We began Shabbat by lighting candles in the apartment together and then davening at the Afikim schul. When I walked into schul I did not know that I would be the sha"tz… but that ended up happening. I did both Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv – it's nice to go all the way. And I like doing Nusach S'fard (many Ashkenazi schuls in Israel use Nusach S'phard). So that went pretty well, except I had to adjust to a couple of customs I wasn't quite used to. Then, we had dinner with our host families whom we are assigned to for the next few months. They live about a 20 minute walk from where we are. I'm with Adina; we both speak Hebrew pretty decently. The husband is Ashkenazi, the wife is Yemenite, and they have four kids – a daughter in the army slightly older than us, a daughter a couple of years younger than us, a son at the yeshiva high school (he wasn't home), and an 8-year-old son. Amir, the youngest one, has ADHD and is pretty hilarious, but he crashed after going wild for about 20 minutes. The conversation at the table was pretty lively, and language was not too much a barrier. We talked about ourselves and they shared about their lifestyle. They found it remarkable that our parents are okay with shipping us off for a year in Israel and four years of college. The food was good – at first they said that it was Yemenite and if we don't like, there's a lot of bread, but I enjoyed it a lot. The chicken soup was a good starter, and the rest of the food was abundant and tasty. We had a nice time and hope to keep up the relationship, which we hear really depends on the Nativers making an effort. After dinner, we went over to the family hosting Ally and Kowler; the two families are good friends. We had a d'var Torah, singing, and tea there. The husband there worked at Ramah Berkshires, which was a good connection. He really liked it there. I then went over to the girls' apartment with Adina to see that (I had already seen the other guys' apartments by then) and hang out there for a little bit before going to bed.
On Shabbat morning, we split off to different synagogues because there was a bat mitzvah at Afikim and they couldn't accommodate all of us. The options were two Moroccan synagogues, an Indian synagogue, and a Persian synagogue. I went to the Indian synagogue. It in the end wasn't too different from other Sephardic synagogues I've been to. Highlights included Tyler getting an aliyah, and at the Mi Shebeirach they asked him if he was married, and then they blessed that he should find a wife (I think). There was also a full out argument during the Torah service because a woman opened the curtain of the mechitza to ask for a Mi Shebeirach and there was some shouting involved. If only schul were that lively in America… the one disappointing thing was no Kiddush. Anyway, after schul, we met in the park with Shlomo Chertok, who holds a PhD in Jewish thought, held a shiur and will be offering one for those who want every Wednesday night. He used a text from the Talmud in Berachot, which discusses the two reasons why/when prayer was instituted, to make a point about how both opinions don't disagree but rather offer to vantage points for the importance of prayer in respect to keva (routine) vs. kavannah (spontaneous feeling). He was a very good presenter; he also has an American background, so his English is excellent. We then had lunch at Afikim – good chicken and rice. I went over to the girls' house to teach Rebecca K. mussaf and then went home to nap. We davened mincha with the congregation, and then we met with a serious mayoral candidate for Yeruham, Michael Bitton, who was born and raised in Yeruham (he has staffed USY on Wheels). He was very interesting (great stories) and witty, and half of the time was spent with us going around and introducing ourselves – I thought it was good that he was interested in knowing who we are and that he cares about our work. He talked about an article called "Stop Volunteering" written about Yeruham or development towns in general, and we discussed why just from that people wouldn't want volunteers in development towns like Yeruham. He left us with the letters MMRS – mutuality, motivation, responsibility, and seriousness – that we must take into account in our volunteering. We then had a so-called seudat shlishit and singing and ended Shabbat.
We were supposed to watch a movie after Shabbat but instead we just talked about volunteering details for the upcoming day. I went to bed late – had a good talk with Jesse late at night.
I'll give the story about Sunday very quickly: my main job only requires two days a week from me, so while I will probably be working in a soup kitchen in Dimona on Sundays, I had yesterday off. It was a chill day – I davened, read/ate, was supposed to watch TV with TSilvs but he went to kibbutz but hung out at their apartment for a bit, picked up my shelves, listened to a lecture, began my chavruta with David, did a ShuferSal run, pasta dinner with the guys (Happy Valentine's Day!), ma'ariv at Afikim, and I fell asleep with my laptop on my lap in bed. Story: on my run to SuperSol, I heard music blasting and I was thinking "wow, what's going on in Yeruham?!" A truck turned the corner, followed by a chuppah; it was a Hachnasat Sefer Torah (bringing in of a new Torah). It could be heard everywhere near the main street and blocked lots of traffic. But exciting things do happen!