A tale of Shabbat

How I spent my Shabbat this past week was probably one of the strangest I’ve had in a while, at the very least while in Israel.

I was woken up with the rest of my group somewhere between 6 am and 7, it is hard to pinpoint exactly when since at least four alarms went off in chirps, piping, and beeps. There was one awful country song.

My group spent this past Thursday, the American Thanksgiving at a little place in Tsfat called Livnot, where we would get Jewish Educational learning, a place to sleep, and be able to do activities, I suppose. I don’t know what exactly they wanted or expected of us, for my roommate and I though, we felt so exhausted from all of the events of the rockets and being away from our home in Be’er Sheva that we begged our group leader to let us go back on the next train, before Shabbat struck and the towns and transportation closed completely.

So there we were, making our way out. We packed our three-days-worth of belongings in a hurry and apologized, thanked, and explained away our sudden goodbyes.

We met up with another girl from the group at our bus stop. Her plans had fallen through so she decided, quite happily, to accompany us back to Be’er Sheva.

I felt a lot of different ways about coming home after my nine full days away—in limbo—watching and reading the news in twitters and online posts hourly in different hotel lobbies. Hoping for peace and praying to return soon to the way things were before the 14th, when we were evacuated.

The first couple of days were the hardest because I literally had no idea what was going to happen and what we were going to do.

On the second day, when I had an eye doctor’s appointment two rockets went off while I was in the examining room in Tel Aviv.

The third and fourth day, we were split between Netanya—how strange it felt to be on the beach when our home city was being pummeled by rockets and stricken by panic and unrest—and a small farm city about twenty minutes outside of Netanya, where we stayed on a kibbutz.

Everything just had a thick veil of the surreal around it. It was strange too, sitting in a circle on the grass in a pastoral scene, horses nickering faintly in the distance and feeling a world away.

My favorite part of the experience I had while in ‘safe-keeping’ away from Be’er Sheva for my program would have to be working with the Jewish Agency on our #WeAreHereIsrael campaign. I got to spend three days with several fellow teaching volunteers and other MASA participants as we put our heads together to get positive messages and social media communication on the web about our positive experiences for Israel. Most importantly, we all shared and explained why we are here. We don’t have to stay. We could leave any time. Some people in the programs did leave. For us that stayed though, and continue to stay as long as they let us (when the announcements were made about the warships, we imagined being frisked off in the middle of the night) because Israel is our home and we love it here.

As I got off the train with my two friends last Shabbat and we went grocery shopping at the only store open in the neighborhood, I just felt so good, words could not explain.

I walked back to my apartment with my sack full of groceries in the pouring rain feeling like everything was new again. Everything was more beautiful than I had remembered, even the dumpster cats, and the trash-slicked streets. Be’er Sheva is my home and when the loudest sound I hear from my window is the soft pelting of the raindrops, my heart is at rest and my mind is eased.

I hope it continues to stay as lovely as the Be’er Sheva I have come to call home and I would like to wish you all Shabbat Shalom.


Learn more about Livnot HERE

Learn more about #WeAreHereIsrael HERE

About the Author
Melissa Beiser has a bachelor's degree from SUNY New Paltz in English and creative writing. She hails from New York originally and recently relocated to Arizona with her family. Teaching English in Beersheba is her first experience living abroad.