I spent Yom Kippur and this past Shabbat in Jerusalem.
Taking the bus to Jerusalem was rather uneventful and I was surprised by the relative lack of security. I got to the Romm's (the family I had stood with for Rosh Hashanah) at the time they asked me to arrive and went with them to Minha – the afternoon service – prior to Yom Kippur. After that we went back to their apartment to get ready for Yom Kippur at which point we discovered that their refrigerator had stopped. Luckily in what could be termed “the miracle of Yom Kippur” it came back to life during the day.
I spent Yom Kippur at Ramot Zion, a Conservative synagogue in the French Hill neighborhood. The fast started at ~4:45 p.m. on Wednesday and ended at ~5:50 p.m. on Thursday. The fast was surprisingly easy, which I was very happy about. I went to Kol Nidre Wednesday evening. On Yom Kippur day, I was at the synagogue at the beginning from 8:30 a.m. until the end of Mussaf at 2:00 p.m. – ish. Minha began at 3:15 p.m. and Neilah ended around 5:50 p.m. They actually finished a bit early and dragged out the end of the service.
The entire Yom Kippur service was in Hebrew and since everyone speaks Hebrew fluently, they sped through bits of the service. Luckily, I had a copy of the same Mahzor, prayer book, that I used at home for the High Holy Days with English translations. Most of the services matched up and I was able to read the translations and reflections that I very much enjoy on Yom Kippur. We had a nice pre fast meal and a nice break fast meal.
On Yom Kippur in Israel, there is no public transportation – bus, train, airport, etc. Even the taxis stop running. The television stations do not broadcast and neither do the radio stations, except for a silent one that is left on in case of national emergencies – after the Yom Kippur War. No one drives – many roads have barricades put up. Children who aren’t religious ride bikes and skateboards in the roads since there aren’t cars. The only vehicles I saw (basically) were hospital transports and ambulances. French Hill is on top of two Palestinian villages and occasionally cars would come up to a barrier and turn around (some on purpose people may ask). One group of three cars with music playing and a guy smoking a cigarette drove up and moved the barricades out of the way. I thought that there might have been a confrontation between them and Jewish people at the intersection (There was violence in Akko that is still continuing – an updated story).
Yom Kippur was a great experience and hopefully, will yield excellent results.
On Friday I went to morning services and to the naming of the Rabbi’s child followed by a reception. I then helped the Romm’s set up their sukkah. (Sukkah’s seemed to pop up all over the neighborhood after Yom Kippur. It was great. It was described to me as the overnight shanty town all over Israel.) We then watched the movie of the book The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It was very good. Afterwards, we took the dog, Max, for a walk and then I made it over to the Schwartz’s. I stood with them for Shabbat.
The Schwartz’s live a five minute walk from the synagogue in a nice apartment complex full of nice plants. They live on the top floor of their building and have a balcony overlooking the Palestinian villages below and the West Bank. In the distance at night, you can see the lights of Amman, Jordan. They are very nice people (and coincidentally the grandparents of my friend Maayan). The lady, Penina, teaches music at the Academy associated with Hebrew University as well as private lessons and directing the synagogue choir. He husband, Shalom, is a retired professor of social phychology from Hebrew University. He is running a program that is doing research in 70+ countries and they are leaving soon for 10 days in Slovenia. He won the Israel Prize in Psychology in 2007. Needless to say, we had very interesting conversations.
We didn’t go to services on Friday night but had a very interesting dinner with a couple made up of a Law Professor and a Professor (and chair of department?) of Hebrew and Related Semetic Languages at Hebrew University. We had great conversations. Lunch was at the Schwartz’s and I met a number of people with interesting stories. Many had some tie to Camp Ramah of some sort. We talked a lot about the political situation in Israel and the U.S. and the riots in Akko.
We went back to synagogue for Mincha and Ma’ariv and after Havdalah I returned to their apartment while they had choir practice. I ate dinner and then they came back and took me to the bus station. It was very nice Shabbat.
I am currently in Be’er Sheva and am leaving early tomorrow morning for the next leg of my break.