Perhaps the greatest thing about being in the Land of the Lord is divine appointment and so far this trip has been appointment after appointment. Those of you that know Brandy, know that she is a researcher and she loves putting this skill to work when vacation planning. We booked a tour called the “Orthodox Jew Tour” offered by “Abraham Tours”. We really did not know what to expect because Orthodox Jews are very private people. The tour began at 4:30 at Abraham’s Hostel. The group was fairly small with three gentlemen from Singapore, a couple from Holland, an Aussie and us four Canadians (Glen, Brandy, Larry and Lynda). Our tour guide was a woman named Gigi. Gigi is an Orthodox Jew with a real love for the Lord. The walking tour consisted of five stops that wound us through one of the many Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
First Stop – A school for young boys and girls of the Orthodox faith:
Gigi shared with us the strong emphasis her faith places on children and the family as well as their passion for education. They begin teaching their children from a very young age that one should live by the “Seven Laws of Noah”. The children are separated by gender from the very beginning of their education. Children are the greatest blessing that a man and women may have as they are lights in which the Lord can shine into a dark world. A small family to the Orthodox Jew is four children. In this regard they seem to stay true to the biblical principal identifying a households blessing by the presents of children.
Second Stop – A Men’s Synagogue:
We arrived at the Synagogue and were welcomed by the Rabi’s wife and seventh child (4 months old). She explained the focus of the Synagogue was to be there for the many troubled teens that inhabited the near by neighborhoods. They provide food, education, shelter and spiritual healing to those in need as well as training the men of their community in the ways of the Torah. She felt very ashamed that the Synagogue was messy, as a barmitza had just completed. The Synagogue consisted primarily of three rooms; the main hall were the teaching and prayer is completed, the social room, and the welcoming hall. The furniture was spars with only a few ornamental stain glass windows. The largest stain glass window was the work of a local member and depicted the levels of creation. The first being the earth; second the plants; third the humans; and forth the spirituality of man. The stain glass hung on an external wall from floor to ceiling.
Third Stop – Women’s Synagogue:
We arrived at a Synagogue for women and immediately entered a classroom like setting with lines of tables and chairs facing the front of the room. There was a bookshelf full which housed both the Torah and Talmud in numerous languages. Gigi our guide explained that the need to formally educate women was identified after the 1960’s. Before the 60’s Mentors in the Community educated women; however, they could not necessarily read or quote the Torah or Talmud.
Will in the Synagogue Gigi explained the concept behind the celebration of Purim. Purim is a week away and many on the tour had seen the preparations in the store with the sale of costumes and special baked treats. Gigi explained that Purim is the celebration of Esther and that people dress up in representation that even God was undercover in the story of Esther as he is not mentioned in text but he was the one behind the salvation of the people through Mordicai and Esther. The exchange of treats is to represent the feast that Esther hosted. Interestingly Purim is the one time a year that Orthodox Jews drink and get drunk.
Gigi also identified the second temple as being “David’s Temple” due to the fact that David built the temple. Of course the Bible tells us that David funded the temple but could not build it as he had blood on his hands. With a polite challenge Gigi admitted this to be the case but they still see it as being David’s Temple.
Fourth Stop – An Orthodox Jew Store:
Gigi showed us a typical bookstore that would sell religious supplies such as yamakas, prayer shawls and tzitzit (undershirt with tassels on the left and right side). Gigi explained that tzitzits are worn by young men that are not married and typically under a certain age (age various based on Community. Prayer shawls are worn by married men as well as those over the age assigned to the tzitzit. In the store were pictures of the Rabi that the Community recognizes as their leader. The Rabi recognized by the Community we visited was known as Rabbie. He is stationed in New York but came from the Ukraine originally. He is the ultimately authority in the Community. To this Community Rabbie is their picture of the coming Messiah.
Fifth Stop – Orthodox Bakery:
It was the night before Shabbat as such the Community was purchasing the supplies for Shabbat dinner. The bakery was kosher so it adhered to the rules of no meats mixed with butter or cheese. To get around the use of butter in pastries as well as meat the bakery uses margarine or soy products. You are not allowed to cook or shop on Shabbat as such the meal and cleaning must be completed prior to sun set on Friday. The bakery smelt amazing and featured many tasty delights.
Sixth Stop – Gigi Home:
Entering into Gigi’s home meant entering into a very large room with a dinning room table and library. We sat around the table and were given water and tea. Gigi explained the candle lighting procedures for Shabbat as well as the blessing of the wine for the Shabbat dinner.
Gigi was very open to questions and provided personal examples to illustrate her answers. She also asked us questions. Gigi was most curious about the way in which we study the bible. She had mentioned several times during the walk around the stops that we seemed to “know” the Torah. She was impressed by our questions and comments. We responded by telling her that we lead a small group once a week, participate in a Chumash study weekly, read daily and attend church. She was surprised that we studied the Torah to which we responded that we study the book in its entirety.
One of the personal illustrations Gigi gave was the terrorism that she has seen in her Community and the manner in which it has impacted her family. She identified a time not to long ago when she had six children who rode the public bus to school. Public buses were being bombed almost daily. One day her 9 year old told her that he was afraid to get on the bus. To which she responded “As Jews we are not allowed to be afraid as it will rule our lives”. She also identified that the government has little to do with providing her comfort or safety for the protection of the Lord is with them and governments change their positions on a whim. She ended the topic by telling us that she could have provided a very different tour that included all of the places that recently experienced terrorist attacks but her hope is that through education of what they believe people will be less likely to commit or keep quiet about terrorism. She added that in Israel she feels save because of God and terrorism is everywhere. In fact she fells less save in New York then in Israel.
Interesting Conversation On the Walk:
The tour was a walking tour and conversation flowed freely. Gigi told us about the community’s great love and respect for the Rabi they follow. The Rabi that the community recognized as their leader was named Rabbi he was born in the Ukraine, later settling in New York. The love for Rabbi was akin to worship. They keep a picture of the Rabbi in their homes and businesses; with more than one posted. The word of Rabbi is the law and the life motto.
Rabbi’s Teaching / People’s Belief:
Rabbis teach that the more we move towards a peaceful habitation the closer the Messiah will be to coming. The Messiah will come to bring peace and to bring all of the people of the world to co-habitat. In order to bring the Messiah to enter the world we need to live a life of peace.