Monday, June 19, 2017

Israel Day 5: Jerusalem of old/Shabbat ever new

Why do we as Jews face east when we pray?

If you know the answer, then you know where we started our day. 

This morning, our intrepid adventurers traversed the excavated Western Wall tunnels that run the distance of the ancient retaining wall that held up the massive Temple Mount where the ancient temple in Israel once stood. Since this is the only remnant remaining of this holiest place in Jewish tradition, we have developed the practice of facing this wall when we pray. So, we do not all face east ... if we're north of the wall, we face south.

Group shot inside the tunnels on the Roman road that once ran at the base of the Western Wall 

Together with my father at the Kotel (right before I learned a new lesson about prayer at the Western Wall ... always look up before you start. Just as I finished saying a few prayers, I received a special package from above ... from a pigeon above me. Fun!)

Or Shalom at the Kotel together 

#selfiewiththerabbi #selfiewiththekotel 

Bill and Ron who met during their high school years reunite on this trip and spend time at the holiest of sites, together with Bonnie

Traversing the Cardo, the Roman road in and out of Jerusalem

Today was a day of holies, as we also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,  the site Christianity believes Jesus was crucified, laid to be washed, and some say buried.

Anyone who has visited in the last few decades might remember this part of the Church as being almost black... they just reopened it after cleaning it off in a major  project. This is its actual color!

Anyway, we learned first hand the craziness of this weekend in Jerusalem. The tunnels normally let out into the Muslim quarter, but because of the extra anticipated traffic due to the holiday of Ramadan, we had to backtrack and go back out of the entrance.
Our wonderful bus driver, Salman, who is Muslim, has been fasting each day of our trip because of the holiday. (Also, his newest grandchild was just born,  so we wished him Mubruk, which is Mazal Tov in Arabic).

From there, we toured the Old City of Jerusalem and went ALL OVER. Those with fitbits racked up over 9 miles (about 14.4 kilometers), since we had to walk back to our hotel, recognizing all the street closures due to Ramadan.

We had some time to prepare for Shabbat and watch the city wind down before making our way to Kol Haneshamah, a Reform congregation here in Jerusalem, for services. Shabbat Shalom to all! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Israel Day 4: Goodbye to the North, Hello Jerusalem

L'cha Dodi Likrat Kallah, P'nei Shabbat N'kabalah - Come, my beloved, to greet the bride, we will receive her face: Shabbat

These words were written in the mystical city of Tzfat/Tsfat/Safed and start one of the prayers we say on Friday nights,  welcoming the time of Shabbat and the period of rest and reflection. Today, we stood in the streets of Tzfat. Looking out at the majestic mountainside view, we sang this song of Shabbat in anticipation of Shabbat, which we will experience tomorrow in Jerusalem.

The view along today's run ... not as cloudy,  but still beautiful.  I'll miss you, lush mountains! 

These travelers did not pre - plan their outfits

Also in Tzfat, we meet with a glass blower, Sheva Chana, who have us a demonstration of her craft and a glimpse into the life of an artist in Tzfat. There are still many artists of different kinds in this mystical city which our tour guide,  Shelley, aptly described as "a mix between Berkeley and Jerusalem. "

We also visited some historic synagogues in the area - those of Rabbi Josef Caro and Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Ari...not this Ari). We learned of the innovations to Judaism that originated in this northern city.
Learning how the printing press spread Rabbi Yoseph Caro's book of law, the Shulchan Aruch.

After some shopping and an encounter with a bar mitzvah celebration, it was time to say goodbye to the North and head towards Jerusalem. Driving by the Sea of Galilee, we stopped along the way at the Galil chocolate factory and made our own chocolate bars!

Then on to Jerusalem, where we first laid eyes on the heart of our peoples' narratives. We said a special shehekheyanu prayer, giving thanks for the moment, recognizing how many generations of our people and our families had yearned to be able to see this site. Another fabulous day in the holy land!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Israel Day 3: The beautiful North

Mashiv ha-ruach u'morid ha-geshem
The one who shifts the winds and brings down the rain... (from the g'vurot section of the Amidah prayer)

A day of firsts for many of us on the trip. We hiked along the Dan tributary to the Jordan river, we saw an ancient altar site of the northern kingdom of Israel, we off-roaded in jeeps along the Syrian border and spoke with a UN observer atoo Mt. Bental. We rafted down the Jordan river and spent time on the kibbutz where we are staying.

But I have to say the biggest surprise and miracle I noticed was that we had rain ... yes, rain falling from the Israel. Now, it was only a few drops, and we were not in the desert, we were in the far north of Israel ... but I never expected this. I learned the reason we shift the language of our g'vurot prayer from the language above that expresses our hopes for rain to the language of our summer, morid ha-tal (who brings down dew), was that we don't pray for that which cannot and will not happen. So, for the few drops of water I felt on my run this morning and out at our jeep ride, it felt quite miraculous.

It's a great reminder that you just never know what you're going to get here in Israel ... as for the rest of the day, I'll let the pictures do the talking. Enjoy!

