This past week has been pretty much the regular (classes, sleeping, eating and relaxing). In Talmud we studied from Masecht Yoma and learned about different cases regarding fasting such as a pregnant women or a sick person. Thursday though was a very interesting afternoon due to the fact that we had the opportunity to do Kapparot. Kapparot is the practice of taking a chicken, swinging it over your head and all your sins are transferred to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered (right before your eyes) and then given to the poor. So I figured why not go and see what this is all about even though I had the mindset that I probably was not going to do this. After a brief walk to a parking lot near the shuk (where you could smell the chickens from the road) we approached the tent area where Kapparot was taking place. It was then that I and along with most of the group started freaking out because there were chickens being slaughtered right there and there where chickens being swung and there were tons of chickens that were sitting in crates waiting for their 'turn'. Most people who thought that they might do it backed out, however there were about 10 or so guys who decided to be brave enough and do Kapparot. So in the end while I did not do Kapparot and get rid of my sins, my boyfriend Ethan did do it, so he partially got rid of some of my sins for me. It was then off to the shuk for some pre-Shabbat shopping and then back to Beit Nativ. If you are seating and reading this and thinking how cruel this practice is then take a look at this article: "Masorti movement joins fight against 'kapparot'"
Shabbat and the weekend were very relaxing due to the fact that lots of sleeping was done along with just hanging out with friends and more. Saturday night we changed the clocks back an hour so we can start and therefore end the fast earlier it was time to start preparing for Yom Kippur. This included study sessions once again, lunch at 11:30 and dinner at 3:30 due to the fast starting at 4:50. This left just enough time to rest and shower before it all began.
Now, Yom Kippur is THE holiest day in Israel. Even if you are not that religious Yom Kippur is the one day that 90% of Jews are in shul. Israel therefore literally shuts done due to this very holy day; Israeli airspace is closed, TV and radio go off air, and there are no cars on the streets. Yom Kippur is also one of the days that bike rental shops get most of their business because no one uses cars.
For Kol Nidre/Mariv a bunch of my friends and I decided to head to Leader's Minyan. Leader's Minyan is a very upbeat, ecstatic, spiritual and long experience. For example Shabbat services last until 1:30ish PM. So when we walked to where we thought it was it turns out that they daven about 30 minutes away on Yom Kippur. So with sunset quickly approaching about half of us decided that instead of walking the ½ hour we would go to a closer shul called Kedem where I went for Shabbat and 1st day Rosh Hashana. It was another very beautiful service and I continued to feel connected the High Holidays far better than I have at home. After services where over 2 of my really good friends from Philadelphia, Sara Z. and Shuli came over and it was a nice surprise to see them after about 5 years. After a bit of catch up we started our walk back to Beit Nativ but walking on very busy Israeli streets free from fear of getting killed due to the chag which was very exciting because if anyone has been to Israel before you know Israeli drivers are crazy. As well, all the lights were flashing yellow so that if there were any cars (and I did see about 5 or so) they slowed down. As we approached home I started hearing singing and when we came upon our intersection (which is rather busy on a daily basis and full of honking and sirens) we saw almost all of Nativ sitting in a circle singing a wide variety of Jewish songs. We joined the circle and the singing at it was so amazing to see everyone coming home from the nearby Orthodox, Conservative and Reform shuls stop and take in our community and our love for Judaism. During the course of our evening we even had some of them join us in song and dance. We even got written about in the Jerusalem Post (scroll down to where it says: "Some Sixty"). After the fun was over it was time for a bit more hanging out in the streets and then off to bed to get a good night sleep.
After a restful night I got up around 9 to head back to Kedem for Tiffilot and I once again enjoyed being able to walk down such busy streets without a care in the world. Tiffilot were pretty much uneventful but I continued to feel connected and enjoy services and not look at my watch every 5 seconds. When shul was over at around 2 (it started at 8) I headed back to base to relax and rest before Mincha and Neilah. It ended up that because I was so tired and not feeling too well that I slept through Mincha but I got up in time for Neilah and went next door to Moreshet Yisrael. It was an ordinary Neilah but not my favorite due to the predominately older crowd. At 6:05 the fast was over and I could not wait to eat and drink. After some snacks and a really bad break-fast meal, Ethan and I went to Ben Yehudah Street for Pizza and dessert crepes which were delicious and very tasty after a day of fasting.
Tuesday night, Rabbi Joel Roth spoke to us about Conservative Judaism which was defiantly a very interesting and controversial evening. Wednesday afternoon Nativ came together to build and decorate the 2 sukkot that we will be using next week which was a lot of fun.
Yom Kippur was defiantly the wake up point for me. This was when it almost finally hit me that Israel is my home because where else does a state shut down for a Jewish holiday because it was not like this on Rosh Hashana. Where else does everyone even the most secular Jews go to shul and therefore some shuls only have standing room on Yom Kippur. I know that back in Toronto I could not walk down Bathurst Street on Yom Kippur because I would end up in a hospital.
Next Sunday-Tuesday I will be on a survival tiyul and if I survive and will have lots to write about then.