Monday, November 8, 2010

Shabbat Chaye Sara in Kiryat Arba/Chevron

Where do I start? I really wanted to take pictures, but it was just...crowded and not worth trying to get out my camera, and then it was Shabbat and...I have pictures in my memory.
I went to sort-of cousins (we decided that the correct term for the family and how to explain how we are related is "chamula," which is the term for an Arab clan. We just happen to be a large family who used to live within about 4 blocks of each other (2 2-family houses and 1 2-family house a few blocks away). So-- I went to sort of cousins with my first cousin, and we met another sort-of cousin there who is an actual cousin of my sort-of cousin. Confused? It's ok. Moving on.

The whole experience was just overwhelming.

Break it down:
Took a bus from Binyanei Hauma. We left early, because we counted on lots of people (and therefore lines and waits) and traffic. Thanks to Murphy (and leaving earlier than we planned), we had neither. So we got there early.
There was a stand- basically a mobile ticket booth- with three or four windows and a sign- "הלוך ושב 18.30"- "There and Back- 18.30." There weren't long lines and there was bus after bus lined up. We took one bus to Tzomet Haminharot and then switched to a bulletproof bus for the rest of the trip. The bus was FULL of post-high school seminary/yeshiva students. Loud-comma-very.
Got to Kiryat Arba and went to my sort-of cousins. Was there a bit, and then went to where I was staying (a few minutes' walk away) to get ready for Shabbos.

We davened on Friday night at Givat Gal, which is a caravan community. The shul used to be in a bus, but now there is a real building (think 1-room schoolhouse, plus electricity and minus the wood-burning stove). The sunset on the way there was beautiful; at one point I stopped, turned around and just said, "Wow." The davening was nice- singing and there was a young boy who did part of it and the older men were encouraging him when he was having trouble. I was the only woman there, but lo nora (not a big deal)- they made a women's section for me :)
After davening we went back to the house and had dinner. After dinner there was an oneg at the Me'ara (the Cave-- Me'arat Hamachpela) in Ulam Yitzchak. BZ and I went (actually, everyone went, but BZ and I went together). We walked down this path that normally is locked (I think- there is a fence with a door and a lock; it was open, but if it wasn't Shabbat Chaye Sara with all the soldiers and police around, it would no be wise to go the way we did). There were tons of people and, of course, soldiers and police and patrols and security.
When I got to Me'arat Hamachpela, the first thing that struck me was the number of tents that there were. Lots and lots and lots of tents. Aka, lots and lots and lots of people.

We went to the Me'ara and made up to meet outside at a certain time, and then we went in. It was my first time there and it felt...even as I was going down the hill into Chevron, I felt a feeling of specialness and other-worldliness but familiarity, safety. It was my first time there, but it felt familiar. Also in Ulam Yitzchak (which is only open Chol Hamoed and Shabbat Chaye Sara, by the way) I went to where is supposed to be פתח גן עדן-- the entrance to the Garden of Eden-- and that, too, felt very familiar. The smell there, too. I said some Tehillim, but I was so tired that I wasn't focused.

In the morning I went back to Ulam Yitzchak for Shacharit (morning prayers). There was a chatan there, which was nice-- people threw candies, of course. It was very packed and stuffy, but people were nice about giving up seats for the elderly and pregnant or people who needed to sit. There was kiddush (food) outside after (grape juice/wine and cake and Yerushalmi kugel (Jerusalem noodle pudding), and then we went back for lunch.
After lunch I had the choice of napping or going back to Chevron. What do you think I did? Went back to Chevron, of course! Joined a tour in the early-middle-ish part, and then went back to the Me'ara (what, did you think I was going to miss an opportunity like this? Me'arat Hamachpela is so rarely open like this-- I am NOT missing the chance to daven there again!
When I left, I felt like I didn't want to leave, like it was pulling at my heart. Kind of the way I felt when I was leaving Israel in March 2008-- it hurt my heart; that's the best way I can describe it. It was kind of like...pulling me to stay, like I didn't want to leave. But we had to, because Shabbat was ending.

Buses were packed. But they went straight from Chevron and Kiryat Arba to the Tachana Merkazit in Jerusalem (with a stop at Tzomet Gush, on my bus), no switching.

Overall I enjoyed. I want to go back when it's not Parshat Chaye Sara and there are fewer people there and it's not so packed and I can think a little more. Granted, I won't be able to go the same way and there will be less of the Me'ara open, but I think it will be a much more personal, meaningful experience and I'll be able to take things in more and actually concentrate better and more.

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