JJC Israel Trip Shabbat in Jerusalem
Friday morning, we took a short bus ride for a panoramic view of the the Old City as we were welcomed by Keshet (the tour company) founder Yitzchak Sokoloff. We then traveled to the City of David on the southern tip of Old city as we viewed an epic 3-d film of the origin of the city. Our tour guide ran through the different iterations of the city throughout history as we focused on the period of King Hezekiah. Through the help of a private organization (somewhat controversially), Israel has unearthed a series of tunnels used for water access throughout the city of David. I pointed out East Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, where my father’s paternal grandparents are buried! A small group of us ventured inside the water tunnels for a thrilling 45 minute experience.
Free time in the Old City meant shopping in the Cardo, eating in the Jewish quarter, and visiting the Kotel. Wearing a baseball cap and looking uberly touristy, I was stopped 3 times in the men’s section to see if I wanted to put on tefillin or even have a prayer said on my behalf.
On Monday we’ll share a bnei mitzvah ceremony by Robinson’s Arch, an egalitarian worship place, but I do hope that we can find a way to create an egalitarian worship place at the Kotel itself. The one saving grace of having two sections was that the women in the women’s section were able to pray- in the men’s section, all I saw were men being accosted and having someone say that their prayer meant more than whatever notes someone had brought. The Kotel, needless to say, is a complicated place, primarily because of the political and social discourse surrounding it.
We rushed over to see the hustle and bustle of Machane Yehuda pre-Shabbat- this is in stark contrast to my last experience there, at 7am on a Monday morning as the market was just opening. We collect food for Shabbat as well as the world-famous Marzipan Rugelach!
A new addition to the Jerusalem pre-Shabbat menu is the Tachana, the old Turkish railroad station turned into an outdoor mall and music space. An acoustic band leads the assembled crowd in some familiar and new melodies for Kabbalat Shabbat as the chaos of pre-Shabbat shopping surrounds the central space. This is less davening and more Judaic exposure; a new take on Public Space Judaism- not a random table set up at a fair- this is at the center of it all, and the musicians are not phased when a large portion of people are more interested in the vendors than the Psalms.
From the Tachana we head to davening at Kol Haneshama, a reform synagogue whose Friday night service (the sanctuary eventually fills up 30 minutes into the service) mimics melodies that I might have heard at Ramah growing up- there is a conscious (or not) lack of Carlebach melodies in the service. It was cool to hear them chant the Lcha Dodi melody created by their community a generation ago.
At the same time, Nava Tehila, a Shabbat in the Round on steroids service, was taking place in the basement of the same complex- groups were not allowed to attend since they only meet a few times during the summer, but some of us were able to join in even for a few parts of Kabbalat Shabbat- even though both services were packed, Nava Tehilla, with a full “round” davening space and 5 guitars/Cello/violin/drums, felt like it had more energy. The attached link was song by over a 100 voices. It was awesome!!
Shabbat dinner featured a new favorite of mine, Goose legs!
Saturday morning, we traveled to Moreshet Israel, located adjacent to the Fuchsburg Center at the heart of downtown Jerusalem. The service used many of the same melodies the JJCers are accustomed to and even used our Shabbat siddur. The sermon was in English too! Part of Moreshet Israel’s mission is to be that “home away from home” as Rabbi Adam Frank put it. We were greeted by Rabbi Jerome Epstein, who staffed Eliot and Barbara Safer the summer they met! We shared the service with a group from Park Synagogue in Cleveland, many of whom had regards for David Wolinsky! We enjoyed the hospitality of Rene Feinstein, the outgoing shul president and family friend who, by chance, had also negotiated my first contract in Jacksonville! The shlichat tzibbur, Saralee Shrell-Fox, has a beautiful voice and serves as the High Holiday cantor in Milton, MA at the shul where my grandmother served as sisterhood president! Talk about connections!!
A small group splintered off for a taste of the Great Synagogue and its magnificent choir!
The group gathered for Seudat Shlishit overlooking the Old City as we sang songs about Jerusalem that led right into Havdalah. A group went back to the Tachana to see the stage alive with a musical performance as the new week is upon us.
Shavua Hachi Tov- we hope a great week ahead in Israel!!