WRJ-Israel Mission: Erev Shabbat in Israel
Shabbat in Israel! I have said it before and I can only reiterate that it’s an experience everyone should put on their “bucket list”! Marla and I have had a most wonderful Shabbat together. It began on Erev Shabbat at the warm and inviting Congregation Yozma in Modi’in, one of the growing number of congregations that are part of the IMPJ (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism). For those who followed my posts from Israel last year, you may remember the heartwarming story of the mothers and daughters who, while studying together in preparation for Bat Mitzvah, jointly created talitot for the ceremony. This is a program that WRJ’s donations to IMPJ make possible.
Services were beautiful and the music was amazing! Picture a young man playing the flute and another playing the piano! Envision a teenage girl and her father playing guitars and singing! In honor of our visit, the musicians chose many melodies that would be familiar to us. That said, I also loved the new and distinctly Israeli melodies. Finally, imagine singing the beginning of the Mi Shebeirach in Hebrew (as usual) and then instead of switching to “Bless those in need of healing…” continuing in ALL Hebrew. I must really be in Israel!!!
Special thanks to a leader of our WRJ-Israel women’s group at Congregation YOZMA, Barbara Hurwitz, who printed and translated the rabbi’s sermon into English for me! What a wonderful gift. Yet, we have many thank you’s to Barbara, as Resa & Rabbi Stanley Davids, Marla and I were invited to her home for Shabbat dinner. We were joined by a terrific couple who made aliyah two years ago as well as Barbara’s amazing son, Nadav and daughter, Shani.
Shabbat dinner at an Israeli family table is exciting, interesting, and somewhat boisterous. Political conversations dominate and the level of interest and knowledge leads to passionate interchanges. Barbara’s daughter is in college and therefore past her army days. Her son is in an intensive training program and will begin his army service in a few months. What a perspective they brought to the discussions! When the topic turned to the issue of women’s rights in Israel, Shani told us a story that is now indelibly printed in my mind. During her army service, she was traveling on a public bus to visit her boyfriend. She had taken a seat near the front of the bus and was well into the trip when the route took them through an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. At one stop, a man got on the bus and told her, in a very aggressive way, to move to the back of the bus. Shani was so taken aback and shocked that she did move to the back. She relayed to us her feelings of powerlessness; of how she sobbed for so long; and of her feelings of anger and outrage! All of this while riding a public bus wearing her army uniform! All of this while serving her country in an effort to keep it free, democratic and Jewish.
Tomorrow Marla, Resa and I, accompanied by Anat Hoffman from IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center), are taking a FREEDOM RIDE on one of the public buses through an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Stay tuned for our next blog…