Today there are many streams of Judaism in the land of
Israel. The three major trends are: orthodox, conservative, and reform.
The most religious or ultra-orthodox Jews are the Hasidim. They are
the most distinctive in dress with their black hats (on Shabbat often replaced
by grand fur hats), long black coats, tieless white shirts, beards and
cropped hair with payot (side curls). Some orthodox Jews grow
beards and payots but do not follow the strict dress code of the Hasidim.
The most common sign of a religious Jew is the yarmulka or kippa
In Judaism faith in God is central with observance of
the commandments as the driving-force of daily life. The Torah, comprising
the Five Books of Moses, contain 613 mitzvot (commandments), including
directives for ritual observances and instructions concerning moral living.
For the religious Jew much of modern Jewish life revolves
around the synagogue. The Hebrew word for synagogue (beit knesset)
means "house of assembly" and the Yiddish word (shul) means "school".
The aron hakodesh (Holy Ark) houses the Torah scrolls and determines
the orientation of the synagogue. Synagogues normally face toward Jerusalem
and within Jerusalem they face toward the Temple Mount.
The most important meal of the week in most Jewish homes
is on Friday night at the start of Shabbat. This holy day of rest
begins when the sun sets. For the religious Jews is it a day of rejoicing
and celebrating God's goodness in his creation and deliverance of his people.
Hasidic Jews (in photo above) view a replica of the Menorah,
a seven branched candelabrum which once stood in the sanctuary of
the Temple as described in Exodus 25:31-40