Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shavua Tov a good new week from jerusalem

Shabbat is over and the city is pulsating with young people in the streets. The cafes are bustling with business and the buses back in action. So what have we been doing over Shabbat?
Let's start back on Friday. I left us after our trip to the frenetic Mahaneh Yehudah the Jewish market. We regrouped and our bus took us to Shabbat services at the reform congregation kol haneshamah.
We sat down with about 100-130 people. Most of them are American ex-pats,some native born Israelis and pilgrims like us. This is not a service that the group would have expected in a typical reform Jewish service in the states . The rabbi sat at a table on a slightly raised platform dressed in total white informal cantor to sing the music of the liturgy. There was no shtick or gimmickry. He simply sat at the table and chanted the service with beautiful, easy to sing and meditative melodies. There was no doubt the he was the center of the service. Yet his style was subdued as he was leading them without exhibiting any effort to get the people involved. It just seemed natural and and comfortable. Rabbi Kelman spoke in hebrew to us in his sermonette. The prayer books were either hebrew only or English -hebrew. The reaction of the group was quite positive. Some folks felt it to be a little cultish but most felt uplifted and renewed even those who do not know hebrew or a bit rusty. The board member welcomed us from bet yam.
We returned to the hotel Leonardo and had our sabbath meal. Bruce freeman and his family,son of Harold and Barbara Freeman, who has lived in Israel for over20 years joined us and discussed politics in Israel and gave a dramatic and passionate explanation about why Israelis feel so emotional about Gilad schalit.
Shabbat morning
We walked to Hebrew Union College and attended Shabbat morning services there. This service was led primarily by rabbinical students and a cantorial student along with faculty members from HUC. This was also primarily a hebrew worship experience along with piano accompaniment. I was given one of two aliyot or blessings recited over the Torah reading.a great honor for me and our community.
After the services rabbi JoelOseran, long time staff member of the world Union of progressive Judaism, spoke to us about the challenges and mission of progressive Judaism around the world. He gave us a tour throughout the beautiful campus and bid us farewell.
Even more to come. Tamar our guide led us on a walking trip into the old city through the Jaffa gate. We walked into the Arab quarter and had a delicious lunch. We ordered either felaphel or lamb schwarma. Satiated and happy Tamar guided us through the holy Sepulcure church one of Christianity's oldest holy sights. It was packed with Christian pilgrims from all over the world. The main attraction was the small but ornate chapel where, according to Christian tradition,Jesus was crucified. Very intense and sacred holy site.
The group returned to the hotel for rest and dinner.Ijoined one of the groups who ,ate at a restaurant called Adon. Everyone enjoyed themselves.
Is that enough for one day?

ShavuaTov Tov

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday was a day of going down and ascending to holy places

It is Erev Shabbat in Jerusalem. You can feel the pressure as everyone is shutting down and getting ready for Shabbat. I am happy. Our last stop today was walking through the Jewish market. We have the sweetest tasting ballot in the world. We ate felafel and just felt the energy of the excitement and the packed crowds buying their Shabbat groceries. The men in their booths shouting out their prices. The different spices and the aromas! Reach nichoach a sweet aroma to Shabbat. Machaneh yehudah is the largest outdoor Jewish market in the world. We walked and we ate. We are resting now before the bus picks us up to attend services at kol haneshamah the reform congregation in Jerusalem. I will tell you more after Shabbat is over.

We entered the old city today through the dung gate. Tamar and I provided an introduction to the history of the Wall and the El Aksamosquue and the dome of the rock. Men and women went to their respective sides separated by a fence. Some prayed. Some watched the orthodox davenport or pray fervently. The men's side of the Wall has a cave win extensive library and portable arks. One could see several minyanim going on at the same time. It is always interesting to listen to the varied reactions of people toward the western wall.
Since I am going backwards in time we were taken to visit the new excavation to the south of the old city. These are called the city of David. It was there that we descended downwards through the tunnels and witnessed with our eyes the amazing engineering feat of ancient Israelites who cut out of Jerusalem stone underground tunnels to preserve water for the city. King hezekiah directed this project which kept Jerusalem safe from the aAssyrian army in the 8th centuries. Yes it was a challenging walk through narrow passageways. But we coulée the genius of our ancestors at work in ancient times. Remember water is a very precious commodity in the middle east.
Everyone was tired and then we
We headed up to the wall as I mentioned. Drinking water and staying hydrated was critical.
Oh I forgot to mention we ad the famous Israeli breakfast at the hotel. That must have given us the energy to get through the walking up an down the hills of Jerusalem.
Now time for Shabbat. Tomorrow morning we will go to Hebre Union College for services with lunch and casual strolling through the Arab and Christian quarters.
My people earned their Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom from our group to you in yerushalayim
Rabbi Bloom

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Arrived in Jerusalem

I can see the king David hotel, the YMCA, the old city and the panorama of jerusalem at night. Our wonderful group from the Hilton head area are all here safe and sound albeit a little tired from the trip.
Where does one begin this trip blog? Our tour guide is a nice young lady named
Tamar. I am sure we will learn more about her as the trip proceeds. We are an energetic group with a good sense of humor. Some of us are hear for the first time and others are veterans of Israel. We will a learn from each other. I am not concerned.
Besides having dinner at a nice restaurant tonight on King George, we drove to a scenic vista of the old city. it was Becoming dark and so we could marvel at the city lights but we could not behold that sunset radiating down upon the dome of the rock or the El Aksa mosque . But we said our blessings of thanksgiving made a kidding and delighted in the most delicious Hallah in Jewish history.
My main point tonight was that I hoped that we as a group would allow ourselves to move beyond being a tourist and embrace this trip as a journey as if we were real life pilgrims. No matter our age a trip to Israel calls us to listen and watch carefully how the past shapes our future.
Tomorrow we will go to explore the jewish quarter, the western Wall, excavations on the south side of the Holy Temple and , of course, we will make our way beforee Shabbat commences to theJewish market. Watch out hallahs! then we will worship at Kol HaNeshamah, the exciting and inspiring reform congregation in Jerusalem.
Shabbat Shalom