Ahh....to sleep in! Our breakfast hour this morning was 8:30am, which I believe is the best we've gotten (except Shabbat) the whole trip. We were scheduled to have a "breakfast briefing" again, but I must admit that I skipped out of this program in order to attend morning Tefillah at HUC next door to our hotel. I was excited to go to services at HUC because Elizabeth Wood and Leah Ingerham (the two students I mentioned before) were leading services, and I was so lucky to be there while the two of them were doing this. It was so strange to walk into the Murstein sanctuary at HUC -- it's been a long time and I certainly missed Michael -- but it was nice to be there also. The students use the draft editions of Mishkan Tefillah, and it was interesting to see how the prayerbook is used on a daily basis.
I must admit to tearing up a little as I watched Liz and Leah lead services. I think it was partly just being back in Jerusalem, but it was also a little bit of pride in their accomplishments -- to have known them "before" and now to see them leading services with great skill...it was a moment of personal pride for me as well. (Cheesy, I know. But hey, I'm from Wisconsin)
After services, I returned to our group in time to leave for our final JDC (Joint Distribution Committee) site visit. We went to a drop-in center called Tzomet (Crossroads) that is run by a fabulously motivated young woman named Caryn Green. This place was very interesting. I guess I would have never realized how many troubled (mostly American) youth are on the streets of Jerusalem. They are students who have left yeshivot or year-course programming, and this place provides a safe haven for them. Our whole group was impressed not only by the work that Tzomet does but also by Caryn, herself. Her passion for her work was unmistakable, and she brought out a lot of great questions (of course) and interesting discussion from our group.
After lunch we went to the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute for lunch and a facilitated discussion on the disengagement process. We heard from three different political figures: Rabbi Arik Ascherman from Rabbis for Human Rights, Rabbi Yair Kahn, from Yeshivat Har Etzion and in favor of disengagement, and Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, from Yeshivat Hesder and against the disengagement policies. The whole thing was interesting but the group didn't sit on panel together. Instead, each rabbi spoke and answered questions. This was a little disconcerting and hard to digest because they each had such varied positions. Either way, disnegagement is a huge issue for Israeli politics. We'll have to wait and see what happens...
We had a free afternoon to hang out in Jerusalem (shopping, anyone?) and then went to the
Montefiore Restaurant in Yemin Moshe under the Windmill there....that Windmill is a special place for Michael and I...it is the spot where he proposed to me almost six years ago...overlooking the Old City...so it was neat to send him a text message from that spot to tell him where I was. (At dinner, we had a guest speaker discussing Israel's security issues with us. And...the food was great.)
Afterwards, a group of us decided to walk back to the hotel (I can't tell you how close we were and yet we still took the bus:-) and then a smaller group decided to go on to a Karaoke bar, to which we were led by our very cool security guard, Nir (then he left us, he couldn't handle the concept of hanging out with a group of rabbis, I think). It was quite fun, the six of us who went had a great time and did all sorts of silly karaoke songs! It was a lot of fun and a good way to begin to bring our journey together to a close....one more day for the group together in Jerusalem!!!