Sunday, August 17, 2008

First Post

There are some things I really dislike about living in Israel, but there are many things that I love. I can't stand the "Arsim" who insist on having shocking music blaring from their car windows, and get really irked by the way the Home Office is run, to the point where a friend once had to barricade himself in a doorway and insist on not moving until he'd spoken to an advisor. And that security guards are able to ask me whether I have a gun on me with a straight face. I can just picture Ahmed, our would-be terrorist, turning around exclaiming, "Ooh yes, I nearly forgot about that! And mind the explosives strapped to my back, the wires are very close together, so be careful while you put that through the scanner." But I haven't set up this blog to complain or ridicule... well, not too much! :D

There are some incredible things about Israel, and in Jerusalem specifically the generosity really is staggering. This past Shabbat, for example, I stayed in Yeshivat Hakotel, but unfortunately no meals were provided for the few boys who had stayed over the summer break. You could be forgiven for thinking that this would surely be a bad thing, but having lived in Jerusalem for close to two years now, as any Yeshiva boy or Seminary girl will tell you, this poses no problem; for there are many people who maintain an open-house policy for Shabbat meals, something proven to be well received by said Yeshiva boys and Seminary girls!

So, I prayed at the Kotel as I usually do on Friday night, and after Ma'ariv was over, I went to the back of the men's section where a crowd of people wait, waiting to be "picked up," by a prospective host, or be paired up by the willing Mr. Jeff Seidel, who has spent many years helping people with no place to eat on Shabbat find a willing local. My meal was spent with a man by the name of Rav Yisrael Mizrahi, who lives on the periphery of the Ge'ulah neighbourhood. I have to say, R' Mizrahi is a lovely man, and he loves doing acts of kindness. He has set up a Havdalah stand at the Kotel every motzei shabbat as a public service for as long as I can remember, and the funding is not done on public expenses, he assures me! He also brought a huge amount of food recently for Motzei Tisha'ah B'Av, so that the visitors to the Kotel would be able to break their fast immediately, without having to wait to get back home. (Is that not incredibly kind and thoughtful?) For Shabbat every week he sets up a long table and about 25 chairs in the yard outside his house. He spends hours preparing the food and drink, and regularly has twenty-plus guests for each Shabbat meal. He loves making a fuss over his guests, and really receives each one with great joy. What is special is that he is a man of relatively modest means, and has to seat people outside the house rather than it, in order to maximise the available space so as to have as many guests as possible.

On Shabbat day, I went to the Machles' family, where about 80-90 people were gathered for lunch. Anybody who has been there knows what an incredible experience Shabbat is when spent with Rav Machles and his family. I particularly appreciate how he too clearly invests a lot of time and money into providing a Shabbat meal for anybody who cares to join, and regularly sets up additional tables and chairs to cater for all the guest until they actually end up overflowing out into his yard and out of the front door! And all this in a space that in England and America, people would say that they have the space to have maybe 6 or 7 guests over in!

I find something inspiring in the fact that people are so altruistic and generous, and are willing to share whatever they have with complete strangers. Feel free to leave a comment on this post with any feedback or stories you may have about your Jerusalem experiences :)

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