From Friday afternoon through Motzei Shabbat, I experienced many interesting and meaningful moments. Friday, before Shabbat, I went downtown to Ben Yehuda street and met up with the Gottesmans who were visiting from Toronto. Besides for getting to catch up with them, I was able to witness the entire city preparing for Shabbat, with the shops gradually closing and the vendors hawking flowers on the street corners. I soon headed back to beit nativ, and showered and got ready for shabbat. This shabbat was a 'closed' shabbat, meaning that we spent all of our meals and some tefillot together. Although I usually enjoy getting around and experiencing the different shuls in the city, it was also nice to spend time as a group and catch up with people over the Shabbat. Friday night, we joined Moreshet Yisrael, the Conservative shul on our campus for Kabbalat shabbat, and the tefillot were entirely led by Nativ. The ruach, kavannah and energy in the beit knesset was palpable as we sang the tefillot and niggunim.
After tefillot, we had shabbat dinner just as the subgroup of Nativ who will be spending the second half of the year on Kibbutz Sa'ad. We had a pretty nice seudah, which allowed us to regroup and catch up with each other. At the end of the meal, before birkat hamazon, we got to participate in a really great activity, where each of us had the opportunity to share our favourite shabbat tradition/memory from growing up, after which we got to lead our favourite זמר (zemer, Shabbat song). I chose to share my memory of my Abba singing אשת חיל (Eshet Chayil) to my Ima, after which we would each receive the traditional parents' blessing and a shabbat kiss. I then led my favourite tune for the song יום שבתון (Yom Shabbaton). After Birkat Hamazon, I joined much of Nativ for our own Hassidic tish organized by our staff. Tish, which literally means table, refers to a celebration which includes singing, divrei torah and food. For almost 3 hours we filled the room with joy from the different songs chosen by each participant.
Shabbat morning, I woke up early as I often do and took a lovely walk to Yedidya. When I arrived I was given the honour of leading the kehilla in P'sukei D'zimra and Shacharit. It was very spiritual to lead that morning because of the beautiful beit knesset, the inspirational harmonizing, and the opportunity to lead the congregation in Birkat Kohanim because of the special minhag (custom) in Israel. Following kiddush, I walked home with my friend Jeff and his father who was in visiting, and came back for a parshat hashavua discussion and lunch with all of Nativ.
During Shabbat afternoon I walked down the street to the King Solomon hotel, where I got to spend some time with the Handlers, who were in Israel for a week partcipating in the Alyn bike ride, a 350 km ride which raises millions for the Alyn hospital in Jerusalem. It was nice to get out and see them, and we took a little walk on my way back through the neighbourhood. Around 4 PM, we regrouped for mincha, again at moreshet, where I got to serve as Gabbai sheni. We then ate seudah shlishit, with pretty bad food (I sure miss Adath for that), but amazing zemirot. This was followed by the conclusion of Shabbat with Maariv and Havdalah.
The Kavannah of this shabbat was not lost when it ended, as Nativ had chartered a bus for about 55 of us to attend the annual memorial ceremony at Kikar Rabin (the same squre where the rally took place at which Rabin was murdered) in Tel Aviv marking the 11th Yahrzeit for Yitzhak Rabin. When we arrived in Tel Aviv, the bus dropped us off a block from where we passed a police blockade. I started walking with my friend Hillel, along with the throngs of others headed towards the square despite the fact that the memorial had started an hour earlier (we had run into some traffic on the way). When we finally made it to Kikkar Rabin, it was an amazing sight to see people crowded as far as the eye could see. (at one point during the event, the announcer said that over 100,000 people were present). I found the memorial a very beautiful and fitting tribute to Rabin. The organizers tried to make the rally apolitical, so the only speeches were by David Grossman (a writer who lost a son in Lebanon, who did provoke some controversy by harshly criticizing the government and suggesting that we must worker harder to make peace with the Palestinians), and Dalia Rabin, Yitzhak's daughter who provided a tribute to her father. The remainder of the 1.5 hours we were there for was filled with songs and poems for peace, many of which I know and love, including (click on the links to hear recordings I made Motzei Shabbat) Ein li Eretz Acheret, Choref 73 , Ani v'atah (one of my Grade 6 Schechter Graduation songs), Livkot L'cha, and Shir L'shalom, the song which constituted Rabin's last words before he was shot. As could be expected, the ceremony ended with a moving singing of Hatikvah. It was nice as well to see the diversity in political views of the crowd, that although there were many posters attacking the government from the left, there were also many more people with kippot than I expected, and I was even handed a flyer by and organization advocating true religious Zionism, which combines Judaism and democracy.