It's a bit late, but I did want to share a bit about the past two Shabbatot that I've had. The first one was spent up north, right by Har Meron, which has the 2nd highest peak in all of Israel (the first being Har Hermon); for the second Shabbat, I was in Jerusalem at a MASA-hosted shabbaton dealing with security issues in Israel. Both were wonderful weekends.
My trip to the north happened fairly spontaneously, from my perspective. I was planning on staying in Yeruham for Shabbat, but then Thursday afternoon, my friend Josh convinced me to join him, Adina, and Jesse T. as the embark on their excursion to the north. Thursday night, we stayed in Jerusalem at the Year Course apartments and went out to the Crack Square area.
We left early Friday morning to buy food at the shuk and catch the 982 bus up to the Meron-Tzfat area. While we were waiting for the bus, we met a guy from Nachlaot who was, well, very interesting, to say the least. He grew up in Queens (New York) (he claims to have known my grandfather alav hashalom and great-uncle) and was an intense Carlebach groupie, spent years as a hippie in solitude, and immigrated to Israel many years ago. He now resides in Nachlaot (a neighborhood in Jerusalem, or as he would say, "the most magical place on earth"). He's all about meaningful experiences in Israel and vehemently against life in the diaspora; he does a lot of kiruv. He also believes that Nazi Germany, 1939 is happening in America and the Jews need to come to Israel now and bring about the Mashiach. Yaddi yadda. I didn't mind talking to him because all of those crazy people you meet around here, they do in fact represent the diverse ideology that comprises of Israel. We made it up to Meron and were going to try to tremp/walk to where we were planning on camping, but both became less than ideal situations quickly, so we found a taxi that took us. Very good thing we didn't walk. The guy at the Field School where we stayed was very nice and helped us settle in. I didn't have any cash on me and they wouldn't take my American Visa (only Israeli) so they let me stay for free. We camped outside – we had sleeping bags, and they provided mattresses. We walked around for a little while and then started a fire to cook food for Shabbat. Hot dogs in pita made a great dinner and we enjoyed sitting around the fire. We went to bed by 9 and had some pillow talk and fell asleep.
Shabbat morning, I woke up close to 7, not realizing how early it was, and davened. In the morning, we hiked up a mountain adjacent to Meron and then Meron itself. The first bit was hard in terms of the incline, but then it was fine and the views were gorgeous. We could see Lebanon, Hermon, the Kineret, and more… there was a beautiful poem that was engraved on a stone on the way up, but I don't remember it exactly. When we got back from that excursion, we wanted to go to a Wadi, but the one we tried out didn't seem to have any water and there wasn't much hope, so we gave up on that. We had a taxi take us to Tzfat, and we caught a bus from there to Jerusalem and then took the midnight bus back to Yeruham. It was good to be home.
This past Shabbat, I participated in a shabbaton run by MASA, covering security issues. There were 30 or so people form Nativ at the shabbaton, and another 50 people from other American, British, South African, and Australian programs. We left Yeruham at 7 a.m. on Friday, picked up people from kibbutz, and got to Jerusalem at around 9:40. Immediately, we got on two other buses to kick-off the shabbaton. The first thing lined up was a tour of the security barrier. Two different tours were offered: one from B'tselem, a left-wing organization checking Israeli's treatment of human rights, and one from Stand With Us, which tries to eliminate misperceptions about Israel and educate what's really going on. I went with the guy from Stand with Us, with the hopes that I'd be able to better defend the barrier when needed. Our tour guide did a great tour. Afterwards, both tour guides sat on a panel to discuss the issue. We also had a group activity before Shabbat started.
Nativ held its own tefillot over Shabbat, and Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv were nice. We had Shabbat dinner all together, which was also nice. Before that, Ariella and I studied a bit of hilchot Pesach (the laws of Pesach). After dinner, we had a lecture by a guy named Elliot Chodoff. He's an analyst of the Middle East and also very involved in the military. He talked about Hamas and Israel. After the official session finished, he stayed to answer more questions. I went to learn a Torah reading and came back down 45 minutes later to see where people were, and people were glued to him still. I stayed for a little while, until a little while turned into 12:30 a.m., and he apparently stayed until 1:30. The session started no later than 9 p.m.! He was very effective, though, because he has inside understandings and cleared up many misconceptions; he went against conventional wisdom, which people always are fascinated to hear.
On Shabbat during the day, we heard from an Arab-Israeli who distances himself from "Palestinians" and strongly supports the State of Israel. He has an interesting story and philosophy; he's very progressive. We also heard more from Elliot and had another group activity.
Shabbatot continue to be special here, and I'm looking forward to making the most of what I have left!