Day 26 and 27 - Tel Aviv Markets and Shabbat Experience in Nof Ayelon (Lehava)
We were all looking forward to another day of IST, which began by driving to Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square). Here, we spoke about how Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated because of his great desire to create a peace agreement between Israeli and the Palestinians. This was an extremely engaging and insightful experience as it opened my eyes to the history of Israel, and I was particularly touched by the memorial located for Yitzchak Rabin. What made the place have a deeper meaning was the marketing on the pavement next to the memorial that indicated the exact location where Rabin was standing when he died.
From Rabin Square we headed in the pouring rain to the best markets we have been to in Israel (and I have been to a few). These markets were extremely big and sold a wide range of products from clothes to food and Judaica. I personally had a successful day in the market and brought a few things for myself and my family.
Upon rejoining the bus, despite being soaking wet, we made our way to Nof Ayelon (a small Yishuv located near Modiin) to spend Shabbat. Each one of us were paired with a local host family where we would spend Friday night dinner and the rest of the Shabbat. I was in a house with Saul and Isaac, and stayed at a delightful family known as the Kaplan's who were very welcoming and friendly. This made the experience a very enjoyable one.
First, we went to shul for an hour for Kabbalat Shabbat, which was very special as the shul was particularly beautiful. Also, I loved the spirit in the shul and it was the best service I have seen in my life. After shul, we went home and had Shabbat with the family and afterwards walked to a Tisch with the entire group. Here, we listened to a few stories from madrichim and Rabbi Baruch (a resident Rabbi) as well as signing Jewish songs together. The tisch was one of the highlights of the day as it was so powerful.
On Shabbat Day, we woke up late after having a deserved sleep in. We all met at a central location for lunch together. We were able to spend this time with Rabbi Cohn from Nof Ayelon, who was very nice and shared his personal story of Aliyah with us. We then had a few hours of free time where we could do what we wanted. I mainly chilled and spoke with my friends and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Later, we met back together and shared a beautiful Seudah Shlishit and musical Havdalah, which was very emotional.
After Shabbat came out, we went to Tachanah Rishona, a formed train station in Jerusalem, where we got to relax, eat food and enjoy the company of our friends. Overall, it was an enjoyable two days, as I got to learn about the history of Israel at Kikar Rabin, and also got to experience a real Shabbat in an Israeli household. These experiences opened my eyes to the differences between Australia and Israel, and was thoroughly enjoyable.
By Mikey Benchoam