June 28, 2010 at 12:57 PM
I have spent a fair amount of time in Kiryat Malachi during past missions/trips to Israel. But I have never spent a full Shabbat in this city that makes up part of our TIPS partnership.
As this past week ended and we prepared to celebrate Shabbat here, I was excited to see how it compared to my experiences in other communities in which I have celebrated Shabbat.
As Friday moved along, we could definitely sense a change in the community. Stores were closing early. There was less and less traffic on the streets. A calm was beginning to settle in that would accompany us through our celebration of Shabbat.
As the time for Shabbat began, we lit candles in our apartment and headed out for Shabbat dinner at the home of the Attal family. I have known Dvora Attal for many years as she plays a critical role in our partnership on behalf of the Kiryat Malachi municipality. And I had celebrated Shabbat dinner with her family once before many years ago. I was looking forward to having an enjoyable evening celebrating the start of Shabbat. And a wonderful evening it was. The food was outstanding. The company was even better. My wife and children loved being with Dvora’s family who could not have been more hospitable. They helped get our Shabbat off to a wonderful start. My wife and I had a very nice visit with our children as we walked home on the quiet streets of the city.
For lunch Saturday, we headed out on a lovely walk to the Peretz family home. This was not a family that I had spent time with, but I knew that they had been very involved with the partnership. I also knew that the art contest that we have run through the partnership was dedicated, in part, to their son who had passed away from cystic fibrosis. Once again, we had a delicious lunch. And, again, the company was even more wonderful. We talked about a whole range of things in Hebrew and in English. And our hosts could not have been more gracious to our children. They were able to see olive trees, fig trees, pomegranate trees and more…all in the yard of an urban Israeli home…They were amazed!
We had a lovely walk home, again on quite (but hot and sunny) streets of Kiryat Malachi. We had time for a quick nap, at least our two year old and me and my wife. And then it was off to another home for seudah shlishit, the third Shabbat meal. This time it was to the home of the Azriel family. Their daughter Shir is going to be leaving this coming week to work in the day camp at the Barness Family JCC. And, not to repeat myself, we had a terrific meal and fantastic company. We could not believe that it was after 11 p.m. when we finally packed the kids up for our walk home.
In thinking about this amazing, wonderful, uplifting day, a number of things really struck home with me. The first was how hospitable the families were towards me, my wife and our children. This was especially impressive given the fact that none of them had young children at home any longer.
The second thing that struck me had to do with the type of food we ate this Shabbat. At every meal, we enjoyed traditional Sephardic dishes that my children had never seen or heard of before. It was wonderful to be able to expose them to other aspects of Jewish life.
The third, and in fact the most important, was the connection that we have through our partnership and through being Jews. It did not matter whether or not we had known each other. And the respective levels of observance were unimportant. We were celebrating Shabbat together as Jewish people who shared that bond.
I have spent many Shabbat in Israel. But I am hard pressed to find any that were more meaningful or enjoyable. And my family and I are deeply grateful to the families in Kiryat Malachi who made it such a special day (and this past week) for us. We are looking forward to our last few days this coming week with a mix of happiness and regret. We have experienced so many incredible things and have made so many wonderful friends. And we look forward to building on these experiences in the future.
I wish you all a Shavua Tov and a wonderful week ahead.
Adam Schwartz, President and CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix