Shabbat Shalom from Tel Aviv!! What follows is the first of a number of daily blogs describing the experiences of your fellow Mount Zion Temple congregation members on their two-week family congregational trip to Israel led by Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker.
We arrived safely in Tel Aviv late Friday afternoon (June 20th) where we will remain until Monday morning. After Tel Aviv, we will head north for two days in Tiberias near the Sea of Galillee.
We celebrated our arrival in Eretz Israel last evening by observing Shabbat and enjoying a Shabbat dinner together at our hotel. We greeted Shabbat not only with the usual prayers but, also, by sharing a special reading specifically written for one’s first Shabbat in Israel. A very moving experience for all!
Today, we were led on a full day of activities by Rabbi Spilker and our ARZA tour leader, Zvi Levran. We also are accompanied each day by Ido Suchowolski, a youth counselor, who has already been a great hit with the kids on the trip.
First, several of us joined our rabbi for Torah Study on the beach (a highly recommended place in which to contemplate the teachings of Torah!!) where we read and discussed today’s Torah portion from Numbers about the value and importance of dealing with disagreement and dissent – a timely topic.
Then, the whole group climbed into the tour bus and headed to Jaffa, one of Israel’s oldest cities (remember Jonah and the whale?), where we stood on the Overlook, viewing the skyline of Tel Aviv in the distance and learning about its origins in 1909 as the “first Hebrew city.” We strolled through Jaffa’s streets, sampling some of its great “street” food, and ended up at the old port, where one can see views of the modern skyscrapers of Tel Aviv in the distance, framed by the nearby ancient buildings of Jaffa. By the way, no problem buying food and other items on Shabbat in Jaffa or Tel Aviv! As we are learning, Shabbat observance in this part of Israel is completely different from what we will see next week in Jerusalem.
We ended our day with a visit to the Ayalon Institute, near Rehovot, for a fascinating tour of the secret munitions factory that was created and used before the 1948 War to make bullets for Israel’s fight to defend its independence. The ammunition was made in a kibbutz in underground rooms hidden beneath a laundry and a bakery. Why there? So that the noise, smells, and smoke emitted by the munitions factory could be disguised as those of the laundry and bakery, thereby keeping the operation hidden from the British authorities. Pretty ingenious! This factory made millions of bullets for Israeli soldiers’ guns and, we learned, may have made the difference between the success and failure of the State of Israel in its earliest days.
Here a a few photos of our day’s activities and sights. The first two photos were taken on the beach in Tel Aviv, not far from our hotel. In the first one, you can see Rabbi Spilker leading our Torah Study. The third photo shows Rabbi Spilker and Zvi, our tour educator, in Jaffa. In the last photo, you can see the restoration at the Ayalon Institute of some of the bullet-making equipment in the secret munitions factory.
Today’s blogger: Emily Shapiro