Today after Ulpan class Ariel and I made our way to the Shook and it was even more delightful than I could have imagined. Every possible fruit and vegetable was there, along with fresh dried fruit, nuts, and other local handmade crafts. Israelis from all over town were there getting their fruits and veggies for the week. It is my guess that it was more crowded than usual due to the upcoming holiday. Ariel and I enjoyed the shook and have decided to try and go there at least once a week. This way we can get all of our fruit and veggies fresh and for a cheaper price. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! Plus the dried fruit was absolutely incredible, no sugar added, just plain up dried.
This morning at 1:30 a.m. all of the Otzmanikim and I left Ashqelon and took a bus to the Old City in Jerusalem. I attempted to fall asleep around 11:30 p.m. and if I was lucky I may have dozed off for a few minutes. Since I never really fell asleep I wasn’t that tired for the bus ride. So instead I listened to my iPod and reflected on my life thus far, and my life moving forward. It was so relaxing and it was great to take in all the nighttime scenery around me, especially when we entered Jerusalem.
Once there we walked off the bus and took in the cool night air. Although I was a bit chilly it was so refreshing to be able to feel this way for once. Due to the current drought in Israel and the fact that my apartment has not had air conditioning for the past five days, the word “cold” has not entered my vocabulary in quite some time.
We then met with our tour guide, an energetic (or maybe just the fact that at this point it was 2:30 a.m. he seemed overly energetic) man from New Hampshire who is now living in Israel. He sat us down and spoke with us about Rosh Hashanah, Slichot, and exactly why we were ‘dragged’ to Jerusalem at this hour of the night. Surprisingly I was not too tired and was able to really take in what my tour guide was saying and the environment around me.
Slichot is a process of atoning for your sins. You must look back on your past year and reflect on what you did wrong, what you did right, and all of the things in between that you’d like to change or continue to do in the coming new year. It is around this point according to the Jewish Religion that Gd decides if you are going to live for another year, or if this one will be your last. When thinking about myself and everything I have done this year, I have to say that as far as what I did right, being in Israel at that moment was certainly something I am very proud of.
After we spoke we walked around the Old City and made our way to the Kotel/Western Wall/Wailing Wall. At this point it was around 4:30 a.m., and anywhere else in the world it would be pretty quiet. But as soon as we entered the area of the Wall noise was not a small thing. Jews and Muslims were there taking part in the first prayers of the morning. Our tour guide said at this point it sometimes becomes a contest as to who can “outshout” the other, and I think this information can provide you best with just how loud it was.
My group and I sat down again and reflected on more about the upcoming Holiday and then we made our way to the wall to have some personal time there. When you are standing far away from the Kotel it seems a lot smaller than you would envision it to be. But the closer you walk to it the larger it gets, and if you just let yourself take in all the glory that it represents the feeling can really take over. It is quite overwhelming, but in such a good way. My group and I spoke of how when no matter where Jewish people are praying in the world they are always facing the wall. Our tour guide said to try and take that in when I was standing there, to know that I in that moment was at the center of it all, in the very heart of Jerusalem.
After we had our personal time we made our way up to a sitting area on a hall overlooking Jerusalem and ate some breakfast. It was here that the sun rose and it was quite a sight to see.
We then headed back to the bus and made our way home to Ashqelon. I was able to fall asleep on the ride, and actually got around four hours of sleep when I returned home. At some point during that sleep men came and finally fixed our AC in my apartment. I don’t know if this was pure luck that it was finally fixed. But I would like to believe that maybe our presence at the Western Wall was holier than we were all led to believe.
Today we are holding a little Rosh Hashanah party for the Ethiopian children at my Absorption Center. After that Ariel, Vanessa, and I are going to make our way back to Jerusalem to spend the holiday and Shabbat with Ariel’s Aunt and Uncle. I am very much looking forward to spend the new year in Israel, and Jerusalem none the less. I hope to take advantage of all that is around me, eat some tasty food, and learn some very interesting information. I wish everyone a L’Shanah Tovah. I love you all, and hope your new year is as sweet as the apples and honey you will be eating!