Well this weekend was my first Shabbos in Yerushalayim… What an amazing way to start off my time in Israel!
My 10 hour flight from New York actually was not as awful as I was expecting it to be… the two kids in front of me who were screaming as the plane took off fell asleep pretty quickly and slept for about 8 hours of the flight, BH! The kosher meals were actually pretty tasty, and the seats weren’t the least comfortable I’ve ever had. I got into Israel around 1:30 in the afternoon, landing in Tel Aviv. After going through passport control and waiting FOREVER to get my luggage, I caught the Sherut (shuttle) to Jerusalem. I pulled up in front of the Mayanot building around 3:30pm and who was the first person I saw? Menucha (Mackenzie) Howell, my soul twin and instant best friend from the JLI retreat last year!! Instant reaction: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!?!?!” Turns out that the seminary she was supposed to go to this year was having some logistical problems and she ended up at Mayanot instead. For the year. BEST YEAR EVER, I’m sooooo excited she’s here, I can’t even describe it!!
So I got settled in and unpacked as quickly as possible, and then hurriedly got ready for my first Shabbos in Yerushalayim (the result of which was my hair looking all too similar to a lion’s mane). We davened (prayed) Minchah (the afternoon services) downstairs and then lit candles. After that we walked about 40 minutes to the Kotel, or the Wailing Wall, in Old City. In case you don’t know, the reason the Kotel is so important to the Jewish people is because it’s the remaining wall around the Temple Mount from the turn of the era that is closest to the Holy of Holies (where the Holy Ark was in the Temple). So that is where Jewish people come from around the world to pray and ask G-d for blessings or healing, etc. It means that the Kotel is an extremely moving place. However right now, the week before the High Holidays, it also means that it is a very VERY crowded place. So unfortunately my davening at the Kotel this Shabbos was not the best davening I’ve ever done, and trying to stand with my feet together during the Amidah was a little bit like playing limbo as hundreds of women shoved their way past me to get to the wall. I guess its a good thing that I’ll be here all year and have plenty of opportunities to go back and try again.
After the Kotel, we all walked back to Mayanot and made Kiddush for our Shabbos meal. The food was great, the company was even greater, and Rabbi Levinger (our amazing head Rabbi here at the school) had each of us go around and do a short introduction. We didn’t get through everyone, since there are 40 of us and some of the intros weren’t quite so short, so we cut the post-meal Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) off at about 3am. I went outside with some of my new friends and talked until about 4am and then PASSED OUT since I didn’t sleep on the plane.
I woke up at about 1pm today, missed Kiddush downstairs so I made on Challah, and then enjoyed lunch with the girls and the Levinger family (the Rabbi, Rebbetzin, and their 5 adorable children ka”h). We went around and had any of the girls who didn’t introduce themselves last night do so today. Then several of us went on a walk to a really nice local park where hundreds of other neighbors were out for the traditional Shabbos stroll. We ended at the Levinger house for popsicles and niggunim (wordless melodies), followed by Havdalah (closing services for Shabbos). Now we’re hanging out at the dorms waiting for Selichos services after midnight tonight. (If you don’t know what Selichos is, check the Teshuvah Network for an article I’m posting there now 🙂 )
All in all, Israel is amazing and I can’t believe I’m actually here. Classes start tomorrow morning, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. And pictures are coming soon!
Love and miss you all. K’Siva V’Chasima Tova, L’Shana Tova U’Mesuka!