Ir Ha Kodesh

Nov 7-8

Arthur Hotel was very nice, at least better than it’s sister hotel.  Much stronger wifi as well although I am convinced it is on the biggest party street in Jerusalem.  That street never stopped even on Shabbat!

First real day in Jerusalem and we went on the Western Wall Tunnel tour (I get the feeling I missed part of it somewhere) and then went to the wall itself.  I was amazed at all the security, but I guess that just is how it is in Israel.

When we approached the Wall, of course there are people asking if you did tefillin today.  While one of the group members said no and turned away, the Chabad guy turned to me and I said “Before you ask, yes.  I did it this morning.”  Which was absolutely true.   I was very good about my tefillin in Israel.  The guy HIGH-FIVED ME.  I was stunned.  You don’t think of Hassidic Jews high-fiving anyone.  Or maybe I just don’t.

While the Wall was interesting, I really was amazed that I didn’t actually feel anything at the Wall.  I felt more after stepping far away from it.  Basically I posed for photo ops and that was it.  We already prayed on the tunnel tour.

There was a bar mtizvah occurring at the wall so it was getting far too loud and crowded for me.  I went back, Chabad asked the same group member if he was Jewish and did tefillin, he said he did it with me.  I turned to the guy and said “No, he didn’t.  I did it alone in my room.  I did OFFER that if he ever wanted to do it he could.”  Group member ran away, but Chabad kept talking to me.  I told him Group member had been borrowing my kippot and such, I was told I was a “portable mitzvah tank.”  Then Chabad dude asked when I was leaving and if I was planning to come back then told me there were ways of getting me back to study for a month or so.  Don’t you dare tempt me Chabad!  I would do it!   But I don’t know Hebrew so it would have to be Hebrew classes.

Then we walked through the Arab market and saw some other things here and there in the area.

Then went to the Conservative Yeshiva for some text study.  I was not big on that but that is just me.  I am not really big on text study and I was supposed to be partnered with the person I liked the least on the entire trip so I respect myself enough to not engage.

We walked back to the hotel and Hillel took us to another tallit shop which had cheaper tallitot.  I purchased a purple striped tallit (about 500 shekels or something) and then rushed to get back to the hotel where I was supposed to be meeting with one of my classmates who was going to take me to the yeshiva of one of my Webyeshiva rabbis.  Didn’t see my rabbi but saw my classmate so that was cool.

We had to get back to go to dinner… T’mol Shilshom where we heard the owner of the restaurant talk about his new book Who will die last?

Some of us tried to go back to the hotel, but we were lost.  Then we went back to the restaurant, got more people tried to get back, then started head back again to the restaurant but didn’t make it back before we were rescued by Hillel who actually got us back to the hotel.  And that is why it is dangerous to leave the tour guide!

We went to bed.

Next morning, we went to Vad YaShem.  It was of course very sad and several people cried at various points during it.  Everyone had feelings of connectedness even those of us who may not have lost specific members of our families.  While I would like to say what occurred there, I figure out of respect to everyone I will not mention.

We then briefly hit up the Jewish market but some of us had to get back early because of Shabbat (plus I had to get the Shabbos key).

We went to Jerusalem Open House for a Reform service and after all those Orthodox services, it was completely bizarre and foreign.  Of course even compared to my regular congregation, it was weird.  A siddur I had never used before and much more English than I was used to and very feminist.   I have several Reform siddurim and this was none of them!  I had to wonder if it was congregation specific.

After that, we went back to the Kotel.  It was prettier at night than it was during the day.  All of us, men and women and trans, all prayed on the same side, the men’s side and you know?  The Hassidim didn’t give a rat’s behind who they davened with and some of us were very OBVIOUSLY female in body if not in mind.  (On the previous visit, all the trans people save one and all the men save one prayed with the men, one woman was ill and one didn’t pray, and the other two people went to the mixed section)

And there we davened again.  Orthodox siddurim, but I did the service I was used to.  We listened to someone from the gay Orthodox men’s group give a dvar.  Then some of us went out partying and others went back to the hotel.  Being the party pooper I am, I was the latter.

That street never was quiet and I was surprised I was able to wake up in the morning for Shabbat!


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