Photos: Tzvi Bergstein and Janet Wilson
This Purim, the Chabad of Baka community decided to share the holiday joy with the broader community of Jerusalem. On Sunday evening, a diverse crowd of about 200 Jews gathered together at Tachana Rishona, the First Station complex in Jerusalem, for a unique and authentic Purim experience.
Tachana Rishona in Jerusalem is a historic Ottoman train station dating back over 100 years and was recently refurbished and opened with restaurants and coffee shops this summer. Its attractions continue to grow, including the recent addition of an ice skating rink.
The Purim program began with Maariv and megillah reading by Rabbi Hendel, director of Chabad of Baka. A silent Purim video was shown on a large screen during the megillah reading, to keep children quiet and entertained. The energy was electrifying, especially when Haman’s name was read, and the busy plaza erupted in joyous noisemaking. Customers at the surrounding restaurants perked up to hear the megillah being read, and shoppers of various affiliations spontaneously joined in the Purim event.
The first megillah reading was followed by refreshments and an unforgettable concert with famous singer Chaim David, from the Old City of Jerusalem. Chaim David’s beautiful music was heartwarming and uplifting. A circle of unity was formed, and Jews of all ages joined in the dancing and fun. Kids in costumes were lifted onto their fathers’ shoulders, grinning from ear to ear.
A second megillah reading followed the concert, and was also well attended.
Members of Chabad of Baka, an English speaking community and a warm haven for new olim in Jerusalem, were excited by the event and its far reaching effects. “We should do this every year!” one couple commented. “What a kiddush Hashem!” many enthused. Indeed, with an ice skating rink on one side and a racket ball practice taking place on the other, the authentic taste of Judaism in the center of the First Station was an inspiring scene to behold.
Rabbi Avraham Hendel and his wife Nechama Dina established Chabad of Baka six years ago, as a tribute and legacy to Rabbi Hendel’s brother Levi z’l, who passed away tragically in a car accident on Chanuka of 2006, while en route to an army base in Eilat. Levi z’l and his friends were on their way to the army base, to bring donuts and the joy of Chanukah to Israeli soldiers. The community and outreach center in Baka is called Beit Levi, in loving memory of Levi z’l, who was only 13 years old when his life ended in the midst of this kind and giving act.
Chaya Zebrak David, a member of Chabad of Baka and one of the women’s Rosh Chodesh program coordinators, commented, “People make aliyah from the States and all over, leaving family and community behind. The need for warmth and belonging is strong, when you are a newcomer in the bustling city of Jerusalem. Thank G-d for Chabad of Baka which fills that need, and is a community and family for so many.”