After enjoying a sumptuous breakfast we gathered at 9 AM, still a little disoriented and jet-lagged. Our guide, Ofer, stepped up to the plate despite a mix-up in our program and presented us with hats, maps and journals as we embarked on our journey through Tel Aviv.
We began in Rabin Square where the prime minister was assassinated on November 4, 1995. This event immediately reminded me of JFK’sassassination. Both events changed their respective countries forever.
After some reflective time at the sight we began to explore Tel Aviv. We walked and walked and walked up Rothschild Blvd experiencing the ‘White City’ architecture style.
After meandering through some lovely neighborhoods, we had some time to (walk down Shenkin Street – home of cafes where the poets and writers would gather) – shop in Shenkin’s artsy shops. And we walked some more.
Lunch was on our own at Sarona Market which reminded me of Chelsea Market in New York City. Each of us experienced different culinary delights. I ate at a Thai restaurant and passed the Irish pub on the way back to the bus.
After lunch we returned to the hotel for a much needed rest. Typically I can’t be still for too long while traveling so I ventured out on my own and went to the beach. I had fun watching the surfers and families enjoying the shores of the Mediterranean.
I could not believe I was really here. Visiting Israel has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl and read ‘Exodus.’ I did have visions of Paul Newman rescuing me.
Our evening activity began as we headed toward the Na L’ga’at theater for dinner and a show. The group was a bit nervous upon entering since this establishment is run by hearing and visually impaired individuals. After choosing our meals from the menu, we were asked to put all our electronic devices and belongings in a locker.
The tension mounted as we were led into the dining room in small groups. Our waitress led us through a pitch black tunnel as we held onto each other’s shoulders for dear life. As we got to our seats we began to relax – but the blackness was complete. We all thought our eyes would adjust and we would begin to see shadows, but that never happened. Pouring water was a challenge. Once the food arrived we were chatting away and thoroughly enjoyed dinner.
After dessert, we held onto each other to leave the dining area. It took quite awhile to adjust to the onslaught of light. We had a short lesson in sign language and then entered the theater.
All the actors were hearing impaired, sight impaired or both. Some have spent their entire lives in total silence and darkened. While watching the performance, we laughed, we cried, we discovered that despite differing abilities we all have the same desires and dreams. None of us can forget this experience and being able to go on stage and share the newly baked bread was a true blessing for us all, bonding our group even more.
Shalom from Israel!
(All photos by Rabbi Sharon Sobel)