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Israel Journal (2012-2013)

Day 6: December 29, 2012 — Jerusalem (continued)
by Rabbi Ben Zeidman

THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE Shabbat in Jerusalem. Everything stops (or at least slows down), and usually you have a chance to breathe. But not our group! Even with the option to slow down, everyone seemed to be go-go-go.

First, some went to services, some slept a little bit later than the past few days (which doesn’t say too much), and many went on a walking tour of Yemin Moshe. Yemin Moshe is a neighborhood, the first outside of the Old City walls. It was built by Moses Montefiore (hence the Moshe in the name) and was an attempt to provide much needed space to those living in Jerusalem, as the Old City got more crowded. Its famous landmark is the windmill, built by Montefiore with the idea that one day the community might be more self-sustaining.

Next came a walking tour of the Old City itself, particularly the Christian Quarter. We wandered up onto the rooftops with our guide to see the different quarters all at once. Then over to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is believed to be built on the spot where Jesus was crucified. It was a very quick visit, especially considering it was crowded with tourists because Shabbat means there isn’t much open!

Our last scheduled piece of the day was the Israel Museum. We came in and suddenly were overlooking the entire city of Jerusalem from the time of the Second Temple. The model of the city shows how the city was constructed nearly 2,000 years ago! You can see the different sections and where different groups lived. You also can see some of the locations we still know today: City of David, the Temple Mount and Western Wall, and many others. It is hard to imagine how much research and energy went into creating it. We then, almost like the Essenes at that time, “departed” Jerusalem of the Second Temple and went to the Shrine of the Book to learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran. Afterwards, we had a chance to look around at the museum’s other exhibits.

After the museum, we all gathered in a beautiful courtyard to say goodbye to Shabbat and welcome the start of the new week with Havdalah. Standing with one another, we were a little chilly. Yet we were warmed by the sense of possibility and excitement with all the new week will bring for us and by the presence of loving families and new friends.

This evening we all went our separate ways. It was amazing to see Jerusalem coming alive. On Ben Yehuda Street, everyone gathered to shop, hang out and eat. The same goes for the crowds at Mamilla mall right near the hotel. I imagine Emek Refaim and Mahane Yehuda were similar.

There are so many things to see and do on Shabbat in Jerusalem, but we only had one. I guess we’ll all have to come back soon!

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