So, I just completed my first Rosh Hashanah in Israel. Thanks to my roommate Rachel , I was booked for lunch and dinner for the two days of RH and the immediately following Shabbat.
We had meals with JTS students and AJU students (that's the Conservative Rabbinical school in California), Brandeis grads and Tel Aviv med students, newlyweds and parents-to-be.
We davened (prayed) at a variety of places around Jerusalem. The first night, we went to the traditional egalitarian minyan in Jerusalem that is similar to Manhattan's Hadar. The following morning, Allison (other roommate, remember?) and I intended to daven at the Leader minyan. The Leader (name of the founding family) minyan, is a place for some serious spiritual prayer. Singing and dancing can take a service and expand it joyfully to two, three times its original length. (That's what she said.) Anywho, Allison and I got the address, found it on our map of Jerusalem, and set out to 27 Ben Zakkai Street, just a short(ish) walk from our apartment.
We walked to 27 Ben Zakkai, and heard singing, so we walked into the first building we saw. We went upstairs, and enjoyed an interesting prayer experience. It was, however, quick, and not so full of singing. The surroundings were cool: blue ceiling, comfortable women's balcony seating, neon Jewish star above the ark (no, really), and lit displays of the Torah blessings on the Torah table. We were pretty sure we were in the wrong place, except how COULD we be? We had walked to the right address, and followed the voices. We stayed through the end of services and got back to our apartment at 11:30. The Leader minyan, we had been told, got out at 2PM at the earliest.
Our service riddle was solved at dinner, when Rafi's roommate pointed out that the Leader minyan was in the building off of the small walkway BEFORE the Sephardic shul we had actually attended. Problem solved, Allison and I went to the minyan on Friday morning. It was long and spiritual, but we were hot and tired. When the Amidah (personal prayers, pretty early in the service) ended, I could hear, through the outside window, the shofar (ram's horn) blow coming from the shul from the day before. Their services were over. Leader minyan transitioned soon after to the Torah service, and then they had a kiddush. Allison and I enjoyed the kiddush but left before the Torah service ended, because it was getting late. Leader minyan was great. I have a feeling I'll like it even more on a few more hours sleep and when it's cooler out.
Today, Allison and I went to the DiscKotel to daven before meeting Rachel and our friend Ethan outside of the Jaffa gate. We had a lovely date to walk to French Hill. Our friends Eytan and Rebecca live up there (past Hebrew U) and they had invited us for Shabbat lunch. The walk took 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was 80 degrees, and I very quickly removed the skirt I wore over my leggings so that my outfit was passably Shabbat-appropriate and wall-acceptable. I ended up spending most of the day in black leggings and a black shirt. I looked like Sandy at the end of Grease! Anyway, we had a great time with the crew at their house, and closed Shabbat with Havdallah and watching the boys move furniture around the apartment.
So, Rosh Hashanah was terrific. I got to wear the usual skirts and shirts I wear at home on regular Shabbats (no suits!) and I got to eat a lot of great food, and walk it all off when I roamed up and down the unmarked streets and intersections. Other highlights included french-toasted honey cake, the new and old friends in Jerusalem, and the life and spirit of Israel during the high holidays.
Finally, I learned that I will never, ever, be walking to and from class at Hebrew U.
More later! G'mar Tov!