JNF Educators Study Tour 2020
Day 5 – Shabbat in Jerusalem and Ammunition Hill
Reflections from Kadimah School NZ and Leibler Yavneh College VIC.
Kedra Schwab – Year 7 & 8 Home Room Teacher – Kadimah School NZ
A Shabbat in Jerusalem.
Israel is an overwhelming, and yet familiar experience, full of contrasts and a new adventure down every twist and turn of the street.
There is a sense of modernity built upon thousands of years of tradition.
Despite this wonder and excitement I have felt being in Israel, I have one major issue: I have never felt as illiterate as I have in Israel! I am a big reader, and have been for as long as I can remember. As a child I read everything, from the back of the toothpaste, to my parent’s books and everything in between. To come to a country in which every sign is in a different alphabet is overwhelming to say the least. The experience has given me a window into what our ELL (English Language Learners) experience when they enter our schools, and I can emphasise with the overwhelming nature of language acquisition.
When I was asked to contribute to the blog, I hadn’t made the connection between my contribution and the free day we would have on Shabbat, and as such I thought I would write about my Shabbat experience.
My experience with Shabbat prior to Israel has been just to ensure I have left school prior to Shabbat coming in. Last night was my first experience with Shabbat dinner and a tisch. What I was most surprised at is how many songs I understood, and could join in with during the dinner- it was a pleasure to hear the Birkat Hamazon song at a leisurely pace and not raced! It was great to put into context the facts of Kabbalat Shabbat I have been gathering for the last 4 years.
Whilst I knew that the challah was broken apart, I hadn’t known that it was often dipped in salt prior to eating.
The tisch was also a lovely way to share impressions, stories and revelations. It was a unique experience that I struggle to describe. I enjoyed the unity that was promoted through the songs, and the extra meaning many of the speakers contributed.
The experience of Shabbat so far has been really interesting. Sharing this with other learning professionals has helped to spark conversations about how their schools approach Kabbalat Shabbat, and the songs they use. In my syndicate the students lead Kabbalat Shabbat with guidance. It is fantastic to be able to find other melodies we can use with Lecha Dodi, Shalom Alecheim and the other songs we sing.
On Saturday, to expand my knowledge of Jerusalem I chose to join the Christian tour.
On the Christian tour we followed the Via Dolorosa, followed in the footsteps of where Jesus is believed to have walked to his crucifixion.
This was an interesting experience as you didn’t need much imagination to see yourself in the street 2000 years ago. The streets, despite the modern clothing and the surfeit of tourist shops, seem timeless yet ancient, reminiscent of any era.
The site which includes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was probably the most interesting. Due to the many different stakeholders of the site there are strict regulations and requirements for maintenance and refurbishment. As a result many of the areas seem run down. I can’t imagine having to negotiate every little change with all the interested stakeholders- imagine if we had to run our classrooms that way!
Overall, I have learnt many things over the last 24 hours. While I have not kept the sabbath (how else could I write this blog!) I have come to appreciate how much easier it must be to be Jewish in a community which is set up to support you. It must be very liberating for a Jewish person to come to Israel and be able to eat 90% of the food, to have a community of people and legislation which helps you to keep the Sabbath and to be part of the majority religion. I can see why many of the families in my community, whilst they have embraced New Zealand as their home (because of the relaxed environment and opportunities we have), still consider Israel to be their spiritual home, regularly returning to enrich their lives and reenergize their spirit.
Shoshi Vorchheimer- Director of Teaching and Learning – Liebler Yavneh College – VIC
L’chaim to happiness and hope
If my Shabbat in Jerusalem with KKL JNF Educator’s tour was a physical book, there would be many pages dog-eared to revisit and relish. The special moments that marked this Shabbat began with Kabbalah Shabbat in the Yemin Moshe neighbourhood, characterised by the blue outline of doors and windows and the meticulously kept garden beds overlooking the expanse of the Jerusalem skyline.
The deep impact of this trip became evident at the Shabbat tisch where many expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to see the kotel and experience Israel. It was emotional to hear the stories and outpourings of appreciation to KKL JNF for giving educators the opportunity to visit Israel, some, for the very first time.
On Shabbat morning, our tour of the neighbourhoods that veered off the train-line of the Tachana Rishona was beautifully personalised by our JNF Shaliach Yigal who showed us the house he grew up in. As we approached memorials on the streets, Yigal shared his memories of his friend Naava Applebaum, who was claimed in a terrorist attack the night before her wedding. As Yigal told us of the horror of that night, the unbearable cost of human life and the sacrifice of Israelis living in the face of daily conflict, confronted us.
From the German colony, to the self-proclaimed Italian colony and the Greek colony, our tour helped us appreciate the diversity of this neighbourhood and the desire of so many to lay claim to this area so close to the Old City. Just as it began to rain, Yigal surprised us with a kiddush at his sister’s new apartment where we were welcomed so warmly and fed yet again!
While Shabbat engendered the spirit of friendship and shared experiences, motzei Shabbat inspired us with the stories of determination and hope that lead to the liberation and unification of Jerusalem. Following Havdala in the foyer of Mount Zion hotel, we were bussed to the museum at Ammunition Hill. Three stories stand out as models of grace, fortitude and hope.
Sarah Cohen was a 17th generation Jerusalemite whose hand made flag was used in the triumphant moment when the Jerusalem Brigade reclaimed Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967. While the war raged around her, she made cups of coffee for the soldiers instead of seeking shelter, choosing to make her own contribution to the reclamation of a city that her family had inhabited for generations.
Colonel Uri Ben Ari was born Heinz Banner in Germany and would contribute to the destruction of Jordanian strongholds in the hills of Jerusalem and the reclamation of Jerusalem. His fight begins long before 1967, starting in 1925 when he witnessed his father being beaten by the brown shirts for refusing to vote for Hitler. His father was stripped of his iron cross, earned in WW1, where he happened to have fought in the same battalion as Hitler. Colonel Uri Ben Ari’s father died in the Holocaust.
Uri managed to gain entrance into Palestine in 1939 and in 1946 joined the Palmach, the underground organisation that helped gain Israeli independence.
Finally we heard the story of Major Alon Wald who was a 10 month baby when his father, a paratrooper, was killed in the 1967 war. The story of the liberation of Jerusalem is the story of 3 brigades of civilians and paid for with 182 lives. Almost 100 of these were paratroopers. The remaining paratroopers in Alon’s fathers unit divided the families of the fallen soldiers amongst them. Each family now had 10 fathers and Alon was told by his fathers that ‘you will never step alone anymore”. Alon told us humorous stories of growing up under the guidance of these ten fathers, of information nights at school where his fellow students were in awe of his fathers and their stories of heroism. But Alon impressed upon us the lesson that ‘you don’t have to fight in a war – you do not have to sacrifice your life, there are so many other things you can do and be, to contribute – believe you are part of an amazing nation and you can make history.’ As he spoke to us and pointed out pictures of the men who died in battle, he highlighted how the pictures were not of soldiers divided into units. There were no descriptions of how they died. Rather the pictures were provided by family members of men that represented them as people who loved and lived for Israel. It was their love for Israel that gives us the opportunity today to walk the streets of Jerusalem and daven at the kotel and experience this incredible Shabbat together…
As we finished our program with the images of Israel surrounding us and the incredible voice of Chagit Moaz singing, Yigal invited us to join him in a toast ‘to happiness and hope’. Yigal explained to us that despite the losses encountered, Israelis always look forward.
L’chaim to happiness and hope!