At sun down this evening Rosh Hashana began, which is not only the Jewish new year, but the start of the Jewish high holiday season. The fact that I am able to be in our holiest city during this special time in Judaism leaves me with feelings of happiness beyond description. Before the chag (holiday) started, I had a fairly normal day. I woke up, headed down to the hotel restaurant, had a delicious breakfast, practiced my Arabic, and then went into work. I decided to put in a half day since I am missing tomorrow due to the holiday.
Because most businesses closed early today, and because neither of my bosses were in the office (Hillel was in Tel Aviv, and Ziad doesn't have access to Jerusalem since they close the checkpoints at the West Bank completely during the holidays), it was a fairly slow day. Najat and I were the first ones in the office and we had a great time just talking and playing Arabic music. I always felt bad about subjecting people to my music at home, even though it wouldn't stop me from playing it, I still felt a little bad. It is so funny how those feelings stick with you because I found myself saying to Najat (an Arab women) "if this music bothers you I will turn it off". She looked at me like I was crazy! THIS IS HER MUSIC! When the other two interns came into the office we continued our leisurely day with coffee, pastries, and, of course, more music! An hour or so into work Najat heard from her friend who owns a large apartment complex across the street from the office, and we went to look at one of the rooms. I really liked it and decided to spend my remaining three weeks there instead of at the hotel. I will still have meals at the hotel, but I'm going to save over $1,000 by staying at the apartment across the street.
After Najat and I got back from looking at the room I did a little more work, and then was invited to go with Molly and Victoria (the two other interns) to Ramallah on Saturday for a big Oktoberfest festival! I can't wait to FINALLY go to the West Bank, and have a feeling it will be an incredible experience!
I left the office around 1 to go back to the hotel, ate some lunch, took a nap, and got ready for Erev Rosh Hashanah services. I found an amazing Conservative Synagogue online, was in touch with the Rabbi, and was very excited to experience the holidays with a new congregation. After getting all ready, I hopped in a cab and was on my way to West Jerusalem. I found the Synagogue, no problem, was welcomed and greeted as a member of everyone's family, met the Rabbi, and had a wonderful experience.
At first I was a bit sad being alone and without my family, but as I met more people, was invited to more homes for meals, I didn't feel so alone anymore. I, of course, miss being home for the holidays surrounded by family and friends, and, of course, I miss my mother's cooking, and how it makes the house smell, but being on my own turned out to be not so bad after all :-). I'm becoming quite the independent woman! The service itself was lovely, and I am very glad I stumbled upon this congregation. I can't wait to go back tomorrow morning for services and to hear the Shofar blow. It was so special being here in Israel, and something I hope everyone can experience at least once in their lives. You can feel the holidays in the air here, and I was filled with such pride and happiness seeing all of the people walking around the city getting ready to go to their respective Synagogues. To me, being Jewish is so profound and the most special thing in the world, and on top of that, to be a Jew, in Jerusalem, during the high holidays, is indescribable.
I have never felt more proud to be Jewish, and have never been more happy that my security in my faith and religion is unwavering. It is because of that security that I am able to be so open to other cultures and religions, and really appreciate them for their beauty and complexity. With that said, as I entered my hotel room, after sitting through Rosh Hashanah services, I heard the hauntingly beautiful Muslim call to prayer, and I was content beyond belief. That is the story of Jerusalem; a holy city in every sense of the word, where one minute you find yourself praying in a Beit Knesset (Synagogue), and the next you are hearing the Muslim call to prayer ring through the air outside your window.
In the spirit of the holidays I feel it is appropriate to say that I thank God every day for all of his blessing; He has been so good to me, and I am so appreciative. I pray that we are all inscribed in the book of life for another year, pray for a happy and meaningful life, and pray for the health and happiness of my friends and family. I wish everyone a happy, sweet, and healthy new year, and love each and every one of you. Shana Tova v'metukah v'chag sameach chaverim v mishpacha sheli!
Love to you all <3,