ABSTRACT: The trip of a lifetime comes to a close, with reflections, B’nai Mitzvot and naming ceremonies, and heavy emotions.
There are not many photos associated with today, but they are in Album “Sheish,” available HERE.
Shabbat Kodesh, 28 Tammuz / Friday-Saturday, July 29-30
It was HOT outside, as we waited on the porch for the remainder of the group to show up. Once the leaders appeared (last in line!), we went inside and lit Shabbat candles in the front-left corner. All the men left for the porch, and indeed, it was roses, this time the other ways around! I got roses from Sara Thomas and Jen Traines. So I was a two-roser both times. We then proceeded to the assembly room.
Services started with Am Yisrael Chai and some reflections on prayer. Our service leaders were all over the board on what prayer means to them, and my impromptu musings on the subject were clearly wishy-washy. Oh well—there’s no right or wrong answer! Most people knew the tune of L’kha Dodi that I did—one I learnt at Northwestern. Unfortunately, this journal doesn’t have an embedded sound file available from what I can tell! It’s one with “harmonious round-like voices” on “dodi.” We did only the first and last stanzas. We also did the Sh’ma, V’shamru with the well-known tune that Dan calls “the drinking song” (ha), and Shalom Rav, which Lina sang beautifully with a guitar accompaniment. We concluded with Aleinu and Bim Bom. Before going to dinner, rounds of hugs and “Shabbat Shalom” were all around.
Walking in the heat toward the dining hall, I led the Kiddush except for Hamotzi, which Efrat did. I can’t recall who sat at my table or the conversations therein, but it was fun. Even if not “doing anything,” being in the presence of others makes me happier. It wasn’t rushed, and… rats. My train of thought derailed!
Returning to the Ark room, we had a discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my group, Eyal did most of the talking, and we spent a lot of time simply covering the background of the conflict. Lots of complaints appeared about this being too heavy for our last night here. Formulating a solution would not be easy, lest one already exist! In retrospect, it reminds me that “the questions are more important than the answers.”
It was past 2300h when the activity ended, and we all returned to the centre square between our rooms. However, the party there was quickly quashed by some families staying in the 300-series. So, we headed to the backyards, particularly behind 304-305. Shots and drinks were exchanged, but I enforced Rule #0, (a) because I’m tired, and (b) the emotion of impending departure is haunting me… both good reasons that I am “in doubt”. Sitting next to Sara, Allison, and Scott, conversations pertinent to alcohol, socials, trepidation, and other topics came up. I don’t recall all of them in that much detail, and frankly I think my mind is on the verge of explosion right now. As others continued to the pub for more celebration, I went to sleep at around 0030h.
However, my sleep was not restful. Gleb came in and turned on the lights at 500h (!), and although I got back to sleep, I woke up again (semi-naturally?) at 630h and 730h. I gave up on trying to sleep in at that point and instead went outside to daven Shakharit, on the benches in the centre square. I did everything with more than what I’ve previously done in Hebrew. For example, I did “Hodu La’shem Keeru Veesh’mo” to the same tune at Psalm 96, immediately followed by the Psalm 98 tune on “Hod V’hadar L’fanav” (these are on pages 54 and 56 of the 1985 version of Sim Shalom). When I got to Ahava Raba and the part where the nigun changes to the one from Hatikvah, I had incredible difficulty singing it, as my voice cracked in heavy emotion, and the eyes teared up. It’s amazing how meaningful this whole vacation has been to me!
Once I got to the Torah Service part, since I didn’t bring a Tanakh, I replaced it with a reading of Chapter V of Pirkei Avot, which was in my siddur. It is my favourite chapter with all the numbers and categories flying around. During the davening, however, I had to interrupt in order to re-hydrate, since it was already getting hot.
Coming inside, I wrote down a few notes from yesterday (s’likhah) and noticed footsteps outside. Rachel, Heedye, and Eyal went toward the pool, as the heat became stifling. It’s 900h, and unfortunately the pool was not yet opened. We just sat around under a permanent umbrella and had random conversation for a short 40 minutes. It’s the way of the world, and it’s fine by me.
Returning to the room, I did a few lines of journaling with guilt (s’likhah). Going outside, it felt hotter (maybe just to spite me?) and I saw Aaron and others. Some small talk commenced, before it was time to go to breakfast in the Ark room. Cake and tea were good. I had brought all my religious stuff just in case it was necessary. Once there, the chocolate pastries were great, and I helped arrange chairs in a semi-Sephardic style.
Services had Dan donning my tallit in order to officiate the naming and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. He explained a little about the process, and we did a few “service” things first, like the Sh’ma and the Amidah. First, Cathy received her Hebrew name as “Chaya”. She chose it by wanting a “C” or “G” name to honor her English first and last names, and it also has other meaning for which I can’t immediately recall. Gleb also got the Hebrew name “Gilad,” which was said to choose him. There’s also the reverence toward Gilad Shalit there.
The Bat Mitzvot were Chaya and Chava (Heather). Both read a few lines from Parashat Massey in Hebrew, with the former using Haftarah trope (!) and the latter just saying it. Both commented on the ideas of journeys in their Divrei Torah, and somehow this sounds familiar. Maybe I’ve heard it before? Indeed! It’s the “va’yeesu…v’yakhanu” portion! However, does there exist there more than one? It was completed with the candy shower and “Mazel Tov” singing!
