After our lovely trip to Otavalo and environs and then back to the middle of the world, we went back to the hotel to prepare for shabbat.
And what a shabbat it was! First of all the flowers that filled the hotel put all of us in a good mood.
As shabbat neared, the women went to the dining room to light shabbat candles and shortly afterwards, the services started. The chanting and singing were lovely and in the short time we had been together, we had become a group.
After services, at dinner, we began to get acquainted with our guests, members of the Jewish community of Ecuador. Eating with us Friday night were the Israel consul to Ecuador and his wife and children. In addition, there were other Jews who lived in Quito and the vicinity. It was fascinating to hear about them and their backgrounds and why they were living in Quito and a little about life there.
Quito does indeed have a Jewish community. It numbers about 500 people and follows the Conservative stream of Judaism. There are some Orthodox Jews as well, but they comprise only a small fraction of the community. The community is dwindling with young people leaving the country for the US or Israel. There is a community center and a synagogue. There is also a Jewish school, the Albert Einstein school which is known for its excellent education. We were told that a majority of the students are not Jewish and are sent there because of the fine academic reputation the school possesses. The community has a store that sells Judaica, a mikvah, and the availability of kosher food. There is also a mohel (ritual circumcisor).
On Friday night and Saturday we enjoyed talking to the people who came to our hotel to join us for services and meals. We loved seeing the bright-eyed, beautiful children they brought with them– little children learning to speak Hebrew, English, and Spanish. I was not the only one who tried to encourage them to take the aliya plunge! After all, being a Jew in Ecuador is a bit like being a fish out of water. In Israel, they will be swimming along in a current of wonderful, refreshing, fresh water.
We were treated to talks by the Israel Ambassador and the Israel Consul to Ecuador and in addition, we met the local Chabad rabbi.
On shabbat afternoon we went to see a very beautiful ethnology museum. We enjoyed seeing the dress and artifacts and crafts of some of the peoples who have been living in Ecuador for centuries.
Our walk back to the hotel was pleasant and once shabbat was over, we were treated to a folkdance show put on especially for us in the hotel.
But all of us were very excited because we knew that bright and early on Sunday morning we would be getting up to start the adventure of a lifetime, a trip to the Galapagos!!!