Friday was a really special day. We started the morning bright and early at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. Our large group split into two smaller groups and were each led by a guide from the museum. As hard and emotional as the museum was for all of us, it was beautiful to see the moments of hope throughout and to see how far we’ve come. Following our tour, we went to the Shuk and Ben Yehuda Street for an extended lunch/shopping period. Going to that area on a Friday morning pre-Shabbat is always chaotic, but super cool to see the hustle and bustle of everyone getting ready and feel the energy around you. After, we went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for Shabbat.

We had our typical camp Kabbalat Shabbat service outside in a park near the hotel and celebrated Joey’s birthday (happy birthday Joey!!!) before splitting into four groups for a program called “Shabbat of a Lifetime” where different people host us for Shabbat dinner. The hope is that we have a fun dinner and form great memories of Shabbat in Jerusalem. Each of the group’s experiences were a little different but one group (this is Sammy BTW so I can only tell you about my group but I encourage you to ask your teens about this!) had an exciting night being hosted by a wonderful woman named Ateret. She is an Orthodox single mom covered in tattoos who who was raised in Boston, worked in TV and fashion and there’s even a character on NCIS based off her! She told us about her decision to make Aliyah and told us lots of cool stories about her as an activist. After a delicious dinner, she took us on a walking tour of her neighborhood, Nachlaot, a neighborhood right next to the Shuk full of musicians, artists, and religious people. We met some other community members and enjoyed getting to know the neighborhood and had a fun, late night!

On Shabbat, we had camp-style Shabbat Shacharit and celebrated Lulu’s bat mitzvah! Mazel Tov Lulu!! She had an aliyah, and Yael, Jax and Alex read torah beautifully before Lulu gave an insightful D’var Torah. After lunch at the hotel, we rested at the hotel and then went to Sacher park to run around, play, and climb on the giant playground, described as “the best playground I’ve ever played on” by one teen.

So far, our trip has heard about but not seen any demonstrations against or in support of Benejamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform which is surprising given how prevelent and big they’ve been. That changed tonight. A couple days ago, a huge march of people left Tel Aviv and started walking to Jerusalem. Today they made it and they marched right past our hotel on the way to the Knesset! After dinner at the hotel, we had a camp Havdalah service and walked to Cinema City to see a movie. We actually walked through the protest and the energy was incredible. We enjoyed Oppenheimer and Barbie and another late night in Jerusalem.

Until tomorrow,

Havaya Israel 2023