As I anticipated it would be, I’ve had a hard time finding free time to write over the week. While I have 45 minutes before Jules’ opening session (weekend seminar on Conservative Judaism), though, I wanted to share my Shabbat experience from last week because it was unique from what I’ve had so far.
My mom worked with an Israeli woman named Yael when she worked for the Atlanta Federation. Before Nativ, she gave me a few numbers for people who live in Israel that I could contact if I wanted to crash for Shabbat, and Yael was one of them. Yael had actually contacted me when I first got to Israel, but this was the first opportunity I really had to do something on my own, when I didn’t want to stay in Jerusalem or stay with friends.
I took a bus to Petach Tikva, where Yael picked me up. She delivers food to two families every Friday, so from the bus stop we went to somewhere in Petach Tikva, and then we drove to Tel Aviv. I thought it’s pretty cool that they have that connection – it’s a great act of chessed and it’s good to see people with good hearts in this world.
Elkana is a settlement just over the green line. It’s about ten minutes from Petach Tikva and probably a half hour or so from Tel Aviv. About 90% of the settlement is religious. Very few of the buildings there are permanent structures. At least in the area I was in, some of the permanent houses were the simple cube structures (generally a cream color), but most of the homes I saw were trailors. Not to say at all that it was a “trailer park” – I’m going to guess that the trailers have something to do with building issues in the settlements. Yael’s family’s yard had some tables and benches to sit on, lot’s of toys, and a huge rug to sit on as well. Throughout their property they have chickens, goats, and I think I also saw ducks. I helped feed the animals a couple of times.
Yael’s family was very nice. Her husband Nitai is extremely outgoing, and the kids were great as well. The oldest is 11 and the youngest is about one and a half. The 3-year-old was especially adorable. When Yael first introduced me I believe she called me Judah, and so whenever we were all talking in Hebrew and they would mention me as Yehuda, he would be like “why are you calling him Yehuda, his name is JUDAH.” Also quite a basketball player that kid is.
Friday night, I went to schul with Nitai. Short and sweet tefillot. Afterwards, Nitai asked me how I felt about attending a shiur in Hebrew about the laws of Shabbat, so I tried it out. It was a little too technical for me to comprehend, but I think I got the gist. It was nice to try. Shabbat dinner after that was very nice and tasty. I don’t remember too much about what went on at dinner, but the conversation was lively and interesting. Shabbat morning we went to the B’nei Akiva building for davening. Again, short and sweet – singing wasn’t overdone, it was pretty fulfilling. We went back and chilled outside. Some friends of theirs came over with their young child, and we had kiddush, some conversation and words of Torah. The younger children (tried) rollerblading around the block – that was cute. Shortly after, Nitai and I went for Mincha, and then we had lunch. I napped and read a bit and went to Ma’ariv. After Shabbat, I stuck around for a couple of hours and then headed back to Jerusalem.
I mentioned at the beginning that it was a unique experience from all of my other Shabbatot. Two things contributed to that: a) due to the large percentage of dati Jews in Elkana, there were no cars on the road; b) while Jerusalem has a very eclectic culture, Elkana has mostly Israelis, so the culture was essentially Israeli-born religious Jews. I only heard Hebrew throughout Shabbat, and while many schuls in Jerusalem can have an American feel to them, that didn’t exist here.
And now a new Shabbat will start soon. This one will also be special, as it is a closed Shabbat and Jules Gutin is leading sessions on Conservative Judaism. I am looking forward to the communal Shabbat.