I have to believe that sometimes things happen for a reason… and you will soon find out why. I knew that since we have outings on Saturdays that this holiday of Shavuot was probably my chance to visit El Salvador´s only synagogue in San Benito. I can´t tell you how many excuses I came up with as to why going to services last night was just not in the stars besides the fact that my usual taxis were not next to where I live, the heavens had let loose and the downpour despite my raincoat had left me soaking wet. Alas an empty taxi did appear and even if his $6 charge seemed a bit high, it was worth it to get out of the rain and not deal with a crowded bus that would take me to who knows where. The half hour drive gave me some time to airdry especially since there were closed streets due to the OAS conference in town and main thoroughfares were more congested than usual. I arrived to a more than usual couple guards in front of the designated address and there was also a police force of 6 in addition to an Israeli secret service guy. I thought maybe there had been a bomb threat and I should just stay in the car and go back. I asked the driver to wait while I checked out the situation and since he had offered to pick me up, I also needed to verify a time. The plain clothesman asked me where I was from, what my intentions were… etc. and I explained that I had emailed someone named Fernando. I apologized for being early and they eventually did let me in. I was the first to arrive but then a couple gentlemen entered followed by the young Rabbi ‘ who I would later find out is from Argentina and whose first pulpit was in Cuba and then he came to this congregation… His wife greeted me and invited me to light candles with her. People slowly trickled in and they welcomed me with handshakes. A gentleman sat down next to me and we started conversing in Spanish and when he asked me where I was from, he responded that maybe we could speak in English. I spoke about our group´s adventures and he said he was at the US embassy. I shared our embassy vist with him and our surprise about the less than 1% of US foreign aid. He spoke of the highway project and others and my response was that that was the least we could do. BTW I know in my mind that that highway in the North is not for the people but for importing foreign business… We also spoke about the gang issues and safety. His reactions to my comments interested me and I asked him what his title was at the embassy. Well I was sitting next to the Chief Director of Mission, Robert Blau , no less. Go Google.
As we were talking the Rabbi´s wife was taping RESERVED signs on the 3 rows of chairs in front of me. Robert informed me that I had chosen he right night to be at services since the Israeli FOreign Minister Ayalon and his entire delegation and the Iraeli ambassador to El Salvador would be in attendance. Ayalon was here due to his role as a OAS observer and would speak to us.
This was the first time since 1959 and Prime Minister Golda Maeir had visited that someone of this stature had visited here. WOW.
Services would be extra special. Some melodies were different but then there were the old standbys. It was neat to read the verse in Spanish although the majority of the service was in Hebrew. Foreign Minister Ayalon delivered a very articulate speech regarding Israel´s past and its role in today´s world. A very nice dairy reception followed. What a treat! One just never knows what an adventure will bring…