A Message from Israel: Day 2 – Tel Aviv and Shabbat with Or Hadash

Empty Shabbat table display in Israel

Rabbi Sue Shankman and some WHC members are currently in Israel. They will be providing updates of what they are seeing and feeling on this visit to the Holy Land. Read other entries: ArrivalDay 3 | Day 4

Our first full day was packed! We met our amazing guide, Lior, who shared the powerful context of this moment. She spoke very movingly about the importance of our presence and prepared us for the morning.

We set out for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where we would visit the “Shmini Atzeret” exhibit, commemorating the events of October 7 through art.

As we drove through and then walked through Tel Aviv, the juxtaposition was everywhere— people purchasing/carrying flowers for Shabbat walking beside posters and pictures of the hostages that line the streets. We arrived at Hostage Square, as the area by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art had come to be known.

It is impossible to express the emotions this place evoked. Here, we had our first interactions with family members of the hostages, as well as some who had escaped the attacks. We saw the first Empty Table that had been set and walked a “tunnel” that reenacts the experience of those being held in Gaza. We saw yellow everywhere we turned, as it is the color that expresses hope that each hostage will be returned to the loving embrace of their families and country soon.

This afternoon, we journeyed to Haifa to share Shabbat with Rabbi Naama, Rabbi Gabby, and the Congregation Or Hadash community.

WHC member Brian Cooper shared the following reflection:

“Our WHC delegation spent Friday night Shabbat services and dinner with our sister congregation in Haifa, Or Hadash.

We were welcomed to the service by Rabbi Naama, who expressed her gratitude for us making the journey to Israel.

What struck me was the Mourner’s Kaddish. The young people in the congregation shared names of their friends who recently passed away. Seeing the collective embrace of these soldiers from the community was highly moving.

At dinner, WHC members spoke with Or Hadash congregants about day-to-day life in Israel since the October 7th massacre, the initial community responses and evolving effort, and other topics like public opinion of Israel in the U.S. and rising antisemitism.

Finally, Rabbi Naama presented Rabbi Shankman with a poster thanking us for our generous support since October 7th. Rabbi Naama spoke about how our funds were used to run a retreat program for IDF soldiers on leave and provided mobile menorahs used at Hanukkah during Operation Iron Swords.

We hope this experience will only further this budding relationship between our two congregations.”

We look forward to continuing the conversations that started this evening and hope that you will join us! Stay tuned for more opportunities!