Shabbat in Israel by Shifra Feldman
Shalom from the Holy Land!
It is 3 weeks post Aliyah for our family and I would like to share a few thoughts….
The neighborhood where we are living, Ramat Beit Shemesh is in a beautiful setting built on a hill. There are tremendous views and sunsets to be seen wherever you walk. One can see in the distance the hilltops of Beitar and the Gush. During my power walks in the morning I pass pomegranate, olive, fig, and date trees, grape vines are in abundance and then there are the seasonal flowers that are in bloom in pinks, purple, yellow and orange, and ivory. Aesthetically the area is quite pleasing on the eyes. But then there is the community which deeply touches the soul. Since moving here we have been inundated with acts of kindness. It actually began ten days before we even arrived! A woman named Chani, whom I hadn’t met yet and I were in touch the last several months through what’s app about basic questions; schools, banking, healthcare etc… Before our flight she reached out and asked me when we were arriving. When I responded, she immediately answered “BH, would you like to join us for dinner that evening?” Chani also took me grocery shopping because we did not have a car. Another woman, Ruth has been an amazing source of help and networking. Our daughters have become quite close in the last few weeks (they originally met back in February when we were here on a pilot trip). Ruth has also taken me food shopping, has introduced me to everyone we pass on the street, has gotten our daughter Noa into a day camp that her daughter attends, transports them to/from the camp, has set us up for Shabbat meals, invites me to attend shiurim with her and keeps me updated on everything that is going on in the community! This week she is taking me school uniform and school supplies shopping, all with a smile and warmth about her that is infectious!! The kindness continues…. Our cousins, the Zabrowsky and Strauss families have been extremely hospitable hosting us for meals, lending us their printer, translating difficult documents from Hebrew to English, sending us home with cakes (homemade of course!). Rheeta and I attend a shiur on Shabbat afternoon and she introduces me to all of the women there. They are all so welcoming and kind exuding warmth. A woman, Amanda called me on Wednesday to invite us for Shabbat lunch. We had already been invited so we had to decline the invitation. On Friday afternoon right before Shabbat, Amanda showed up at our home with fresh homemade challah for us. Another family that we hadn’t met made a Kiddush last Shabbat in honor of us and another family who also made Aliyah to the neighborhood. We went to visit some friends of Jonathan’s who live in Gush Etzion this past Friday (the wife is Ruth’s sister-that is one example of G-d running the world!). In their backyard they have a pomegranate tree and vines of grapes. Before we know it, they are picking clusters of grapes, taking terumah (tithes) and after a lovely visit send us off with a care package of delicious, juicy grapes. It is truly humbling and inspiring to be surrounded on a daily basis by the warmth and chesed (acts of giving) that flows from this quiet suburb.
I’ll conclude with some comments about Shabbat. It is by far my favorite day of the week and the word that comes to mind to describe the atmosphere here is idyllic. It begins late Friday afternoon and one can feel the town transform. I walk out of the apartment to attend Friday night services (We have been fortunate to have been invited out all three Friday night dinners since arriving) and I can feel the stillness of the neighborhood descend. As you hear the siren announcing Shabbat, you notice not a moving car in sight and all stores have already closed up. The only noises heard are the hustle of people making their way to shul(synagogue), wishing each other Shabbat Shalom and the children playing in the playgrounds. The davening (prayer service) is slow and melodic, as the sun sets over the hills. When we come outside after services people are walking in the streets instead of the sidewalks and the children are able to walk around without supervision. Shabbat day is the same. The stillness in the air, the children running everywhere and people gathering to greet one another and catch up from the week. Families out strolling, teenagers walking in groups, Little boys in their white shirts and dark colored pants, hang on the rails waiting for their fathers to come out of synagogue.
It all touches me. What moves me the most is when the Kohanim (priests) get up to recite Birkat Kohanim, blessing the congregation, not once but twice…morning and musaf (additional) service! My arms have goosebumps as their words descend upon me. I close my eyes to welcome and embrace the blessing of peace and have in mind all of my loved ones and the people of this new unique and welcoming community that we now live in. I am blessed!