Oranim Bus 466: Friday through Shabbat and Motzei Shabbat…

My feet, having walked a Shabbat in Jerusalem and danced in Tel Aviv over a 30-hour period, are showing signs of fatigue, and–if those are indeed the outlines of sandal straps on my feet–a smidge of sunburn. But now let’s get to the recap.

Friday’s first stop was the new Yad Vashem, which looked nothing like the picture I had in my memory. The museum, dedicated to those who died in the Holocaust, had been completely overhauled since I’d last been here, with a brand new building by famous architect Moshe Safdie. It’s shaped like an isoceles triangle to represent the way Jews were shoved into an untenable position in German society, their lives and possibilities gradually narrowing into a very narrow, cramped top. The windows at the top of the building represent hope, and the small relative hopes that Holocuast victims had–to find a crust of bread, to not get sick, that their shoes would hold up in winter…

We all knew that there was way more than we could see in three hours, especially since the place was totally packed. Our guide was Aliza, a woman in her early twenties who revealed that she herself was the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and then after she concluded our walking tour, we met up with some other Oranim groups for a lecture by a Holocaust survivor who escaped deportation and spent time with the Dutch resistance. We walked through the Children’s Memorial and listened to the names of children read by a disembodied voice and saw an infinite reflection of cndles to indicate the infinite potential obliterated by the deaths of the million-plus children in the Holocaust.

Remember when Clark Griswold and his family went to Wallyworld and it was closed? Well, what happened next was just like that, except instead of the Griswolds, it was us, and instead of an amusement partk, it was a cemetery. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t a very good comparison. But bear with me, it’s like 3am. The National Cemetery on Har Herzl was closed, but we drove up the road to the military cemetery and the 40 Americans and our 8 Israeli soldiers who had met us the night before at the hotel and who would stay with us through Tuesday, visited the graves of fallen soldiers in appreciation of the sacrifice that they had made, which effected our ability to stand there and pay tribute to them.

To greet Shabbat, we met up with CK and Laya, who explained the meaning of “taking a day off”� from life and observing the Sabbath. Standing on a balcony overlooking the Kotel, we lit candles and had a brief Kabbalat Shabbat service. Then we had a few minutes at the wall before we had to begin our long trek back to the hotel in time for dinner. Although our insistence that we walk back from the Wall met with some initial resistance and a claim of uncomfortable flip-flops most of our participants enjoyed the cool Jerusalem air and a long walk through parts of town they hadn’t seen. We saw a silent Kikar Zion (Zion Square) and Machaneh Yehuda (the open air market), and walked the near empty streets of Jerusalem from East to West. The air was perfect, as Jerusalem’s night air always is, and the view from the Old City was amazing.

The following afternoon our group was lucky enough to experience Shabbat lunch home hospitality at the homes of various residents of the diverse neighborhood known as Nachlaot. Many were self-described neo hippie Orthodox for some of the guests, it was one of their first or more recent encounters with Shabbat observance, and the eclectic nature of the life stories of our hosts made every meal interesting. For instance, at my meal, there were two men who looked like everyday yeshiva students. Sometime after washing, it became clear that neither one was Jewish, and in fact, that they were both studying to be Catholic priests. No joke. We actually even had a women’s mezuman (leading of benching, the grace after meals), because there weren’t enough Jewish men there. I saw some sort of dating parallel there, but since I’m theoretically on vacation from my column, I’ll refrain from expounding on that notion.

dance with the madricha

After walking back to the hotel, we had a quick “state of the union” meeting to discuss how things were going, and I think we got a lot of good feedback. Later, there was dinner and havdalah, which we had outside in the wonderful Jerusalem night air before heading to Tel Aviv to hook up (word choice deliberate) with other Oranim groups at Zamir, a club with loud music and strobe lights a-plenty. There was much drinking and dancing as we partied like rock stars. At least rock stars visiting Israel for an intensive ten-day trip during which we’re not doing much sleeping.

There’s more, of course. There always is. Just when you think you can sleep in, you can’t. But sleep is for the weak. This is Israel, home of the IDF. No sleep. But more posts to come.

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Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

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