Earlier this month, the students all took a short drive to Jerusalem, but this time to a part of Jerusalem that we hadn’t yet been to. This part of Jerusalem is called Nachlaot. It started out with Jews living in the old city of Jerusalem protected inside the city by walls. Inside these walls, the area became crowded with Jews all confined in a space that seemed to get smaller as more Jews moved to live inside the city walls. Because of the overcrowding, people began building outside the walls and neighborhoods began to spread and flourish. British philanthropist Moshe Montefiore supported this idea and wanted to expand Jewish living, starting Nachlaot. It was called “אבן ישראל” (Evan Yisrael) meaning the “rock of Israel.” People came from all over, including Yemen. People who immigrated from Yemen were not treated well, inspiring Montefiore to create a lottery inviting 13 families into the neighborhood. Eventually, a Yemen neighborhood was created in Nachlaot leading to the unity of 20 neighborhoods into this one “mosaic of Israeli society.”
In Nachlaot, we also learned about a concept called כלל ישראל (Klal Yisrael) which can be described as the pluralistic nature of Israeli society. This concept is personally one of my favorite parts of Judaism, and my favorite part of Jerusalem itself. In Jerusalem, and especially Nachlaot, you can experience so many different kinds of Jewish people: different origins, different traditions, and different opinions. We saw one woman and her daughter washing their dishes to make them kosher, which is not something that we are used to, but we were kindly welcomed to witness the occasion. Not only was it really interesting to learn about this process, but it was really cool to see it in person. There are also a lot of different synagogues in Nachlaot and we got to sit in front of a beautiful synagogue while our madricha Lali explained why Nachlaot is so important to her.
Sitting in גן התות (Gan Hatut) or the the strawberry garden was a really special experience. Everywhere we looked we could see all different types of people including Israeli soldiers, parents with babies, religious Jews, tourists, and many more. We were lucky enough to sing a song there as well as enjoy our scavenger hunt lunch.
We immediately transitioned into playing a fun game that our madrichim and Hebrew teachers created for us to push us out of our comfort zones and into Israeli culture. Our task was to find different supplies for lunch throughout the shuk at Machaneh Yehudah while only speaking in Hebrew. Our instructions were also written in Hebrew. At first I was nervous to speak in Hebrew in front of Israelis because I was afraid of embarrassing myself by saying something wrong. I did end up speaking in Hebrew to a man selling salad and it went well which made me more comfortable with my Hebrew skills.
After lunch, we all ended up gathering around two Israelis (probably no more than a few years older than us) and sung along while they played some popular Israeli and American songs. Someone offered them an apple in return for their entertainment, but they simply responded by saying that they weren’t playing for any money, but that they were just playing for fun. I thought that this was a huge contrast to American musicians who would set up their guitar cases propped open to accept donations while they played as opposed to the friendliness of these Israelis who just wanted to have fun and play music in a public place.
Nachlaot was definitely my favorite Tiyul because of how interesting and beautiful the neighborhood is as well as the diversity of the people there. I hope that if I ever make Aliyah, I will be able to spend my time in a community like Nachlaot.
Ellie Sherman is a junior from Irvine, California. She belongs to Temple Etz Rimon and is the religious and cultural Vice President of TYGER (Etz Rimon’s Youth Group). Ellie is also active in NFTY SoCAL and a camper at Camp Newman.