The flight was a long one full of anticipation and uncertainty, What would we find there? How would we be received? Would our group develop into a collection of friends and colleagues when so many of us came from different background and experiences?.
Landing at Johannesburg we were ferried on to a much smaller plane to take us to Antananarivo, We arrived and happily were met by one of the members of the community who rounded us all up and took us to the cluster of community members and leaders waiting in vans to pick us up and drive us to the hotel.
From the van window we gazed at a city of small buildings and houses which in themselves looked quite charming.
The view was punctuated by crowded markets and a sky full of dramatic dark clouds. Many of the buildings had a kind of red ochre color. There was something stunningly beautiful about the scene while at the some time the city looked unkempt and impoverished, As we moved c loser to the center of town traffic grew almost New York style dense , the buildings larger and better kempt. In the distance above the hilly streets were the ruins of the Rova the palace of Malagasy royalty in times gone by. Antananarivo looked like no city I had ever seen. It combine beauty, poverty and air of mystery.
It was a day for getting organized with Boni standing in the middle of the chaos and directing traffic. There were room assignments to be figured out and a million other details to be arranged with the participants and the hotel keepers and the members of the community.
Then kitchen needed to be kashered if we were not ling to starve. Rabbi’s Delouya and Klein and especially Rabbi Delouya sister Nelly and bother Ellie assisted by some members of the community including Ashrey, community president made miracles happen and soon the first kosher kitchen in Madagascar history was ready.
It was exciting to greet the community members who came to meet us. There was Petoela whom had been the moving force behind the training of the converts, Ashrey the official president ands Toubi whose group had decided to go there own way but nevertheless came by to show support for the process. The evening was spent with scheduling and planning for the week to come. The Rabbis met to discuss the tomorrows Bet Din and those not part of this talked about arranging tours.
Achiya Nelly and Ellie and the staff prepared a wonderful dinner consisting of Malagasy style fish and vegetables. The end of the day brought a feeling of obstacles overcome and looking forward to making history on the morrow. #kulanumadagascar
-Rabbi Gerald Sussman