So on Thursday morning I woke up at 5:00 AM to board the bus with my Ulpan group. This time we were headed to Jerusalem for the standard old city tour. However, on the way we decided to stop for a wonderful hike through the Judean Hills. The overlooks on the switch back trail were absolutely amazing. With views of Har-HaTzofim (Hebrew University's Campus) and Haddasa Hospital, the hike was worth losing an hour in Jerusalem.
When we finally made it into Jerusalem, our first stop was to Yemin Moshe. This was the first neighborhood built outside of the Old City's walls and it is absolutly gorgeous. Hard to believe that before the Six-Day War it was an utter war zone. The neighborhood overlooks the old city walls and the road between the two was no-mans land before the war. Yet this settlement has been inhabited since 1891. The perserverance of Israelis amazes me to no end.
We walked up the Har-Tizon from Yemin Moshe into the Zion Gate and the Old City. On my way in I noticed something very interesting. Its become habit for me to notice not just whether there are soliders around, but what units they are from and their ranks. As I looked at the young men being led around the Old City I noticed that I recgonized their קומת (barets.) Only basic training soliders wear brown ones and only Ulpan soliders wear tags from the education ministry under them. As I wondered who these soliders were, I was bear hugged by Brett! Amazing, and a phenomena only found in Jerusalem. I ran into my best friend who was also on a tour of the old city. I ened up hanging out with him and a few others I know in his unit around the Kotel for about an hour. I even got to see them perform a formation on the plaza outside the Kotel. It was a pretty moving sight to see about 50 new immigrants, who knew no Hebrew 3 months ago, listening to their Commander give them a speech about their futures in the Army. I even got yelled at by Brett's commander for taking so many pictures...but it was Brett's camera. (I snapped a few with mine too.)
The rest of the day and night in Jerusalem were fairly uneventful. I spent the night with some HUC students and got up early the next morning to head on an Adventure!
The bus ride to Kibbutz Yahel is quite long from Jerusalem. Three hours on the bus gave me a good chance to catch up with and meet some of the people on the shabbaton. I say catch up because one of the participants was my camper about 4 years ago. Crazy to think...my campers are heading off to college now. But I digress...
When we got to Yahel we headed straight to the Pomelo fields. If you don't know what a Pomelo is or haven't had one, you're missing out. They're quite delicious and these pomelos were special too. The fields are situated about 50 feet from the Jordanian border. After the peace treaty was signed the Jordanian patrols started stealing the fruits because lets face it its very hot in the Negev and even more so in the Aravah valley. The Kibbutzniks caught wind of this and they started putting out crates of them as an offering of peace. Eventually the Jordanian Mayor on the other side of the border had lunch with the director of the pomelo fields. "Pomelos for Peace" they called it on the kibbutz. The Israeli government eventually shut down the opperation. If you can 'smuggle' pomelos like that, what else could be passed across the border? Still a pretty cool story... peace isn't just about the treaty. It has to be about more.
After the Pomelo Fields we went to the Kibbutz. Yahel was established as the first Progressive Jewish Kibbutz. The members have had to deal with Jewish laws that no other Reform Jew has ever had to think about. These laws mostly involve agricultural activites. It is truly a place where one can live a Reform Jewish life. Every second of the day is as part of a Reform Jewish community. Outside the Kibbutz, the synagogue or JCC are the centers of Jewish life, but they are only attened for specific cultural or religious events. While I would never seek to diminish the effectiveness of these institutions, the idea of a complete Reform life is quite an interesting concept.
On Friday night we had services and dinner with the Kibbutz. It was a great experience...their dining hall is much smaller than Revivim's, but that made it more of an intimate experience. The food was nothing special, but unlike the two previous Kibbutzim I've been to, they served to the tables and not buffet style. The program after dinner was a stargazing event. We discussed the 12 tribes and their correspondance to the signs of the zodiac. It was pretty interesting, but the stars were the real sight to see. Absolutly no light pollution. Amazing!
Saturday morning I got to lead services! I was only give about 12 hours advanced notice, but I jumped at the chance. It was great to get a chance to do it again. After services and lunch we had a long break for my favorite shabbat activity...a nap! The nap was followed by a quick tour of the barnyard and the worlds most productive milk cows. Why are they so productive? Something about a cross breeding of Damascus and Holstein mixed with being below sea level. Either way, the milk they produce is sold to Kibbutz Yovata, makers of the famous "שוקו בסקיט" (Chocolate Milk in a Bag.) Its absolutly delicious and cool to know that some of it came from Yahel.
Getting back to Revivim was quite easy. The private bus took us up the Aravah road to a major junction. From there every bus on the way north from Eliat stops there. From there I caught one of them to Be'er Sheva and that was that. It was a great weekend and with Purim coming up this weekend, I'm sure there will be another one. Purim in Jerusalem...sounds like fun.
Till next time.