We went to the dining room, and had lunch. The food was unremarkable, unless I have slightly repressed it. My trepidation for going home is getting to me… perhaps making me suffer a little bit of anorexia. My trip to Israel has been so good—I don’t want to leave! I’m sure that everyone else is feeling the same way right now.
After lunch, most of us went to the pool. I couldn’t go IN, of course, but I tagged along anyway so as not to be the lone wolf. There were some people near the ledge where I put my legs in the water, like Michelle, Amanda, and Mike, among others. Conversations ranged from Shabbat to plans back in the US, and other things. The heat was annoying since I couldn’t get in. I had sufficient water in my CamelBak, but was sweating the whole time. At 1500h, I left along with a few others.
In my room, I took a shower, and it was refreshing. Before 1600h, I removed everything from my suitcase, in order to try and find my micro-fiber glasses-cleaning cloth. Unfortunately, I must have lost it somewhere on the journey. I will pack up everything again when we get back from the final discussion. An army of ants was invading the room, too, so I decided to be funny and make the “ants-marching” tune that you hear in some of those old “Tom & Jerry” picnic cartoons.
In the Ark room, we had our Oneg treats, and got into a circle. Dan revealed the wine bottle from which we had inserted expectations on the first day, of which I had nearly forgotten about! Upon breaking it, the expectations were mostly educational, social, and similar. Forms of “making friends” and “learn more about Israel” were almost unanimously listed. Let’s review mine and see how I did:
- Get to know some of the Israelis and their stories. CHECK!
- Learn firsthand about Israel’s past, present, and future. CHECK!
- Incorporate photos into my chronicles. CHECK—with flying colours!
- Improve my social interactions and befriend all other 48. CHECK!
(Of course, there were actually 49, but Eliana didn’t arrive until the first Friday, and we did these on the first Thursday.)
Everyone went around the circle, giving additional comments about the trip. Everyone had positives, and showed a love for the state and a heightened appreciation. Emotions were positive, and a lot of them had to do with Jerusalem. Of course, I took no notes at this point, but may have wanted to, since Shomer Shabbat has not been my usual modus operandi. Unless that’s something I want to try harder from here on out! Still, the comments were personal and I probably would have edited out some of the others’ stories anyway for that reason! Before dismissal, the map was brought out, and our entire journey was enumerated. My map had a slightly different chronology, of course… Be’er Sheva was substituted for the Dead Sea!
Walking back with Amanda and Tal, male/female philosophy was discussed… I explained my good-guy nature, and gave my belief that chivalry is important. Innate differences in the sexes are not necessarily bad. They also added: a person’s strength can also be a weakness! A good example of this is sensitivity. Back in Room 303, I packed my stuff, and walked around for a while. A few last pictures of the mountains I took [1036-1040]. Heedye also gave me some natural advice, while preceding it with a warning of bluntness—I should avoid picking my nose.
Conversations with myriads of others were on until 2000h, when we moved our bags to near the bus. People hung out near the bus [1041-1043] with all the bags, and Nitzan then instructed us to come onto the grass… which had a strange texture to it… it was somewhat bouncy! We sought out three stars, and once we found three, sang Havdalah quickly. The tears again flowed, as this is REALLY separation—between the trip and whatever lies beyond. Saying that this trip has been special is a huge understatement. It’s beyond words and emotions!
The bus took us to the Ben Gurion airport, and I tried to get a few pictures. The darkness made them fail completely [1044-1047]. I really wanted to get a picture of “Jerusalem of Gold” at night, but it didn’t work! I sat with Dina, and we had a little reflection. I also overheard some other conversations, and we also passed drinks and sandwiches back and forth. The sandwiches looked disgusting, and frankly I was not hungry anyway. The ride to the airport was short, as we quickly unloaded and headed for the terminal, with a few shots out of the bus [1049-1051] and into the terminal .
Lots of pictures and hugs were going around. I only took one—of the others who I obtained contact information from at the orientation: Dina and Eliana . We dropped our bags and did one last “Aħim Simkha.” In the line, I got a picture of the departure board when it was in English [1054-1055]. I got to the ticket line with no extra scrutiny, and got my ticket after a long line. It was 2300h, and we had to hurry because the plane was departing 30 minutes earlier than what was said on the original itinerary. Before I got to the checkpoint, Nitzan hugged me good-bye. I’m really going to miss these great Israelis!
The booths for the passports took a long time , and this time we had no time to lose. Once I was OK’d through the line, I power-walked down the ramp, humming “Hurry! We Are In Danger” from Dragon Quest VIII to myself. As the Traines sisters looked for food, I went ahead toward the gate. I should have stuck with them for accompaniment, but Noah Standard Time told me to proceed. Past the moving walkways, I saw the line ready to board at Gate B7. [1059-1060]. Still, the line was long enough and there was enough time that I didn’t have to rush. After getting through the gate, a poster wished us all, “Tzeitkhem shalom.” . As at the end of any Yom Tov, I have one phrase to end this journal which takes on an entirely new meaning for me now:
L’shanah ha’ba’ah birushalayim!