Day 6 of the trip started off at 3 am when we left the Bedouin camp in order to climb Massada. With daytime temperatures in the high 90’s, it’s usually best to make the climb (and very difficult descent) early in the morning. Thankfully, everyone made it in one piece and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise and detailed history of the fortress from our guide Offer. Afterwards we headed for a nice float in the Dead Sea and a therapeutic Mud Bath.
We then scrambled to Jerusalem for Shabbat. (I missed this morning’s activities in order to attend my Uncle Mordechai’s funeral in Rishon – I thank everyone for all the kind words and sentiment). Our Hotel in Jerusalem was the Novotel, which straddles the Green Line on the West side. Despite everyone’s exhaustion, we all got dressed and headed to the Old City of Jerusalem for Kabbalat Shabbat – the welcoming of the Sabbath. First stop was our friend Rabbi Ezra‘s pad where we went to his roof for a little singing and candle lighting. From the roof we were able to see the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, as well as various minarets and church steeples. We then headed off to the Kotel (Western Wall) where we joined literally tens of thousands of people welcoming the Sabbath. It was a moving and spiritual experience, to say the least! We then walked back to the hotel for a late but much appreciated dinner where we were joined again by Ezra and his friends, who led kiddush and then informally chatted with group members about all kinds of sabbath/Jerusalem related stuff. Many trip participants told me that the Sabbath program was one of the most moving things they had ever experienced.
The next day we had a home hospitality program where we were invited to a traditional sabbath lunch by Orthodox families who live near the hotel. Most were young American families not much older than the trip participants who lived and studied at the Mir Yeshivah in Jerusalem. We owe a big thanks to Malkki Leibovitz and Jeff Seidel for helping make this all happen. Our hosts let us know that we were welcome back any time! Jeff Seidel is a veritable institution in Jerusalem and anyone thinking of returning to Israel may want to check out his Web site.
Later that evening, we sanctified the end of the Sabbath with a Havdalah service at the hotel terrace. We then packed up the bus and headed off to Tel Aviv for a private Oranim party at a club. Our hard Tel-Aviv partying was the perfect antidote to our otherwise restful Jerusalem Sabbath. I’m pretty sure everyone slept really well that evening.
Oh and one other thing: ×›×œ ×”×›×‘×•×“ ×œ×¦×””×œ