July 29, 2011

Friday July 29

By Sammy Vago

It was the price to pay to capture my handstand in front of the historic Acropolis.  For several days I wasn’t able to move my fingers.  And I thought, how cool would it be to get an xray in Greece.  I went with the group to the Jewish museum in Athens by subway.  A very modest and important man from the Jewish community in Athens came to my rescue.  This amazing man goes by the name of Victor and on his birthday escorted Aviva and I to a private xray facility.  Thank G-d it was not broken and I can go back to doing handstands!  Sorry to get your hopes up mom and dad of my break dancing retirement.  🙂

We rejoined the group and went to the Old Jewish Peoples Home called Restion just outside of Athens.  When we arrived at the home, we were directed to an area where we could eat our lunches.  After eating, we met the Director of the home, Monis Halegula.  He explained the history of the Home.  He told us the reason why this Home was built to be so beautiful.  This Home was built for all Holocaust survivors in Greece to be able to live out the remainder of their lives in peace, beauty and dignity.  This place was fancier than a 5 Star Hotel.

We were directed to the dining room where we were introduced to the residents of Restion.  Each of us walked around the room and found someone to connect with.  After conversing with our new adopted “bubbies and  zaydies”, we were given the opportunity to sing which made everyone feel very emotional.  When it was time to say goodbye, it was really hard to leave.  Before leaving, we visited the synagogue at the Home.  It was beautiful.  During this experience, I was thinking about my grandfather when I used to visit him in the Old Age home.  The woman I spoke with at Restion is a survivor of Auschwitz with numbers on her arm.  Despite the loss of her family and friends, she was filled with joy. 

We then went to the beach and I personally liked the music!  Later that evening we walked to Beth Shalom, the main shul in Athens.  Kabbalat shabbat was prayed in a sefardi style.  When shul was over, we went to the new Chabad center in Athens for dinner.  After living in Beijing for two years and being a member of the Chabad there, I appreciated what they were doing in Athens.  The rabbi”s name is really catchy – his name is Mendel Hendel. 

Shabbat dinner was lively and nice.  We sang a lot. Dani gave a beautiful dvar Torah during dinner comparing the travels of Bnei Yisrael with the travels of our SOS group.  She also talked about emotional and spiritual journeys and not just physical ones.

We got back to the hotel at 1 AM!

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