Saturday, September 10, 2016

Selichot Tour of Jerusalem- Nightly and Musical Tours

Selichot Tour of Jerusalem is a wonderful way to join the “party” of Jewish Selichot taking place during the nights of Elul (September). There is a regular nightly Selichot tour and a musical Selichot tour that includes singers, cantors, and musicians. In addition to these tours that are in the old city, there is also a musical Selichot tour in the Jewish Music Museum.
The period of Selichot (forgiveness) is from the beginning of the Jewish Elul month until Yom Kippur (according to the Jewish calendar. It is usually around late August and in September). During this period of time Jerusalem wakes up to nightly life of prayer and singing. The streets are filled with scholars and cantors. It is a wonderful time to go to Jerusalem and experience some of this, to learn about the background of Selichot and hear the music and the singing.Selichot Tour of Jerusalem- Nightly and Musical Tours

Where this custom origin from? The 10 commandments were given to the people in the spring (the Jewish Shavuot holiday). After 40 days Moses came down from the mountain of Sinai. Finding that they sin, he snapped the Tables or the conenant “Luchot Habrit”. He went up to the mountain of Sainai again in the month of Elul and returned after 40 days (exactly in Yom Kippur) with the new tables. These 40 days were the period of forgiveness (“Selichot”) for the Jewish people. Today, it a custom to ask forgiveness during this period of the year.
The Selichot is done at night (or early in the morning) by praying, singing and playing musical instruments.
I joined two musical Selichot tours of night Selichot this year – one in the Jewish music museum and one in the old city of Jerusalem.
Musical Selichot Tour in the Museum of Jewish Music
If you haven’t yet visited the Museum of Jewish Music, I highly recommend it. The museum is located in a beautifully designed Jerusalem-style building, nicely decorated, divided into geographic areas and loaded with unique musical instruments from all over the world. The museum is interactive and many instruments are available for touching, trying and exploration. A guided tour on an iPad is included in the visit. The gem in the visit is an virtual reality exhibit of the old Jewish temple that will take you to an 8 minute 3D tour of the temple.

Eldad Levy, the manager of the museum explains that Selichot bring the Jewish people together. Everyone loves the songs and music of the Selichot. Therefore, during the month of Elul (September), musical Selichot tours will be offered here in the Museum of Jewish Music. The musical tours will include stories of Selichot, playing on unique musical instruments, and singing. Private tours are also offered (coordinate directly with the museum, their phone number is: 02-5406505), here is a little tasting of what will take place here.

At Kikar Hamusika (Music center) here, the music museum is already open and the lovely gift shop, restaurants (some will be opened soon, to a total of 6 restaurants – don’t miss the French patisserie!) with 3 live shows a day. An Auditorium is currently in construction and in the future the plans are to open a hotel and musical conservatory. During the Selichot period, on September 22nd, a central Selichot musical concert will take place here.
You can read more about the Museum of Jewish Music.
A Musical Selichot Tour in the old city of Jerusalem
There are many types of Selichot tours here, and groups can order their own customized tour. I joined a Musical Selichot Tour. The tours start and Zion gate, pass through the Jesish Cardo, go up to the Hurva Synagogue, and down to the Herodian Quarter and the Archeological garden, and finish in the Western Wall (Kotel Maaravi).
We started at the Zion Gate where we entered the atmosphere of nightly Jerusalem with the Shofar music. It is a custom to play the Shofar during the Selichot to wake up the people, physically and spiritually to amend for their sins. This is what is sounds like.

The tour passed in the Cardo, the ancient market street.
Then, continued to the Hurva Synagogue. The old Hurva synagogue was destroyed in 1948 and was reconstructed recently as an exact replica of the old synagogue. You can read more about it the Hurva Synagogue.


We met here Rabbi Peretz who told us his story. He was born to a Priest in Mexico, and found the truth in Judaism. Rabbi Yehuda Perez played to us a famous song here called “Adon Olam” (the master of the universe).

We continued to the Herodian Quarter, where we go down deep under the streets of the old city of Jerusalem to the discovered remains of the ancient Jewish quarter. You can read more about it in the Herodian Quarter
At the Herodian Quarter, a cantor and a Jewish songster sing and play the Oud for us. We find ourselves sitting late at night in the dark quarters, where the Jewish Cohen (holy servants of god) lived thousands year ago and sing the holy songs of Selichot – that’s magical!

Just before going to the Western Wall, we stopped for a visit at the Archeological garden. The garden exhibits a lot of archeology, including an area of the ancient western wall, much lower than the Western Wall. The archeological garden is worth visiting also during daytime, to see the museum where the Impression of King Hezkiah’s Royal Seal is in display.
Midnight at the Western Wall. This place is like a busy street in Tel Aviv in rush hour – the plaza is packed with prayers and visitors, almost unbelievable! Time to prepare a little note with a wish and find a crack in the wall to put it in, and for a personal prayer!
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