Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Day Four: Shabbat
Although I was up later than usual the previous night, breakfast closed by 10, so I made sure to get up by 9 and grab a bite before our program began at 10:45. We headed off again on foot to a nearby market and neighborhood, which showed an interesting collection of houses on narrow pedestrian streets. I found it most fascinating that the streets were worn and often littered, but many houses were adorned with pots overflowing with flowers, and there were several places of worship in particular marked with ornate art. There was a dichotomy between the ware of the neighborhood and the great care for it as well.
Machane Yehuda Market, otherwise known as "The Shuk." [taken by Samantha Gellman]
[taken by Samantha Gellman]
We came back to the hotel for lunch and were given the rest of the afternoon off to relax during our day of rest. I ate quickly because I was not particularly hungry and realized I could get to the pool before it filled up, which was co-ed on Shabbat. I got about twenty minutes with just a few other patrons playing along the edges of the pool, doing some laps before the rest of the birthright crowd showed up from both my group and others staying at the hotel. It was wonderful workout I got before hanging around the pool with the rest of the group.
We next met with a lecturer from an Israeli news service who talked to us for roughly ninety minutes about the current political situation in Israel on both domestic and foreign policy. I can't say there was very much new I learned from the meeting, but the speaker was succinct and eloquent in presenting the issues. He held the attention of the whole group and even ran overtime for us because we continued to ask questions and wanted to further the conversation. My roommates and I concurred that it was a refreshing update on the current status quo of Israeli news.
As Shabbat came to a close, we held a small service in the hotel lobby, smelling a leaf of mint, lighting a double-wicked candle, extinguishing it in the kiddush wine, and then saying a few prayers which again led to a bit of dancing and lots of hugging throughout the group to ring in the new week.
After the service we were driven to Ben Yehuda street for food, shopping, and drinking. I split off with a group of nine to a lovely little restaurant on a back alley that Einat showed us, saying it was one of her favorites. Our waiter happened to be American, from New York and only a few years beyond her own birthright experience, now living in Israel. The decor was quaint, with candles for lighting and used books on all different subjects for sale covering the walls, but the food was the real star. We ordered two bottles of wine for the table: one white and one red from the Golan Winery. I believe we'd tried both the other day, but Golan's various labels had a monopoly on the wine at the restaurant. I ordered a pear roquefort ravioli which came in a sauce with a slight cinnamon oil glaze. It was really top notch food worthy of Italy or France, which I'd yet to have in Israel. Besides the meal itself, the company was great, as everyone was bubbling over with enthusiasm to be out on our own in Jerusalem.
After dinner I went with one of the other guys from my group of nine to look for a yarmulke while he searched for Shabbat candle holders. I lost my yarmulke about three years ago and hadn't found one I liked since then, so I planned to get one during the trip, which I knew would have the added significance of coming from Israel every time I wore it. My buddy didn't find candle holders he liked for the price he was willing to spend, so we headed over to the dance bar where most of the group planned to meet at the beginning of the night. I got a free drink and forty minutes of dancing with my new friends before having to head back to the bus with a quite merry group of peers. Getting back to the hotel around 12:30 after our big night in the city, everybody fell asleep pretty quickly, heading back into our 8:00 start schedule Monday morning.
[taken by Samantha Gellman]
Editor's Note: I didn't take any pictures myself on Shabbat. After all, it was the day of rest. Thanks to Samantha Gellman, one of my fellow Shlomos who did, and was able to add some visual cues to my narrative.