Tuesday, May 2, 2017

7 days in Israel, my journey to the Holy Land, part 4

Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Cat sleeping in the streets of Tel Aviv, on Shabbat day April the 22nd

Usually I shut phone and internet on Shabbat day, but it was safer for me to keep connected during my stay.
My friend Nathalie proposed that we meet in front of the hotel Deborah and then went together to her synagogue. 
Hashem had another plan for the day.

I had wrongly taken note of the number of the hotel at Ben Yehuda street. I thought that it was located at number 84...actually I didn't find the hotel, but I saw that a synagogue was just next door, at number 86, so I wasn't worried at all...I was sure that my friend would show up...but ten minutes after ten, no trace of my friend.

I greeted some people entering the synagogue with "Shabbat Shalom".

Well, now I was left with two choices: either go back to the hotel or enter the synagogue. I opted for choice number two.

I didn't really possess appropriate clothing for Shabbat, I was wearing some very casual wear, but I thought to myself, why not ask if I can join...

So I entered and asked two men: "Shabbat Shalom. May I join the cult?"

They both answered "yes" and showed me the women section. I was amazed at the number of Torahs and other prayer books left at my disposition.

Today's parasha was "Shemini" in the Book of Leviticus.
One lady engaged a little bit of conversation with me; I explained that I was from France and that this was my very first trip to Eretz Israel. The lady helped me find the part of Scripture the Hazan ( cantor) was reciting at a very fast rate.

One several occurences, men were carrying the Torah scrolls and approached the women section so people could touch them.
The atmosphere was joyful. I remember the word " beyad Moshe" ( from Moshe's hand) being pronounced very loudly.

The cult was concluded in Hebrew with community news. I was able to understand what was spoken about: a child had been born today on Shabbat day.

I greeted everyone and left, avoiding the Kiddush ( I was a little bit scared to be asked too many questions, as I am not Jewish...).

I went back to the hotel. The weather was very hot. 36 degrees in Tel Aviv: you are feeling the heat and you ought to drink a lot of water, but strangely this heat is more bearable than in Europe.
There is always some little wind to soothe your discomfort.

Back at the hotel, I noticed that Nathalie had left me a message: I then realized I had been to the wrong Beth haknesset. This was the Italian community and Nathalie's synagogue was the Hebrew/ French speaking one. She asked me if I was willing to participate to a Torah study at 4:30 pm and warned me in advance that there was a whole part that was held completely in Hebrew.

I accepted with joy.

We decided to meet in front of the Italian Beth knesset, in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

It is easier to get into the spirit of Shabbat rest when you are in Israel. Most shops were closed.
However, be prepared to view a few shockers if you are staying in Tel Aviv. I observed a few people walking half naked in the streets with bathing suits, and two lesbians kissing publicly in the middle of the street.

Here I am, at 86 Ben Yehuda street. I can see my friend coming from afar. We are now on the way to the synagogue. 
Once there she introduces me to her French Israeli friends. We exchange a little bit in French and in Hebrew. Then  I am meeting Gad, the rabbi. 
The rabbi asks me if I know and understand Hebrew. "A little bit', I answer, before he starts his lecture about Parashat Shemini.

This part of Leviticus is arduous and requires reflection.  I am making tremendous efforts to concentrate; I am catching words and expressions. Sometimes, the rabbi interrupts the lectures which some points of humor-in English ( this is very funny).
When the second part ( in French) begins, some other members join the community. The rabbi now reiterates the same content in French. Now my understanding is clearer. 
The parasha's mysteries about repeated actions in a loop and the renewal at the 8th day ( Shemini) are unlightened by the rabbi.
Strangely, the rabbi mentions a point I had talked about with Nathalie over a Facebook chat: the preciousness and uniqueness of each individual in HaShem's eyes.

My head is hurting after all this brainstorming; Torah studies require a lot of intellectual effort.

When the Torah study closes, it is about 7 pm. The heat has gone and it is a little bit cold outside; I am wearing a small jacket.

Nathalie and I are waiting for the end of Shabbat, then we conclude the evening with a cup of fresh yoghurt ice cream.

I am ready to embark for a new adventure to Galilee tomorrow. However, as you will see, HaShem's plan are not always our plans....

Copyright© by Isabelle Esling

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