Shalom Friends :o)
We left off at Shabbat after shopping at the Shook:
Shabbat was spent at a beautiful Reform Synagogue in Tel Aviv. The walls were bright and yellow and vibrant, and this round room was decorated with prayers in calligraphy on the walls and metal sculptures hung to accent the prayers; you just felt like you were outside in a garden. As the Cantor’s voice resonated throughout the room, a bird who came to join us flew back and forth and after davening a bit, eventually got himself perched where he was comfortable too. The Rabbi, so calm (and, in a lot of ways, like Rabbi Harvey), brought smiles to everyone and while some of the prayers were new, most were very, very familiar. People arrived in shorts, in t-shirts, in wrinkled suit jackets and sandals…and it wasn’t about clothes or looks or labels…it was about spirit, and connection, and rest…”who cares what you’re dressed like, it’s Shabbat, and you’re here, and you’re with us!”…it was truly wonderful to be a part of their congregation and to take part in Shabbat with
After Havadallah on Saturday I packed for Sunday.
Early Sunday morning, after some breakfast, we took the bus from Tel Aviv and made our way into the center of Jerusalem. We stopped to pick up a few things I needed, and then we headed over to Jaffa Gate…and we walked on through…and then, we were in Jerusalem, in the Old City. We continued down slick stone steps, slowly, with all of their twists and turns, walking under awnings and porches and past iron gates, and we arrived at the Western Wall…I was finally ‘home’.
After washing my hands, I approached the wall and leaned on it, I kissed the wall and emotions just overcame me as I cried with happiness…I was (I am!) in Jerusalem, in the Old City and as tears strolled down my cheek I prayed and felt such a calmness run throughout my body and my soul (and if you gave me a prayer to leave in the wall, it was tucked into the wall, safe and sound).
As I prayed and cried, an older man placed his hand upon my head and said a prayer for me (which I thanked him for) and then I made my way into the underground area where I prayed some more and read from the book of Psalms.
After about an hour we got up to explore some more, and as we were leaving I ran into a friend of Rabbi Gurary who is the Rabbi I know on the University at Buffalo’s Campus (Rabbi G: Shmuli Weiss from Jerusalem says “hi!”) and later I would run into the gentleman who I shared a seat with on the El Al flight here (also at the Western Wall)…all roads really do cross in Jerusalem, and I’ve already made some new friends here so hopefully our paths will cross, and cross again.
We had lunch at the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem where I got to use one of the two German words I know (“Danke”) and enjoyed some good food. We made our way to the Muslim Quarter, and walked through the Arabic Shook where the smell of resin and incense fills you and ignites your imagination (and magic, flying carpets are everywhere…no, really if you don’t believe me, go and see for yourself…they even let you take them for a test ride), and wonderful food is cooking in every window next to stores that sell the latest in both religious and western fashion (lots, and lots of designer underwear in the Arabic Shook. which sort of took me by surprise). We walked through the Jewish Quarter as well and enjoyed the sound and smell of their markets and made our way through the Christian Quarter and their markets…until we approached an ancient church, and entered. The church has been around (if I recall correctly, from about 218 A.C.E.) and as we walked through, the solemn
calmness of this cavernous, mostly underground church overcomes you and you stand in Awe.
I purchased two candles from the priest (a Shekel each) and I lit them (one for Debbie and one for Voula, who I worked with at the Pharmacy back home). After this Itai and I sat for some rest, and then we got some dinner and talked some more. After dinner we said our goodbyes as he went to head back to Tel Aviv and I went to go register at Heritage House which is a free youth hostel for Jewish Travelers; less than a two minute walking distance from The Wall. I walked in, and they were the most friendly people (friendly and genuine) right from the start. The hostel is lovely, and clean and very much in the style of Jerusalem, with a garden and a porch and the inside of the house becomes outside and vice-versa (much like an Escher drawing, actually). There’s a lounge (and a computer with free Internet that I’m typing to you on).
The person sharing my dormitory with me is lovely, he’s French and Israeli and speaks French and Hebrew and very, very little English which is just great. Other people staying in the Hostel are fun too and we’ve been hanging out downstairs talking, getting to know each other, and having just a marvelous time.
Heritage House closes at 9am daily (which is when they lock all the doors and everyone leaves to go explore for the day) and re-opens their doors at 7:00pm, and then closes down the front door again at 12:00am (1:30am on Shabbat) so it’s incredibly, incredibly convenient, safe and welcoming.
If Tel Aviv, which is beautiful and almost beyond compare, can be described as Silver…it exists to hold up, to set, the Diamond that is Jerusalem.
Tomorrow will be a somber day as I will be heading to Yad Vashem to see the Holocaust Museum and the Memorials. Tuesday will be spent getting lost in Jerusalem so I can learn it by foot (and taking plenty of photographs) and the rest of the week (except for Shabbat) is pretty much up for grabs: I have plenty of sites outlined on my map that I want to see, and I’m sure after I’m done seeing those I’ll discover some more along the way.
Tomorrow (the 11th) is also my Father’s birthday, so Happy Birthday Dad!
More updates as I have them!