After visiting Yad Vashem Friday morning we changed our lunch location to the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem instead of going to Machanei Yehuda (outdoor market) due to the heavy rain that kept up all day. The mall was crazy with shoppers getting in their last minute shopping before Shabbat. Everything closes early on Friday afternoon to prepare for Shabbat. We transitioned from the fast pace of our trip schedule and the Malcha Mall to welcome in Shabbat at the Rimonim Hotel in Jerusalem. Shabbat comes in early now and we began our Shabbat with candle lighting at 4:15pm. Students had the opportunity to choose from different Friday evening service options which were followed by a festive Shabbat meal with all Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel busses at our hotel. After dinner we had and oneg Shabbat in which all members of our bus contributed something they purchased from the mall earlier to our oneg Shabbat. At the oneg everyone shared something good that happened to them during the past week.
Shabbat provided a much needed chance for rest and relaxation. The slower pace gave everyone a chance to reflect on the experiences of the past week and think about what is yet to come. Shabbat day also featured a very special opportunity for four members of our bus who became bar/bat mitzvah. This incredible experience was shared by the entire bus who enthusiastically supported their fellow bus mates at the Mincha (afternoon) service where the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony took place which was followed by a festive celebration. Later we participated in a discussion lead by our Israelis who have been joining us for the last five days. Finally we marked the close of Shabbat as a bus community with Havdalah and then a night out on Jerusalem's very popular Ben Yehuda street pedestrian mall. Students were very excited to spend time having dinner out and shopping in all the Judaica shops.
We are looking forward to a dry day tomorrow when we will visit Mt. Hertzl and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.