Shavua tov from the holy city of Jerusalem!! As we write this we are just wrapping up the most moving Shabbat experience most of us have ever had. Friday began with an unforgettable trip to Israel’a Holocaust museum. We had all heard about the Holocaust before, many of us had been to a Holocaust museum in the United States, but very few of us had ever had an experience quite like the one we shared on Friday. Maybe it was the fact that we all experienced it together, maybe it was the fact that we were in our eternal capitol, or maybe it was the fact that we experienced it alongside our uniformed Israeli soldiers. Whatever it was, our time at Yad Vashem forced all of us to reconsider what the Holocaust means to us.
When we arrived back at our hotel it was time to welcome in Shabbat. We talked about our Shabbat experiences growing up and what they meant to us as a group and Trudy Morse, a UCF Senior and Hillel intern, led us in a Kabbalat Shabbat service. We sang some traditional tunes together and enjoyed a service together as a community.
On Saturday during Shabbat we had a Bar and Bat Mitzvah experience for 9 people in our Bus 26 family. They each said the blessing of being called to the Torah and then read pieces of this weeks Torah portion and we concluded by asking Ariela, one of our Israeli participants, to share a few words of Torah. She spoke about the story of Joseph and how his brothers treated him. She connected it to our experience at Yad Vashem, which was really interesting. She reminded us we all have to make good choices and treat others with kindness.
The rest of Shabbat was very relaxing and many of us enjoyed our first somewhat observant Shabbat ever! We took a beautiful Shabbat stroll to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament building), the Israel museum, and a few local parks. When we got back to the hotel we had a bit of down time before we played a few Israeli games that led into our Havdallah ceremony.
We began the new week in the best way possible, with a Hanukkah party on Ben Yehuda street! We spent 2 hours shopping, eating dinner, and running into other Birthright groups from around the country while we danced in front of a giant menorah!