Ambien is a great medical breakthrough, except when it induces unconsciousness. I slept right through the wake-up call, and opened my eyes only when one of our staff called my room as the bus was leaving, sure I was sick or dead or worse. I managed instead to take a cab to our first destination, a "secular yeshiva" where men and women in the year before their Army service spend half their time studying Torah and Talmud, and the rest walking the walk, living and working in and for the South Tel Aviv community. By Israeli standards, they are not religious--by other standards (including mine), the depth and sincerity of their spiritual commitment is the very definition of "religion."
Sitting in the lobby waiting for my friends to arrive, I wrote:
"I'm sorry I missed Shaharit. So I will pray here instead: may my day be full of new experiences, love, openness to unfamiliar ideas, companionship, learning, and the ability to see from a fresh perspective. May God protect me and watch over me this first day of adventure. From the words of my heart on this beautiful sunny, morning, Amen."
Afterwards, shopping and hummus-and-salad at Nahalat Binyamin, blocks and blocks of crafts and jewelry (I bought a beautiful hand-painted silk challah cover). Then back to the hotel and a short walk along a beach crowded with happy, sweaty, bikini-clad people, and now I'm about to get ready for services and dinner with our sister congregation. I probably won't be back online for another day or so (both because of Shabbat and also because I'll go broke otherwise--they don't seem to have discovered public access wireless around here). So, as my cab driver said this morning: Shabbat Shalom!