Day 26 - Wizo, Modi'in Mall, Shabbat Hospitality (Netzach)
Today all of IST woke up anticipating the exciting new Shabbat we were about to experience. We are doing home hospitality which is where we are staying at a family over the Shabbat with a friend. It is an incredible idea where we can be introduced to Israeli families and understand what their usual Shabbat consists of in a positive religious environment.
Before this experience, my family group visited a WIZO France sponsored pre-school with 1, 2 and 3 year olds. We played, baked challah and sang with them. What surprised me is how familiar I was with the small preschool Shabbat service that seems to take place at all Jewish preschools worldwide. I remember when I was the Ima (mother) in preschool in Sydney, and recently seeing pictures of my little cousins in South Africa being the Aba (father) having the same exact service at King David. This reminds me that all Jewish people have their religion in common throughout the entire world and this aspect is essential to maintain the unity and close nature of the Jewish people in Israel and the diaspora.
We then drove to Modi'in to the shopping centre- or as Israelis call it, the "mall"- and bought gifts for the extremely generous people who are welcoming us into their homes. I am staying with Goldie and we were very excited as at that point in time all we knew were their last name and address.
When we arrived at the Cohen's home on Pinass street we were warmly welcomed by the parents and all 5 children. They were extremely hospitable hosting us as well as their friends who live a hour away in Gush Etzion as well as their 5 children. It was very crowded with 16 of us but it made the experience so rewarding and exciting adding to the comfort of having a Shabbat surrounded by lots of friends who all support and love each other. This to me is what Shabbat is ultimately about. The adorable children were all 10 years of age and under and weren't afraid to ask us countless questions about Australia and our kangaroos that we ride to school.
We walked to shule with the fathers and sat in the service witnessing the inside beauty of the shule. I noticed how similar synagogues are all over the world and had to keep reminding myself that I am not in my familiar Dover Heights shule, but instead in the holiest land for our people, Eretz Yisrael, which still startles me 3 weeks after arrival. I was immediately reminded that we were not in Australia when I unfortunately couldn't understand the Rabbi's Dvar Torah. We then arrived back at the Cohen's house to a large gourmet dinner which was a large contrast to the food we had been eating for the last 4 weeks.
At the dinner table, the mother told us about her family history correlating to our recent visit to Poland and described her grandparents immense struggles in Auschwitz. It was incredible to hear her story and to look at her and her family now, in the land her grandparents dreamed of coming to. For them to have Israeli great grandchildren gives them pride and reminds them of their purpose in the world as survivors.
We later joined the rest of our bus in Raanana to reflect on our home hospitality experience. Everyone is so grateful for this opportunity and is having a rewarding and unique experience which is definitely a highlight of the whole of IST. I am looking forward to my day tomorrow and can't wait to learn and grow from this Shabbat.