 Bill and Rich at the Dan tributary, one of three main sources of the Jordan river ... literally bringing life to the land of Israel.
 Admiring fig that look kind of ripe on the trees
 The group gets educated about water along our nature hike
 Hailey demonstrates how the land builds up enough pressure to push the water out into these tributaries.
 ....And Jocelyn demonstrates an even BIGGER pressure build up for these water sources. 
 It was part hike, part teamwork, but we all made it through this gorgeous section of the hike called gan eden, or paradise
 Part of the Bat Mitzvah experience is conquering fears and gaining confidence ... so, Jocelyn pushed herself to make it across onto the little island in the middle of this pond. 
 And her proud father joined her on the big moment
 Rootbergs packed into a jeep...just like at home
 I don't know this passes safety standards in the US, but it sure was a lot of fun and filled with a great understanding of the geography of the region
 An obligatory shot in front of a "danger mines" sign .... no Israel tour is complete without one
 In front of a huge crater pond near a Druze village...if you don't know what Druze are, Google them!
 Atop My. Bernal, looking out at Syria in the distance. We were closer to Damascus than Jerusalem! 
 Talking with a U.N. observer from Slovenia. He told us not to ask who is in charge of the village closest to our view in Syria, as it changes all the time as to which rebel group holds it. Most likely, a group loosely affiliated with Al-Qaida. We heard about the impact of the Syrian conflict and some of the challenges in dealing with refugees and the injured, many of whom are allowed in to Israel for treatment  (though the U.N. official could not officially affirm this happens)
 Selfie in a bunker #1 ... looking out onto Syria
 Selfie in a bunker #2
 Rafting down the Jordan river
Some masterful steering by my father helped us pass by the many clueless birthright groups  (and we even rescued a group of Israeli soldiers whose raft was stuck on the river bank)

That's it for now...tomorrow, off to Tsfat and then our entrance into Jerusalem!

Israel Day 2: To the North

I pray that these things never end ... the sand and the sea/ the rush of the waters/ the crash of the heavens/ the prayer of the heart. - Hannah Shenesh

As in most full days in an Israel pilgrimage, this day was packed! So packed that I fell asleep with blog in hand trying to chronicle it all - so it's the next morning here by the time this posts...

Day 2 began in Jaffa, learning history of Jewish immigration from eastern Europe, relationships within Jaffa, and of a movement to create a new city just to the North - Tel Aviv. The city building began in 1909, so this entire urban and suburban sprawl - the heart of Israeli secular culture and innovation (and beach culture) - all cropped up between Cubs World championships!
 The group in front of a skyline of Tel Aviv
A Bill M. #selfiewiththerabbi in Jaffa

From there,  a haunt over to Independence Hall to hear about Israel's declaration if Independence. Sorry to Aaron Burr, but we made it to the room where it happened, where David Ben-Gurion did not throw away his shot (Hamilton reference for those who have not seen it).
Outside the Dizengoff museum in which the State of Israel was declared
While inside Independence Hall, we listened to Israel's origin together with an incredible birthright group - a trip designed for 18-26 year olds with special needs.

Happy to be here!
All around Tel Aviv, gay pride flags are still flying from lat week's 200,000+ person gathering for Tel Aviv' s pride weekend

After a stroll down the earliest parts of Tel Aviv, where the original families first divided up sand dunes to build on, we were off again to Caesaria.

Caesaria is an incredible archeological park that gives a great understanding of the layers of history in this region. We saw Roman ruins, Crusader ruins, Ottoman ruins, ruins from various Christian and Muslim periods, all in one site, the natural harbor of Caesaria.

At this site, we also learned about Hannah Shenesh, the freedom fighter who parachuted into the Nazi empire to fight during WWII, only to be captured and killed. Before this fate of hers, she lived near Caesaria, and she wrote a famous poem, "A Walk to Caesaria," otherwise called "Eli, Eli," that has been put to song - one of my favorite prayers. We sang this prayer together, a prayer of hope and of marvel at the glorious site of a beautiful sea.

At the Roman theater, where they still hold performances today.

My God, My God
I pray that these things never end:
The sand and the sea
The rush of the waters
The crash of the heavens
The prayer of the heart

By the way, if you told me we'd be in Caesaria at noon (after many trips to Israel, I know there is NO shade in this site), I'd have changed the itinerary. But the weather was mild and wonderful!

At lunch in a mall ... Jocelyn declared that her ice cream spoon is like "a shovel for a grasshopper." Apt description, indeed.

After lunch where some found a kosher McDonald's that has a meat side of the counter and a dairy side of the counter, we were off again to an ancient acuaduct that brought water to Caesaria. Connecting to a natural underground source, the Roman builders carved a tunnel through the hilly terrain, always sloping down, leading to the acuaduct system that brought fresh water, hence life, to Caesaria. With flashlights in hand  (every other hand ... long story), and teamwork in our hearts, we spelunked through part of this underground water passage. Experiencing water slightly above our knees  (and at other times, way more than slightly above), we learned about ancient engineering first hand.
Passing through one of the shafts leading down to the waterway... we started singing the Indiana Jones theme song 
Deep in the tunnels ... we started singing, "Hi hi, it's off to work we go."
I forced everyone to look into the sun, trying to get a shot of the shaft we climbed out of 

And then it was on to the North, my favorite scenery in Israel, to the kibbutz from which I am writing you, Kfar Blum. Another day of adventure, of learning, of connecting and of great food in tow.

And of course, it was a special day ... it was Sallie's birthday!  If you haven't yet done so, please go to her Facebook page and wish her a happy birthday!

A birthday #selfiewiththerabbi for Sallie - it was a memorable one!

On a personal note: I have a goal of running every day of the trip (except maybe Masada day, when I might save energy for a hike up and/or down). I'm using this blog as an accountability source, to help motivate me to stick to the goal ... so far, 2 for 2!
I paused on my run to take a shot of the site on the beach where we joined together for a Shabbat morning service during my last trip to Israel
My phone wouldn't rotate the pic, but here's the view from my run this morning in the North 
I found it, Shel Siverstein ... where the sidewalk ends.
Maybe  it the most flattering picture, but this was a total accidental selfie, which is incredibly framed!