soulful davening in a bomb shelter

last night we attended services and had a delicious shabbat dinner in the captivating neighborhood of nachalot:
referred to by some as “jerusalem's soho” area, nachlaot it is home to a diverse population, which includes the jerusalem hareidi-religious population, followers of the late rabbi shlomo carlebach, members of the national religious community and many non-sabbath observant residents. There are members of both the ashkenazi and sephardic communities.

it is one of the city’s older and more colorful neighborhoods, retaining much of its original 19th century architecture, narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets. the neighborhood was planned to accommodate the yemenite, kurdish, jerusalem sephardi (including the famous banai family), greek, and galician Jews. the communities had their own synagogues (many still exist today) and were each housed within a walled compound, built around a common courtyard and a water cistern in the center.

the residents of the community serve as an example to am yisrael (the jewish people), living side-by-side in harmony, including sabbath observant and non-sabbath observant families and singles. “tolerance and good vibes” would well describe life in this increasingly popular area of the capital.

located in the heart of jerusalem, opposite the well-known machane yehuda outdoor marketplace, nachlaot is situated in the heart of downtown jerusalem, serving as a gateway to the government complex and sacher park, as well as being situated in easy walking distance to major downtown hotels, the city center, and neighborhoods including Rechavia and shaare chesed.

there are many synagogues, including kol rina, an orthodox synagogue which offers prayer services modeled after the tunes and spirit of the late rabbi carlebach, with spiritual leader rabbi aaron leibowitz, who is bilingual, making a concerted effort to make his house of worship a comfort zone for all those who visit and worship regularly.
nachalot was the neighborhood where the movie ushpizin was filmed, which in itself was an attempt to bridge some of the secular-religious divide in the city and israeli society. there are apparently free mp3 walking tours of the neighborhood available at jerusalemp3.com.

we attended services at kol rina, the carlebach-style shul mentioned above, which meets in the neighborhood bomb shelter. the diversity of the minyan attendees matched the neighborhood - with folks wearing rainbow kippot happily sitting next to shtreimls, their voices all joining together in the many yi-di-di-di and yi-bi-bi-bum refrains.

however, with the mechitzah that created a women's section behind that of the men's, i felt like the women were relegated to praying in the "back of the bus" (even though i know that other folks might disagree with me).

i guess i have the year to continue to reflect on what it means to have male privilege here in jerusalem, and to have access to prayer spaces from which others are excluded.

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