Today was our first full day in Jerusalem and for many, their first Shabbat in Israel.
As Shabbat is a day of rest, we were given a choice of attending services at a Jerusalem synagogue, relaxing and recharging with a yoga class or just catching up on sleep. Some of our members that attended services shared with the group how welcomed they felt by the synagogues congregation, whom made sure everyone had tallit and felt comfortable in the service.
After lunch, we headed outside to play games that had been planned by our Israeli soldiers. We then headed to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah service for several participants who wanted to reaffirm their commitment to Judaism with a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem.
Following the service, all of the groups staying at our hotel headed to the hotel terrace where we had a joint Havdalah service in front of the city lights led by the participants who just had their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It was an excellent experience to close out Shabbat with the entire Hillel group and dance on the rooftop.
Ally and Jon then led us in a reflection program by asking questions regarding our Israel experience and personal beliefs. It gave us a good chance to think about what has been going on and the changes everyone was experiencing in their religious and personal beliefs.
Currently, we are preparing to head to Ben Yehuda street for dinner, shopping and to experience Israeli nightlife.
Having previously visited Israel, I had a slightly different experience today than others that experienced their first Shabbat in Israel. Rather than seeing everything for the first time, I received an equally great experience by watching how others reacted to Shabbat in Jerusalem. By far, the coolest part of the day was hearing about everyone’s moment when it first hit them that they were in Jerusalem for Shabbat. For some it was watching the city begin shutting down on the drive in. Others watched the women prepare the Shabbat table from our hotel rooms. A few people shared with the group that it didn’t fully hit them until attending services this morning. For first-timers or returners to Israel, there is nothing as spiritual as spending Shabbat in Jerusalem.
-Ben Rubin Bus 1120