A "Shabbat of a Lifetime" in Jerusalem (#IsraelUncovered Bus 1)


Courtney Han is a Sophomore at Rutgers University majoring in Political Science and Journalism. She is involved with the school paper, ‘The Daily Targum,’ as well as the radio station, WRSU Rutgers Radio. She is pictured (center) at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Aside from the few Bat Mitzvahs that I had attended in middle school, I’ll admit that my exposure to Judaism prior to the Israel Uncovered experience was embarrassingly minimal. Shabbat in particular was a complete mystery to me. As a self-diagnosed Netflix addict, I was perplexed as to how anyone could survive a whole day without the use of technology. Therefore, I was in for a great surprise at the observance of Shabbat in Jerusalem. When our group entered the vicinity of the Western Wall on the eve of Shabbat, the first thing that hit me was the sound. All around, people were praying, clapping, chanting, and talking. As a Lutheran Christian, I had never experienced this level of energy to be associated with religious ceremony. The liveliness that I felt from these people was truly inspiring and unforgettable, and nothing like I had expected. The most infectious aspect was the sense of community that was clearly represented everywhere around me, as large groups of people danced together, genuinely enjoying each other’s company.

At the home of Yehoshua and Debbie Looks, the hosts of our Shabbat dinner through Shabbat of a Lifetime, I became even more familiar with the traditions and ceremonies of Shabbat through the prayers and explanations lead by Yehoshua. Aside from an amazing home cooked meal, the experience provided a closer look at the meaning of Shabbat as well as the values associated with it. After that night, my ignorance of the Jewish religion turned into a deep respect for how it emphasizes the importance for taking the time to really reflect on one’s values.

Having my perspective on Jewish religion and culture changed in such a positive way made Shabbat one of my most favorite experiences of Israel Uncovered. I am so thankful to have this new insight into Jewish religion and traditions, and I cannot wait to observe Shabbat at Rutgers Hillel when I return to school.