This last week was a little different, because we had our field trip on Sunday rather than Monday, then free day on Monday (October 10)! It was actually a blessing though because then we got to go the Western Wall in the morning and see all of the bar mitzvahs! Here in Jerusalem they are traditionally done on Monday mornings, but I forget why. So we headed down there to see what it was all about. It was so funny to walk down the entryway tunnel to the plaza because all of these families had their tables of refreshments set up and were just having tons of parties to celebrate the occasion! It totally reminded me of our after-baptism refreshment parties, it was great. So since women aren't allowed on the men's side of the wall, we just all peeked over the barriers with the proud Jewish mommies and grandmas to watch the ceremonies. It was so fun to see the little thirteen year old boys carrying the huge Torah scrolls around the worship area then read them out loud on the tables. It was baking hot in the sun, but they set up some umbrellas around the barriers so there was a little shade. Besides the bar mitzvahs, they also had some sukkots (tabernacles) set up to celebrate the forthcoming Sukkot holiday. Sukkot commemorates the tabernacles of the children of Israel in the wilderness during their wanderings. All of the Jewish families build a little tabernacle/hut in front of their house, and they eat in there and sometimes sleep. The rest of the day we just wandered around the Jewish Quarter and at lunch in front of the Hurva Synagogue. It was really fun to just people watch.
That night we had a Seder, the dinner Jews have before Passover. Yes, it is not normally in October... but we do things out of order here so that we can just experience it all. Our Judaism teacher, Ophir Yarden, officiated the dinner and served as the patriarch to our little family of over 100. The Seder meal has a lot of singing, and reading, and of course, eating! I even sang in a little group. It was a song about why the Passover is important. The dinner was fun to experience because we followed along with Ophir using the Haggadah, which is the book of prayers and songs used for the Seder. We had the symbolic foods of the bitter herbs, matza, bone, etc. Then we had actual dinner, which was really yummy. I hope that I'll have another opportunity to experience a Seder dinner, because I couldn't really focus on the symbolism and meanings behind a lot of the ritual, just because everything was so novel. Nonetheless, it was a fun experience and I felt like Ophir gave us a pretty accurate depiction of what a normal Jewish family Seder dinner is like.