We got into Tel Aviv at about 4:00pm Friday evening. Getting our visas and customs went fairly quickly, Israel no longer stamps passports so we each got a small card to tape into our passport instead. After some freshening and luggage collecting we met our guide Najeeb and bus driver Elias.
We headed to Alon Shevut, a settlement in the West Bank, for Shabbat with a Jewish family. They live in a gated community that was sealed for Shabbat so we left the bus at the entrance and they walked us in. On Shabbat Orthdox Jews don’t use electricity or drive (or ride in) cars, so the streets were empty.
Shabbat meal starts with a song welcoming in the Sabbath. There was a blessing over the wine (from a cup that survived the Holocaust), a ritual washing before the Hallah bread, and then lots of food including humus with several different toppings, matzo ball soup, chicken, rice, salad, roasted tomatoes, cookies and coffee.
It was a special evening. They graciously invited us to ask any questions about their beliefs and way of life. We talked about Bible stories familiar to all of us, how to keep faith alive in the modern world, and how Israel is changing and balancing between secular and religious influences.
After the meal we drove to Hotel Inbar for our first night looking forward to sleep and more adventures.