Friday, May 22, 2009

Shabbat Shalom!!
After two days of traveling we entered Jerusalem last evening, toured the city, and are now getting ready to celebrate Shabbat.

On Wednesday, we were still up north. We had the unique opportunity to spend the night camping out in tents along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We went rafting down the Jordan River and went on an INCREDIBLE hike.

The next day, Thursday, we began to head south by way of Tel Aviv. On our way we stopped by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Here we were greeted and had a political briefing by faculty member, Jonathan Fine. This was an exciting place to visit as many Penn students have studied there over the past years. This relatively new (and English speaking) Israeli university focuses on International Affairs and Counter terrorism.

Following that we visited Independence Hall and heard about the beginning of the State of Israel. We also went to Rabbin Square and learned about the life of Yitzhak Rabbin, the fifth Israeli Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1995. In the evening, we entered Jerusalem.

Today, we began our day on the Hall Promenade overlooking the breadth and beauty of the city. The entire group join held a Shechiyanu Ceremony as it was our first time viewing Jerusalem. A few stories were shared along with many minutes of dancing as the group celebrated. Following that we toured the Old City of Jerusalem (and had lunch there too). We learned about the historical and religious relevance of life in the Old City of Jerusalem.

After leaving the Old City the group had the opportunity to experience Shabbat preparations first hand by visiting Machena Yehuda - the famous Jerusalem shuk (market). Here we were able to sample fruits, vegetables, baked goods. The aroma's and flavors were overwhelming and everyone enjoyed the time to roam through this market.

We are now all in the hotel getting ready for an early dinner and a walk to the kotel (Western Hall). We will have the opportunity to have welcome Shabbat with thousands of Israelis. Tomorrow will be a calmer day with optional services in a local synagogue or yoga in the park and tomorrow evening we will visit the famous Ben Yehuda Street for shopping and a dance party. Everyone is so happy and in such great spirits. It is wonderful spending so much time outdoors and learning about our history. More to come on Sunday....Shabbat Shalom.

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