So....we took the bus to Jerusalem, and we had a few moments to check into our rooms before we were fed...BREAKFAST! And let me tell you, after 5 days in Russia, there was nothing so incredible as the Israeli breakfast spread. I definitely ate too much...but how can you not!? Love the cottage cheese and the borekas and the fruit and the dates and....mmmmm....okay, enough about food. But let's just say "yum!"
So over breakfast, we were greeted by Dr. Reuven Hazan, a professor at Hebrew U, who shared with us some feelings about the political situation and other stuff about being in Israel. I was quite impressed by how awake we all were -- and how many questions our group asked! (In retrospect, we were quite a group full of quesions, so why should I have been so amazed?) It was very interesting, although I admit that I ducked out for a few minutes when my phone rang -- because my two friends who are students at HUC (Hebrew Union College -- one of them is a rabbinical student, one a cantorial student), stopped by to see me at the hotel.
(Did I mention the hotel? We stayed at the David Citadel, which used to be the Jerusalem Hilton. Oh my goodness. What a nice hotel! It was super-nice. They came in each afternoon to do turndown and leave a chocolate on our pillows. One day, Jill and I were in the room, so we said, no we didn't need turndown, but could we still have the chocolate!? hee hee. It was nice. And the VIEW! Wow. It is, of course, right next to HUC, and I remember when we were students here that President Clinton stayed at this hotel...and they put snipers on the roof of HUC....interesting memories)
Anyway....after the speaker was done, some of us decided to take a little walk up to Ben Yehuda Street (Merkaz ha-Ir, City Center) for some shopping and just some fresh air. It was lovely, and then we returned to take a little nap before Shabbat. The nap was good but I was still really tired (remember, up all night on a plane!). Also, the nap kept getting interrupted with phone calls. But really, it was fine.
Then we got ready for Shabbat. Half our group planned to go to the Kotel http://www.aish.com/wallcam/, and half our group planned to go to Kol HaNeshama http://www.kolhaneshama.org.il/english/index.asp, a Progressive (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, this is Reform in Israel) synagogue that most of us frequented when we lived here. It was very exciting to be back...the music is beautiful and it has such a lovely feeling to be there. So our group walked down there (it's about a 20 minute walk) and it was just wonderful to be in Jerusalem for Shabbat. One of the security guards assigned to our group walked with us, but we didn't realize it....so we couldn't figure out why this guy was following us! Then we figured out who he was, and we explained to him that we have all lived here before, and that we all speak Hebrew, and that he shouldn't worry about us too much. We're not the typical UJC mission group, I think. But he was sweet and did his job.
After services, we went back to the hotel for Shabbat dinner. It was wonderful...there was a printed menu on the table -- so fancy! But the best part of the meal for me (and the other two vegetarians) was that there was a completely comparable meal for us -- soup, salad, entree -- and it was delicious. Rabbi Poupko did give us a dissertation on the problematic addition of sugar into gefilte fish (part of the meal) which was hysterical....and I think he is completely serious about considering fish with sugar to be scandalous. I was, however, completely exhausted by this point and I actually left before dessert was served (me! I left before dessert! I love dessert! clearly, I was tired) and went to bed at about 8:30pm. That's because of no nap and no sleep. But I was a happy rabbi to get to bed. Shabbat Shalom!