Friday, March 9, 2012

Israel Reflection: Community

          “Shabbat Shalom!” we heard as we were being pushed and shoved through the busy Shuck, on Friday afternoon in preparation for Shabbat. It was a hot sunny day in Jerusalem. At about 2:00 pm,  Rachel, Avital, Kaitlyn, Natalie and I were shopping at Machaneh Yehudah, in search for a special treat to share with our classmates. First, we pushed our way through the busy streets full of Jewish people buying food, clothes, spices, jewelery, etc. Whether it was freshly baked challah, Havdallah spices for  the next night, or some bargain jewelry for Bubbe, everyone was preparing for Shabbat. While taking in all of the smells, sights, and sounds, we had to manage to stay together on this journey. Finally, we ended up at our destination, the famous bakery Marzipan. Our mission was to buy some special treats for our Shabbat, but in the crowded shop, this was very hard. With everyone rushing to get the last cinnamon bun or trying to pay for their pastries, it was crazy. Experiencing  these moments made me feel more connected to the  Jewish people because of the Jewish atmosphere that surrounded me: the cultural foods, smells, sounds, and the people. Even though differences in observance, language, and location may separate me from other Jews, I felt that we were all united in the Shuck, right then and there before Shabbat.
            The first part of our journey was not only to buy the treats for our class, but to get there. This was a  trudge because on Friday afternoons, right before Shabbat, the Shuck is very busy and crowded. Since we had to walk down long streets and push between large masses of people, we knew we had to stay together. Therefore, the girls and I all held hands so we wouldn't lose each other. We walked down  many streets and passed many shops and stores which consisted of foods, spices, clothes, jewelry, scarves, chamsas, and other ornament. The savory smells coming from these shops permeated throughout the streets, and the strong aromas from the spices caught us at the nose. Navigating through the Shuck is, in a way, like New York City. In both of these places you are overwhelmed about what is going on around you, yet in the Shuck, it is a nice feeling of overwhelmingness. There is a feeling of security and safety. For example, even though it was very loud and stressful in the Shuck, it also made me feel very connected to Jewish people because I knew that I was surrounded by Jews, who shared the same religion as me, Judaism. They were also doing the same errends as we were; preparing for Shabbat.
            Finally, we had reached our destination. Right as you step into Marzipan, you are surrounded by so many delicious smells and it is very hard to distinguish which one is which, none of them are distinct. At first I thought it was cinnamon, but Kaitlyn swore that it was chocolate she was smelling. Natalie added, “You know, it wouldn't hurt anyone if we tried it, to see if it really is cinnamon or chocolate.”
“Fine, we'll try the Rugelach,” Rachel said. As we bit into the delightful blend of both chocolate and cinnamon, we knew this was what we had to purchase.
We pushed our way up to the counter, and the man said to us, “Oh, you have picked a good choice. But why so many?” I automatically answered that it was for our class, and without hesitation he replied “Ah I see. Shabbat Shalom!”
This moment made me feel the strong connection that I knew I had to Jewish Peoplehood. It is important for me to be able to connect to Jewish Peoplehood so I that know I am not alone. Thinking back on this moment, I now know that no matter what was going on around me, for better or for worse, I was safe and secure. In my opinion, Jewish Peoplehood means not only being surrounded by your own Jewish community, or a Jewish community across the world, but feeling the sense that you are part of a community. There are five pillars or portals into Jewish Peoplehood. In this moment three of them were present for me. The country of Israel, the Jewish religion, and the most prominent one, the Jewish community. The first pillar that was present for me, the country of Israel, came into play because I underwent this whole experience at the Shuck in Jerusalem. The second one, Judaism, played a great role during this time because everyone was preparing for Shabbat, the Friday night holiday. Everyone was there to prepare for their own personal Shabbat celebrations. I'm sure that if I had underwent this experience on any other day, it still would have been meaningful, but it was right before Shabbat, therefore had a great impact on me. Lastly, the community that I was in. Sure, we all had differences. In fact, the only people I knew there were my classmates. To me, it didn't matter if we knew each other or not, or if we even wanted anything to do with each other. The most important reason is that we were all there for the same thing at heart. Community played a major role in my trip to Israel, and specifically the Shuck. 
            While traveling to Israel, the Shuck is a very different experience than spending time in just a market. At the shuck, you feel a sense of community and connection to Jewish Peoplehood, because of what everyone is doing (preparing for shabbat), and because you know that everyone else there is Jewish. By traveling to Israel with classmates, or just by yourself, one can learn the meaning of a real community. Knowing that you are not alone, and that the people surrounding you are the same as you, is a very good feeling of security.  It's comforting to know you are not alone. To know you are part of a community. 
Written by Dalia, 8th grade student

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