Shabbat with my New Mishpacha! | Shorashim - Israel with Israelis
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Shabbat with my New Mishpacha!

Becca Pomerantz

Shabbat Shalom! I feel honored to write the trip blog post on a day that so many on our trip have been looking forward to – our community Shabbat at our beautiful hotel in Jerusalem. Our approach to this Shabbat was very simple: enjoy a restful and reflective day alone and with the group through conversation, prayer, and downtime. For some of us, this meant sleeping in until 10:00am - a treat compared to our normal wake-up time of 7:00am. For others, this meant starting the day with an outdoor yoga class, taught by the wonderful Melissa.

In witnessing the last 15 minutes of this class (from my comfortable chair under an umbrella), this seemed the perfect way to start a Shabbat morning – restoring body and mind overlooking the hills of Jerusalem.  Kudos to those yogis who seemed at peace even in the brutal morning sun. The “Shabbat Committee” did an excellent job preparing for and leading us through a variety of Shabbat activities throughout Friday evening and today. The main activity of the morning was our Shabbat discussion groups. These small group conversations connected to this week’s Torah portion in a very accessible, relatable way. For example, my group discussed how and why we each came to be on this Birthright Israel: Shorashim trip and whether or not we considered this trip to be a pilgrimage of sorts. 

Everyone had something insightful to contribute, each idea unique and successful in expanding each of our horizons and making us feel more like a family. From the looks of it, other groups had a similar experience and discussion continued even past the session end-time. We are all taking something, learning something from one another, on the basis of the Torah, something many of us have as a common and familiar bind.

After lunch (which was amazing as all meals at this beautiful hotel have been), we continued Shabbat discussions – this time taking a different approach. In the “Jewish Identity”activity, we had small group discussions on core Jewish community values, followed by an entire program discussion of these values. 

As one could imagine, these values ranged from the importance of family to the necessity of regular prayer to the support of the state of Israel. Another intense and insightful conversation, this activity brought out many our truest feelings. Through covering age-old questions and traditions, and new challenges and experiences for Jews inside and out of Israel, we walked away (or continued talking) with a lot on our minds. My only wish is that we have a further opportunity to hear more of the Israeli perspective from our companions native to this country. An American perspective is only one perspective.

We had an extended period of rare free time after this discussion. Some went to the pool, some engaged in other discussion, and some enjoyed the outdoors. Regardless, we all embodied the spirit of Shabbat and spent time reflecting and continuing to get to know one another. On a daily basis, I’m so impressed with each individual’s dedication to one another. It would be so simple to crawl into our comfy beds, but instead, almost everyone chooses to engage with one another, asking questions and  genuinely demonstrating interest in others’ lives and ideas. 

Following free time, the Shabbat Committee and our group leaders conducted a short, peaceful Havdalah celebration. The unobstructed Big Dipper and the lights from others in prayer and celebration around us only added to the warm (in spirit and weather) experience. 

To conclude the day, we took a group trip to one of the shopping and dining centers of Jerusalem – Ben Yehuda street. While we would all like to be able to eat together as our ~50 person group at each meal, we have to recognize that that would be overwhelming and unexpected in a restaurant setting. So we split off to find new cuisine experience new flavors – many of us dining at a lovely restaurant with outdoor seating and an offering of food heavily based in bread and cheese (thanks for therecommendation, Shira!). 

Now in a post-dinner, full-bellied daze, I think I can confidently say that we grew so much together this Shabbat and are looking forward to the upcoming week together – surfing, traveling, and bus-singing. Shabbat means something different for each of us – but we were all brought together for the best Shabbat I can remember in a long time – in a country we can call home.

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