Saturday, April 16, 2011

First Shabbat in Jerusalem

Camera out right at the airport.
First and foremost, this picture reminds us what we love about Israel and why we are here.

Can there be anything more precious?
After a very challenging first few days following the luxury of the rest of our trip, I made the family walk to the Wall on the second full day to remind us of that.  Now, for the rest of the story...

1. Jerusalem is very, very crowded during Pesach week.  The stores, the streets, the restaurants are almost unmanageable.

2. Despite all that, Shabbat is very, very quiet, and felt very peaceful and wonderful to us.

3. Shul of the Week.  Every week I will describe the synagogue we attended for Shabbat.  Our goal is to go to a different one each week.  The first one was the closest to our house and is called Shira Chadasha, which means "new song."  The ruach (spirit) there is incredible, with people singing all service long in harmony.  It is Orthodox, but they push every envelope you can push ritually.  There is a mechitza dividing the men and women, but women are allowed to chant Torah and chant certain parts of the service.  It's also a place that many Americans frequent, though the service is, of course, entirely in Hebrew and so are the announcements.

4. Wine of the Week.  The closest grocery store has a great Israeli Kosher wine section, and I have decided to try as many as I can, working my way, in good Hebrew fashion, from right to left.  Each week for Shabbat I will try a different wine, a Shiraz and a Cabernet from each winery.  This week it was the 2009 Dalton Shiraz from the Galilee Region (where most Israeli wines are made).  For comparison, the two best Kosher wines I have ever had are the Cabernets made by Covenant and B.R. Cohn.  I rank them a 97.  The Dalton Shiraz I give an 87.  It was good, reasonably smooth and spicy at the same time with hints of raspberry and a good balance of tannin.

6. People we Saw.  Nowhere does the world seem smaller than in Jerusalem.  Jewish geography's epicenter is here.  In the first three days here we saw the following people we know:  Rachel Brott, Ariele Scharff, Becca, Lori, and David Rosenthal (had Lori and David at our place in the afternoon), Rabbi Daniel and Jennifer Greyber and family (had us over for Seudah Shlishit), Rabbi Stuart and Vicky Kelman, Rabbi Joe and Rolinda Schoenwald, Rabbi Julie Saxe Teller, and several counselors from Camp Ramah.  I had to send Jonah into the Women's section a couple of times to ask him to bring people out so I could greet them.

Look who we ran into at the Wall.

7. Apartment Hell.  Our apartment is the right size and in an ideal location in Jerusalem called Emek Refaim or the German Colony.  It's where all the cool, hip places are and is in walking distance from all our schools, camps, and the Old City.  And the neighborhood is quite tony.  Our apartment, however, has not been maintained in years.  Most of that doesn't bother us.  The person we had take a look at it before we signed the lease said that the furniture was outdated, but it was otherwise fine.  What we weren't told and, for some reason, we forgot to ask was if the previous tenants were smokers.  And how.  Despite professional cleaners, the place reeks of smoke, especially in the kids room.  We are working on it--air fresheners, baking soda, bringing the mattresses outside, but it's a tough adjustment.  Also, one set of neighbors is very mean.  We share a common courtyard with about six apartments.  There are several tables right smack in the middle of it, and one family insists that only they can use them.  We prepared a picnic down there for Shabbat afternoon, and they kicked us out.  The table and chairs were disgusting and hadn't been sat in for months, but they insisted we were not allowed to use it.  I'm too polite to argue, so I just moved the stuff.  I need a little more Israeli in me, for sure.

Overall, thought, it is magical to be here, and I am trying to soak it all in.  Thank you TBA for giving me and my family this wonderful opportunity.


  1. super interesting! thanks for sharing!

  2. Next time you want to picnic, tell your mean neighbors, Aval zeh bishvil ha'yeledim ha'katanim! Eich atem lo yecholim l'tet le'hem l'shevet l'asot picnic b'shemesh ha'yafeh? If the guilt trip doesn't get to them, then they really are bad people. Does your house have a va'ad bayit? Maybe they could help. Sounds like the bad HOA we had in Castro Valley.
    Glad you are in Israel for Pesach. Chag Sameach!

  3. I LOVE the picture of Micah and Jonah at the wall. What could be better?