My Shabbat experience in Jerusalem was wonderful. I have not attended services at my synagogue since my Bat Mitzvah, so it felt good to celebrate our day of rest, especially with the close friends I’ve made on this trip. There were different services you could pick from to attend: reform, conservative, orthodox, secular and an alternative conversational one. I attended the reform service because that is what I went to at my old synagogue. Memories came rushing back as we sang familiar songs like Adon Olam, and recited prayers such as the Kaddish to mourn the deaths of others. I really liked how during the service, the English translation of prayers mentioned Jerusalem and Israel and we were there! The mood was happy and joyous. A big thank you to Josh for leading the songs. The service made me want to attend Shabbat services in the future, especially those at school now that I have friends in Hillel.
As for today, we left Jerusalem to hike up Masada. I am not the outdoorsy type, nor do I ever hike, so I was dreading the hike a bit. But once I started on the “Snake Path,” I was not intimidated in the least. There was much support from everyone, and everyone had different hiking skills so I was not alone. Some parts of the hike were steps. Dave (not from GMU) counted a little over 800 steps. Other parts were just walking uphill. Once we got the top, we were exhausted and hot, but the hike was definitely worth the effort. The view was spectacular. We were high above the desert, and even higher than a plane that was flying below us. The clouds casted magnificent shadows over the desert which was a sight to behold. We walked around and explored an old palace overlooking the desert. It had three parts to it and we were all the way at the top. At the top, we had a Hebrew naming ceremony for five people, including myself. It was a special moment for us as we embraced our Judaism with our new names. We were all surprised to receive letters from our parents which we had no idea we would be getting! Thanks Mom and Dad for your lovely words.
Then we visited the Dead Sea. It was everything I imagined it would be, except it surprised me that you had to purchase the mud. For some reason, I always thought the mud was natural and you could just take it. Nevertheless, we rubbed mud all over our bodies and it made our skin soft. We also floated, of course. I found it hard to stand in the sea because the water is so salty, you cannot do anything but float. Everyone passed around an Israeli newspaper to pretend to read while floating in the water.
Tonight, all forty-something of us will be staying in a Bedouin tent. I am curious as to what this experience will be like.
Miranda Lapides, George Mason University