Sunday, February 12, 2012

Once Upon a Shabbat in Jerusalem

This past Shabbat, I had the opportunity to take in and enjoy the beginning of the day of rest unlike anywhere else in the world.

I headed out from my apartment about 20 minutes before candle lighting time towards the Old City. In the middle of the Mamilla outdoor pavilion, I heard the Shabbat siren ring out. For some reason, despite this being the third Shabbat I'd spent in Jerusalem since arriving last month, it was the first that I was able to hear the siren wail announcing the entrance of Shabbat and the ushering in of a day of holiness, of rest, and of peace. Back in the States, one of my favorite times of the week was the walk from home to shul for Kabbalat Shabbat, when I could feel all the stress and worry of the past week fall off my shoulders and a calm come over me.

I walked through Jaffa Gate into the Old City and crossed into the Jewish Quarter to head to the Kotel. It was still light out when I got there, and the plaza was filling up. Shortly after I entered the men's section and contemplated which service to join, a group of 40-50 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers entered, singing and dancing in unison. Fully in uniform, they, too, were stopping their routine, as this particular group was approaching its final days before becoming officers.

They invited everyone to join them and to celebrate the moment, and so I joined the officers-to-be, their commanders, along with tourists from around the world and fellow Israeli Jews. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but it was truly amazing to look around this circle that had expanded throughout the entire men's area of the Kotel and see Jews of all different backgrounds and colors, levels of religious observance, and abilities to speak Hebrew. But singing "Am Yisrael Chai", we reaffirmed the very reason I decided to move here.


On an entirely unrelated note, I finally bought a drip coffee maker last week and was walking around on Wednesday or Thursday to buy some coffee to take home with me when I came across the following storefront. Needless to say, I stopped in, but didn't wind up buying coffee from them...maybe next time!

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