Monday, March 15, 2010

An Orthodox Shabbat in the Golan Heights

This past Friday we drove up to the Golan Heights so that we could celebrate Shabbat and spend the weekend with my dad's friend, Elaine, and her family. On the drive up drove around the Eastern part of Israel along the Jordanian and Syrian borders. It was very odd to see the border fences of Jordan and Syria. The drive up took about 3 hours and we arrived at Allone Habashan, Elaine's neighborhood at around 4:30pm. When we arrived the family was still cleaning for Shabbat. Elaine's family is Orthodox so they celebrate Shabbat very differently than I have ever celebrated it. Shabbat is supposed to be a day of rest, you aren't supposed to work or use electricity or anything like that that doesn't happen naturally. For example, Elaine's family does not use their computers on Shabbat and they don't turn on the lights either. They also don't write on Shabbat. Shabbat is a time to rest and not go about your life like every other day in the week. Shabbat starts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. It was very odd to not be able to use my computer or be able to do most of the stuff that I do everyday. Back to our time at Elaine's, not only did we celebrate Shabbat with Elaine's family, we got to celebrate it with two old friends of Chaim, Elaine's Husband. Chaim and his friends are Yemenite and are very interesting people. Chaim spent the first few years of his life in a camp and met his friends, Effi and Zichron, in College. Elaine and Chaim had 6 kids though sadly one of them was killed in a terrorist attack so now their are only 5. We met 3 of the five, Michal, Orit, Avichai. I don't know if Effi has any kids and if he does they weren't at Shabbat dinner. Zichron's daughter Avigal was there with him. At around 6:00pm we went to Shabbat services at the synagogue that is in their neighborhood. Since it is an Orthodox synagogue, men and women must sit separately. Not only do women have to sit separate from the men, women have to sit in the back with a curtain blocking them from being able to see the men. It was very odd to me because at the synagogue that we go to in Portland everybody sits together. After services we went back to Elaine and Chaim's house for Shabbat dinner, candle lighting, and other blessings. Shabbat dinner was amazing. There was soooooo much food! I can't even remember all of the dishes but there were at least 5 courses! I haven't had that much food in a very long time. There were salads, meat dishes, lots of Challah (Jewish bread for Shabbat), potatoes, hummus and other dips, tons of wine though I didn't drink any, cakes, frozen fruit dipped in chocolate, and so much more. It was like a feast! Dinner went on for around 3 hours because we said prayers, sang a ton of songs (or they did, we couldn't because the songs were in Hebrew), talked and ate. At around 11:30pm my parents and I decided to go to bed, though the rest of the group was still up and eating sweet cakes. The next morning my parents and I got up at around 8:00am because we decided that we didn't need to go to services Saturday morning. Because everybody else went to services, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. This "neighborhood" isn't like the kind of neighborhood that we think of in America, it is called a Moshav. A Moshav is a community where families live near each other in a small area and on this Moshav they farmed dairy. We did a few loops around the Moshav and on one of the loops we went and saw the barn with all of the cows. There were a ton of cows, baby cows, younger cows, and huge cows. It sort of reminded me of being in Oregon at Tillamook or in Hillsboro at the farms. :) At around 11:00am everybody came back from services and it was time to start preparing for another meal. Lunch was about as big as dinner the previous night. There were tons of salads, hummus type dips, fish, macaroni and cheese and another cake. We ate a lot of food over the past two days. After lunch we walked up a hill to see the Syrian border. We stood on an unused Israeli bunker and looked out over Syria. We saw some towns and cars and of course military stations. It was extremely weird and scary to be standing that close to a country that I'm not allowed in and that would like to see me dead. We stood in awe for a few minutes and then walked around the bunker for a little while and then proceeded back down to the Moshav. This weekend was a very interesting experience and was something that I never expected to do.


  1. what a fascinating shabat. and a lot of food. but this sounds like a time you will always remember. i also just read your last blog about tel aviv, which i also enjoyed. you and your mom are really becoming 'israelis' or something close. you are no longer just tourists. btw was that a nude beach?

  2. haha ya, I will definitely always remember it. thanks! haha ya though we can't wait to come home!! nope and if it was everybody was wearing clothes.....