Photos: Tzvi Bergstein
This past Friday night, close to 150 Jerusalem residents joined in a Shabbos Project Unity Dinner hosted by Chabad of Baka.
Singles, couples, and families all came together to celebrate Shabbos, in sync with thousands of Jews around the world.
In Jerusalem this year, the event took on added significance, in wake of the wave of terror that has been rocking the city and all of Israel.
Many Jews living in Yerushalayim have been spending as much time as possible at home, due to the fear and anxiety they experience while out on the streets and buses. The daily stabbings of innocent Jews, bus attacks, as well as numerous vehicular terrorist attacks, have instilled a suspicious caution amongst Israeli Jews, who can not be sure who will, G-d forbid, be the next victim of this horrific Arab violence.
Rabbi Avraham and Nechama Dina Hendel, Chabad shluchim in Baka, were well aware of the apprehensive mood in the neighborhood and didn’t have any expectations for the event. In accordance with the stance of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, they decided to go ahead with the Friday night dinner, especially in light of the current situation, to inspire and uplift fellow Jews, and of course, to add merit and safety to the Jewish people.
In an amazing display of Jewish pride and spirit, many members of the community registered for the event, as well as countless others who found out about the Shabbos initiative.
One lone soldier found out about the Shabbos Project dinner on facebook, and when she asked to join, was warmly welcomed and honored at the event.
The venue was the beautiful Euphoria wedding hall, which Chabad of Baka rents every weekend to host Shabbos services and a community kiddush.
Chabad of Baka is mostly comprised of Olim from around the world, and there is a true sense of family amongst the congregants, most of whom have left their biological families across the ocean as part of the sacrifice of living in Israel.
The Shabbos Project Unity Dinner was a group effort, with community members helping to set up the event, prepare and serve the meal, and clean up at the end.
Even the responsibility of security was shared amongst armed community members, who selflessly rotated standing guard and protecting the premises.
As the guests enjoyed the delicious Shabbos cuisine, Rabbi Hendel shared a timely message from the parshah of the week.
In his words, “This week’s parshah is Lech L’cha, and we read how Hashem tells Avraham to travel to the land of Canaan (present day Israel) where he will be blessed bountifully. Indeed, Avraham makes the pilgrimage with faith and love, and yet upon arriving in Israel, what does he face? A famine in the land! Despite the huge challenge posed to him and his family, Avraham doesn’t question G-d, but maintains his faith and trust.
“Today, we, too, are facing the same test and challenge that our forefather Avraham did. Most of us here are Olim, who left our families and so much behind to come to Eretz Yisrael, expecting the blessings and contentment of living in our Holy Land. Did we expect or anticipate the terror which is now plaguing our streets? But, we, too, act with the emunah of Avraham our forefather, not questioning G-d, but continuing with faith, resolution, and strength of spirit.
“And, we know, that just as the blessings to Avraham were eventually realized, we too, will experience true peace and tranquility in our land, b’ezras Hashem with the coming of Moshiach speedily.”
Friday night was also the yartzeit of Rachel Imenu, our matriarch Rachel, and Rabbi Hendel mentioned the significance of our dear mother, who is certainly storming the Heavens on behalf of her beloved children to bring peace and redemption for her people.
An honored guest, Ephraim Rosenstein, joined the dinner and addressed the diverse crowd.
A highly-regarded psychotherapist, Ephraim shared his experience of living in Chevron with his family for many years and his work in psychological trauma, providing tips and thoughts for how to appropriately speak with children and family members in the current challenging situation.
He candidly shared his experience of being shot by a terrorist years ago, but expressed how grateful he is for that traumatic experience, which woke him up to living life more fully and vibrantly.
The highlight of the evening was the personal introduction which each guest made, standing up and sharing his/her name and place of origin. It was thrilling to hear the range of locations, which included Argentina, India, France, England, Germany, Russia, Australia, St. Louis, New York, and California. As Alex Traiman, the Gabbai of the shul and one of the makeshift security guards, commented, “It’s like a mini Kibbutz Galiyot- ingathering of the Exiles- right here in this room.”
The three course meal was interspersed with singing and spirited dancing.
Men, women, and children all left with happy smiles on their faces, their spirits uplifted and their faith renewed.
Certainly, the merit of this Shabbos Unity Dinner in Yerushalayim, together with the initiatives of Jews worldwide, will hasten the ultimate peace we are all waiting for.