Boker Tov Tel Aviv!
We awoke yesterday morning to this beautiful view- Yafo (Jaffa) to the south, the hotels of Tel Aviv and the port to the North. The weather was just perfect and after a few hours of sleep, everyone was ready to see Israel for the first time as a group. We boarded the bus and our driver, Eli, took us to Independence Hall, on Rothchild Street in Tel Aviv. Here we heard the story of Israel’s declaring independence 69 years ago, in this very room. The docent shared pictures, stories, maps and the actual Declaration of Independence. While facing the picture of Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, we listened to the recording of David Ben Gurion declaring Israel a state.
After Independence Hall, we continued on a walking tour of Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood in Tel Aviv outside of Yafo.
It was hard to focus on the tour through Neve Tzedek, as there were planes practicing for the Air Show in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut. Every time our guide, Ehud, began to tell a story, the planes would interrupt with a fantastic display of flight. At our last stop of the tour, we hearing a wonderful story about Shai Agnon, only to discover we were standing in front of Lael’s aunt’s house! She pulled up on her scooter while we were standing there (completely unplanned) and surprised Lael, as well as all of us in the group!
We continued our walking tour to Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) and Nahalat Binyamin (weekly art festival). Each student was given 40 shekel for lunch as their first taste of Israeli food. Lots of delicious food was enjoyed (a few of them ended up with a plethora of bread thanks to an overly pushy vendor in the market), and fun was had by all. I enjoyed hummus and pita while writing the weekly Kol Tehiyah entry. (see photo below) With purchases in hand, we then all got on the bus and headed back to Hotel Devorah to prepare for Shabbat.
Everyone put on their Shabbat clothes, and as the sun set, we walked down the street to the sea and created our own Kabbalat Shabbat together. With Rabbi Tsipi in the lead, we sang the familiar tunes we know so well from Tehiyah while overlooking the shore of Tel Aviv. Click here for a short video of L’cha Dodi. Some people passing by joined us in song, others smiled and wished us Shabbat Shalom. (Ironically, the man who sat next to Sammy on the plane walked by during our service!) After welcoming Shabbat, we enjoyed a delicious Shabbat dinner at the hotel, followed by an evening of playing on the beach. What a great first day in Israel!
We woke up on Shabbat morning and headed to Kehillah Sinai– a small, progressive synagogue in the heart of Tel Aviv to experience services at an Israeli synagogue. The sanctuary was small, and we filled it up, along with another Jewish Day School from Florida. Some of the tunes were familiar to what we know, others less so. Luckily, the woman who gave the d’var Torah had made aliyah, and spoke perfect English. This week’s parsha (Tazria/Metzora) can be a difficult parsha to understand, but she connected it beautifully to lashon hara (the evil tongue/gossip) and the importance of watching what we are saying. She gave us a copy of both her drash and the Normal Rockwell picture (The Gossip) which she used as an illustration of how easy it is for gossip to get passed on and how hurtful it can be. We will keep these words in mind as we move into the week ahead.
After services, we walked back to the hotel for lunch and had a short program on Jewish identity. We then enjoyed the rest of the day at the Tel Aviv beach, swimming and relaxing. After dinner, we walked to the beach for Havdallah and ice cream. To her great surprise, Shir’s family surprised her with a Bat Mitzvah party in our hotel! We met her family from Israel and enjoyed a DJ party with food, music and a slideshow. What a memorable way to end our Shabbat in Tel Aviv. Laila Tov for now…we have an early wake up tomorrow!