Winter Trip 2010: Post #3

I feel like I am settling in now to my trip.  It has now been one week since I arrived and I am enjoying myself.  I still find some of the uncertainties to be stressful, but I have been fortunate in that I have connected or reconnected with people who have certainly helped me out.

I was having a lot of trouble sleeping almost every night.  Last night, I finally slept well and hopefully that will continue from here on out.  I also had several days of bus troubles that I will share below.

I stood at The Heritage House, a Jewish youth hostel in the Old City (although, I was probably the youngest person there and several of the people had been there for months) Friday night and Saturday night.  It was a nice place, but loud at night (especially with the guy under me snoring extremely loudly.  Last night and tonight I am spending with the Romm’s in French Hill.  They are some of the nicest people I know and I have very lucky to have been invited to stay with them.

Tomorrow I head to Be’er Sheva.  I’ll be back in Jerusalem for Shabbat and then after Shabbat, I plan to head to Tel-Aviv for a few days until I fly to London.

Below is a summary of the past several days:

Friday

Friday I woke up at the Romm’s and was going to go to the Bible Lands Museum.  I was told to take a bus from a nearby stop, but the bus wasn’t available there so I asked around and found out from a nearby hotel that the bus didn’t come there so I would have to transfer buses.  I did not think I would have time to do so and visit the museum before heading back to get my bag and head to the hostel in the Old City for Jerusalem so I just went back to the Romms.  I thought I would leave and head to the Shuk before going to the hostel, but had to wait for the third bus (about an hour) because buses were full, did not stop, etc.

When I made it to the Old City, I checked into the hostel and got ready for Shabbat.  We lit Chanukah and Shabbat candles before heading to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat.  I prayed and danced (which was a lot of fun) there with a group from a yeshiva and a few soldiers.  Then I got set up for a dinner with a family in Mea Shearim (known as one of the most “traditional” super religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  I had dinner with a Breslav Hassidic family which was a lot of fun and quite the experience.

Saturday

I woke up later Saturday after having difficulty sleeping and went to the Kotel for a little bit.  I then got set up with a family for lunch.  We waited until it was time to go and then went to an apartment inside the Old City itself for lunch with a Rabbi and his family.  It was a good experience.  After lunch, I walked around the Jewish Quarter and the Kotel a bit before going back to The Heritage House for an early dinner and speaker.  We then lit Chanukah candles and I walked around the Jewish Quarter again to see all of the menorahs everywhere.  I also walked around Mamilla, a newly built upscale mall, right outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City.  I met a guy from Brazil who joined me for the meals and we walked around together.  I also met people from Singapore, France, Argentina, England, etc.

Sunday

I got up super early (before 5:00 a.m.) and walked to the David Citadel Hotel to meet a tour group that I had signed up for to Beit She’an and the Golan Heights.  We got picked up late (typical Israeli) and taken to Tel-Aviv where we met another bus and our guide.  We went to Beit She’an a huge Roman city that had been excavated in Israel.  We then drove through the Galilee into the Golan Heights and went to an overlook of the Kineret (Sea of the Galilee).  Later we went to an overlook on a mountain of the Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli borders and talked about the area, its history, and its importance.  We ate lunch there.  We then went to Katzrin where we walked around an excavated city from Talmudic periods which was followed by a drive around the modern city of Katzrin, when of course, our bus started problems.  We went to an olive oil factory (very popular in the Golan) and learned about the process of making olive oil and other fun things.  I finally made it back (via rented bus) to Jerusalem around 9:30 p.m. and stayed with the Romm’s.  A good, although long, day.

Today/Monday

I finally slept last night!  I got up later and went to the Bible Lands Museum where I saw archeological objects from 4400+ years ago and newer objects!  It was really cool.  I wasn’t there for a full two hours, but definitely worth it.  I went then to the Old City for a Free Tour that was three hours long and covered all four quarters: Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  There was a lot I had not seen or learned about before (with a little repeat).  It was very good.  I also had my first frozen yogurt on this trip (frozen fruit with yogurt = tasty).  I then went to the Mahane Yehuda Market (shuk) and walked around and got shwarma for dinner (they also gave me a falafel).  I bought a pita with spices and pinapple and mint juice – an interesting mix that turned out to be very good.  After the Shuk, I went to the Fuschberg Center for Conservative Judaism where Rabbi Romm was teaching a class on Chanukah.  Now I am back at the Romms.  Another good day.

Eicha – Tisha B’Av

Tonight and tomorrow is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is a fast day, a day of mourning for the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem, the Bar Kochba revolt failing, the siege of Jerusalem, and more.

Two years ago when I was studying in Israel, I spent the eve of Tisha B’Av in Israel.  I went with a friend to Jerusalem and we visited the Kotel (Western Wall) before going to the City of David, the site of the original founding of Jerusalem by King David, to hear the Book of Lamentations, Megillat Eichah, read.  It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience.

Sitting on the ground by custom, thousands of Jews recited the Book of Lamentations in Jerusalem's Old City on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem, July 19, 2010. (Abir Sultan / Flash90 / JTA)

Tonight I went to Tisha B’Av services at my synagogue.  I was reflecting on the powerful and meaningful words and the thoughts shared by my rabbi.  I enjoyed thinking about some of the older members of my congregation and how they have shared with me as well as my friends and family.  I thought about how lucky I am not to be living through the horrors described by Jeremiah.

The short article below is from the JTA about Tisha B’Av and modern issues in Israel:

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City to observe Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple.

A new poll released before Tisha B’Av showed that some 22 percent of Israelis would fast on the day and another 52 percent would refrain from going out with friends.

Israeli law requires that recreational spots be closed on Tisha B’Av; 18 percent of poll respondents called that “religious coercion.”

The Ynet-Gesher poll surveyed 505 Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Jewish tradition says that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred; the poll asked which groups are the most hated in Israeli society. Fifty-four percent of respondents answered Arabs, 37 percent named the haredi Orthodox, 8 percent religious and 1 percent Tel Avivians.

Some 42 percent of respondents said they believed that the religious-secular issue is the worst source of tension in Israeli society, while 41 percent said it was the Jewish-Arab situation. Another 9 percent said the worst source of tension is between settlers and the rest of the country, while 8 percent said it was the tension between rich and poor.

“May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days”.  Jews say this three times a day in prayers.  TIME offers some interesting thoughts on what it means with the modern State of Israel.

אני מתגעגע לישראל