Grade 9 Israel Experience Days 5 & 6: A Conversation about Shabbat in Jerusalem

By David S. and Zach M.

David: Hello Zach! Can you tell us a little bit about what we did on Friday in Jerusalem?

Zach: First thing in the morning we were tasked with getting ready to go at 8:30. Right off the bat we immediately drove to Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial museum. As soon as we entered we were blasted with waves of emotion, we felt sorrowful for the lost lives but also joyful, joyful for the fact we are still standing today. We departed from the museum and arrived at the Old City of Jerusalem. We spent a few hours getting lunch, shopping, and learning about the history of the Jewish quarter, including the synagogue of the Ramban. The next pitstop was a short but memorable one, the Kotel. The Kotel is the last remaining portion of Herod’s Second Temple. We left the Kotel and arrived at the hotel to prepare for erev shabbat. After getting ready we left for the neighborhood of Nachlaot. Experiencing the energy and total mood of the Ades Synagogue- a historic synagogue built by Jews from Aleppo, Syria- was truly a memorable moment. We got home and hung out in the hotel lobby playing cards, but after a short while we were exhausted and we went to sleep.

David: Yeah it was a super full day… but I now realize all our days are like that on this trip. What was it like being at the Kotel for the first time?

Zach: After stepping through security it felt as if the Kotel had a spiritual energy that hugged your soul. Before going up to the wall we learnt a little bit about its history and how it was the largest man-made structure ever built at the time. At the Kotel I wrapped Tefillin for the first time and prayed at the wall.

David: The Ades synagogue was a great experience in my opinion. But really different than what we are familiar with from Calgary. What was different about it?

Zach: The Ades synagogue’s sanctuary was much smaller than Beth Tzedec and the other Calgary synagogues. The chazan (prayer leader) stood in the middle of the room and the congregants sat around him, instead of having the chazan (or chazanit!) at the front and everyone staring at them. The architecture was also different- the walls were totally painted with all these cool images and symbols from Jewish tradition. In general I felt like these aspects made me feel really close to G-d when we were praying.

David: Yeah I completely agree. It was cool to see how that community comes together to bring in Shabbat.

Zach: Alright now David you have to tell me about Shabbat day.

David: We woke up much later than every other day soaking in the shabbat atmosphere. We planned to go to a synagogue that was very unique because it had a “tri-chitzah” (a section for men, a section for women, and a section for those who want to sit together) and the service started at 10 am. (Most places start at 7 AM… way too early for us.) After we finished the service we took a very peaceful walk to a park where we threw the baseball around and played some soccer and had our shabbat lunch. We were joined by CJA alumna Lara Rodin, who is now a Rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Lara talked to us about her journey to Jerusalem from Calgary, Canada. After lunch we walked to the Israel museum, arguably the greatest museum in the world.

Zach: Woah that’s a lot and we’re not even halfway done with the day yet. What were the morning’s services like?

David: The morning services were very special and different from places in Calgary. The regulars were trying to include us and make sure we felt welcome in their place of worship (they succeeded). Adam and I had the highest privilege to have an aliyah during the torah service.

Zach: And what was the coolest thing you saw in the Israel Museum?

David: On Friday when we visited the Kotel, Nave taught us that back when the Temple stood, there was a place where the Cohanim blew the shofar to represent the beginning of shabbat. Then, when we went to the Israel museum, we actually saw the stone that marked where the Cohen blew the shofar. This is incredibly interesting because it gave me a better understanding of what the Temple was actually like and made me feel a lot closer to my ancestors.

Zach: OK now can you tell me how Shabbat ended?

David: Shabbat ended with a beautiful Havdalah service looking over the old city. We also had the privilege to speak to Rabbi Dr. Daniel Roth who taught us about what he does as a conflict resolution and mediation specialist. I really admire him because of how crazy his job is and how he can stay sane and try to resolve big conflicts by building trust and connections to make the middle east safe. We ended our night with some amazing ice cream courtesy of Mrs. Meyers. After that we hit the hay.