Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Lovely Shabbat in the Midst of Hard Times

Earlier in the week I was feeling pretty lonely without Daniel here, but things are picking up, and people have been incredibly generous and nice in spending time with me. Last night after services at the synagogue around the corner from our apartment, I went to the home of an HUC couple for dinner and we chatted well into the night. This morning I went to services and the cantor invited me to his home for lunch, since he saw that I was alone. I had a lovely afternoon with the cantor and his wife, his parents, a lovely woman from the synagogue, and the cantor's bright and energetic toddler. The cantor made aliyah several years ago, and his family is all from the New York/ New Jersey area, so it was so warm and wonderful to hear the familiar accents. The cantor's wife is from Northern Virginia, and so I was able to chat about both of my homelands at one table! It was very nice.
The cantor asked me to sing in the synagogue choir for the commemoration of the birthday of the synagogue, so I'm going to be practicing for that. It's so nice that people are so eager to make me feel as though I belong. I really love this synagogue and in many ways it reminds me of CBI in Charlottesville - a small close knit community with a lot of things happening, people committed to their Judaism and to one another... If you're ever in Jerusalem, you should check out Har El.


Over the course of this Shabbat I've finally been able to understand a little bit about what it means that this country is at war. A few days ago an air raid siren went off in Jerusalem by accident while I was in class at Hebrew University, and the teacher told us that she was sure there was nothing to worry about. Class went on as usual and I didn't think much of it - I assumed that it had really been a police siren and I had been mistaking it for something more serious. However, last night at services during her sermon the rabbi spoke about hearing the siren, and trying to get all of the preschoolers out of the building and into the nearby bomb shelter (I later overheard a conversation where the cantor said that they should build a bomb shelter in the basement of the shul because if there was an emergency there's no way that they could get all of the kids to safety on time as things are). She talked about how scared the kids were, and how hard it was to see them so scared, and spoke of how this was only a taste of what children are experiencing in the south - on both sides of the conflict. The ferverency of the prayers for peace this week were almost palpable and when we prayed for the safety of the soldiers in the army, at least five pairs of parents and grandparents mentioned their loved ones who are in Gaza by name before we recited the prayer. Until now I had not really sensed how the conflict was affecting people here, as it is not disrupting the daily flow of life. But what must it be for so many people to go on with their lives knowing that their children or grandchildren are fighting not far away? On the other hand, last night at dinner I was speaking to some friends about the conflict and we remarked on how few Israeli casualties have resulted from this conflict as compared to Paelstinian casualties... Some say that Israel was right to start the conflict, but that now it has gone too far. Some say it should never have happened in the first place. Some say that it has been very successful so far and that when civilians are being used as human shields, perhaps it is moral to kill them in order to execute the aims of the war. I don't know what to think... I just keep reading the news and hoping that a lasting peace will come, and soon.

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