases in his repertoire like “gornisht mit gornisht”

Our day is culminated by a late evening Camel ride and Bedouin hospitality. As we headed to bed, a group of Israeli soldiers started humming TLC’s Scrubs for some reason. Only in Israel!!

I also look out at the clear skies and crescent moon. There are a number of Israeli songs that talk about the moon, but this one came to mind at that moment.

Day 3

An early morning (wake up call at 3:30AM) hike up Masada. So proud of ALL of our participants for making the early morning trek up the mountain. We enjoyed watching the sunrise and spent a few early hours recreating the controversial experience of the Jews living on Masada (from King Herod to those who committed suicide rather than give in to the Romans).

As we were leaving the top of Masada, we left an open ended question of how these Jews should be remembered – as heroes? As a tragedy? In any event, this early Israeli perspective of “we may have been perceived as weak before, but look at all the might we have; look at all of the examples of those who rebelled” is prevalent. We’ll see that as well when we visit Yad Vashem – the first museum (before it was recently renovated) showcased the story of Mordechai Anilevitch, who died in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Early Israel wanted to associate with the heroic stories of strength and heroism.

Afterwards (iwhat felt like 5pm already) we traveled down for a hike to the springs at Nahal David. Nahal David floods every year so the topography of where the springs are changes from year to year. It was a great surprise to catch our Jacksonville kids in the waiting area to enter Nahal David!! Having reached out to Seminar we had thought our paths would totally not cross on our journey. What luck!

After a refreshing dip we headed to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. It was hot! It was salty! It was wonderful!

We traveled to Jerusalem and made a Shehechiyanu to show that we are finally home in the ancient city. I sang an excerpt from Hameiri’s Yerushalayim as we gazed at the panoramic view of Jerusalem.

Checking into the hotel, we had a few hours before our reservation at the Latin restaurant La Boca (half of us went to Eucalyptus). Whenever I have a few hours in a city (this happened in Madrid a few weeks ago), I like to walk around for an hour to acclimate myself. I walked up to the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and headed towards the Kotel (I don’t think I’ve ever entered from that direction). It was cool to hear all of the languages in the shuk (some Italians speaking Italian with the Arab shopkeeper and bonding over their love of cashmere). I headed for the Cardo and realized there’s a shortcut to the Arab shuk back to the Jaffa Gate; and I didn’t even need Waze (An Israeli company)!!

When we got back from dinner, a party was hopping across the street. A band played 3 songs in succession before going into a techno/DJ dance mod: Inyan Shel Zman (we used to sing in Pizmon, meaning “A Matter of Time”) what I refer to as Etmol haya tov (yesterday was good, officially called “Hayareach”- another Hayareach!!), and John Denver’s Country Road.

Only in Israel- Rak B’Yisrael!

Posted on July 29, 2016, in Synagogue Israel Trip. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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