Friday, October 25, 2013

An Unorthodox Shabbat-by-the-Sea in Tel Aviv


Shabbat is observed around the world in many ways, traditional and untraditional. For the past seven years, about 1,000 people have gathered on the beach in Tel Aviv at sunset each Friday evening in the summer months for a joyous Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming of the Sabbath) celebration with music and song.

As Tzofia Hirschfeld wrote in Ynet News, the online website of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot,
"It started out as a small event of several people seeking to welcome Shabbat in the nature, facing the sea," says Iris Bertz, marketing and development director and a member of the port's executive committee.
They asked us for permission to welcome Shabbat with song and interpretations for the children, and hold the ceremony at the port. It soon became very clear that people were starting to gather round.
"And then the mats were replaced with chairs, songbooks were printed – and the number of participants today reaches 1,000. Beit Tefilah is responsible for the content, and we're in charge of the logistic side. The result is a peaceful ceremony, accompanied by melodies."
As almost everyone loves Shabbat, the crowd is very diverse. "It's the type of event that almost everyone can relate to," explains Bertz. "And because it takes place in the summer, when there are many tourists around, they usually join in and often add their own version of the prayers."
Does this reflect a social change?
"No. I think that many of us believe in a secular way. I believe that this need always existed, and we just found a place for it. People want this gathering, and our Shabbat welcoming ceremony is an event one can easily identify with and connect to.
"Apart from people who observe Shabbat, this event relates to any other level between secularity and Reform Judaism, and to those who simply enjoy the Shabbat rest, which is most of us.
"Just like on Yom Kippur many people who are not religious fast, on Shabbat people want something different to happen to them once a week, which will take them to a more festive and emotional place.
"We take Shabbat and the prayer, bring them closer to people and let them enjoy it as it is. We are just allowing it to happen, and in front of the sunset and sea – it's the perfect place."
Whichever way you welcome Shabbat, we wish you a Shabbat shalom. Enjoy!

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