I spent this past Shabbat in Gush Etzion, Efrat to be more precise. Gush Etzion is a lush area in the West Bank directly south of Bethlehem and Jerusalem and north of Hebron. It is between the three holiest cities in the world and therefore it too is important, as the pilgrim's road to each of the sites. Anyway, we went to the Gush Etzion winery, where we learned a little about the winery and then we had wine-tasting... at 11 AM... They had an amazing 2001 Cabernet-Sauvignon which I later found out was produced during the Shmita (Seventh or Sabbatical) year and even though some rabbis allow it, it is technically not kosher to others. Oops, I'm glad I read labels. I try to maintain an elevated level of Kashrut in the Land of Israel and so I must avoid such things.
We went to the Light and Sound show (read: movie) about the history of the settlement which, in modernity, dates from 1920s, but the arabs thrice destroyed pre-State, but was more recently rebuilt for a fourth time. Interesting technological point, the window shade shuts for the movie and the screen comes down. After the movie, the screen comes up and you walk right through where the screen was to get to another room, the site of the bunker which the Arabs threw in the grenades in 1948. I personally have a connection to this type of thing as this is how my Great-Grandmother Freida, was murdered in 1949 in Beit HaKerem, Jerusalem, when an arab threw a grenade into her kitchen.
We also took a "hike" on the Derech Avot, the path of our Forefathers. This would be the road between the three holy cities which was traversed upon Pilgrimage. Proof of this lies in the Mikvehs, the bathhouses that line this ancient path. It is necessary to be pure when ascending to Jerusalem.
Shabbat in Efrat was great. I had intellectually-stimulating discussions on theology, had deep conversations, learned more about a place I really didn't know about (Jews and Muslims get along quite well in this area), not to mention I played the children of my host family in foosball and had an enlightening conversation about Harry Potter, the future of the Conservative movement, and everything in between. I find Efrat (and Alon Shvut, for that matter) to be an interesting sort of gated-community. It is a hybrid between Silverhawk-Mullholland Park-Bel Air Crest, suburban strip mall, and Jerusalem, meaning it has the similar-looking houses but within its gates has a bunch of markets, gas stations, and restaurants, but is also made completely out of Jerusalem stone with synagogues and mikvaot every couple of feet.
It's really a beautiful area and there are many friendly people there. People seem a lot more laid back and optimistic in Gush Etzion than they do in Jerusalem.
I will potentially be back tomorrow with a report on the Israeli election. It should be mentioned that on Wednesday/Thursday, there will be a TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN! I wonder if this has any significance, immediately following this election... (remember the last total lunar eclipse? It was October 27th and was the day that the curse was over... yes, the moon was red and blotted out when the Red Sox won the World Series and shattered the Curse of the Bambino.
Tomorrow is a legal holiday in Israel too, yet for some reason we have school. Go figure...