Today it seemed that for the first time members of our group felt like they were actually here, in Israel, as we visited Ein Avdat, David Ben-Gurion’s grave, lunch at Sde Boker, the Jewish Quarter (in Jerusalem) and the Western Wall. We participated in many engaging talks and activities on the bus and at the sights. One of the most meaningful parts of our day was, whether or not we had been to Israel, we were all blindfolded to await the next surprise! When we finally came to our anticipated destination the mood immediately changed as the blindfolds were ripped off. Awe filled the air, as the whole city of Jerusalem was in front of us. We had traveled many hours, sweated all day, and didn’t get much sleep but finally saw what we had been waiting for. We then toured around some more and had different experiences up close and personal with the Kotel.
Robert: Coming to the Western Wall, once again was very exciting. As soon as all of the guys started walking down we were suddenly swarmed by Rabbis, who asked us to put on Tefillin. Before we knew it, we were reading the prayers and having a deep conversation with an old man. The man told us stories and gave advice on what it means to be Jewish and the perks that come with the Jewish culture. Finally I reached the wall and saw all of the men praying and connecting. Some sang and blew the shofar, as others cried and reflected on everything around us. Seeing these people around the wall and being at the center of the Jewish homeland gave everyone a memorable moment that will last for a lifetime.
Miriam: For me I had been to the wall for two trips previously but this time I had an interesting experience that I didn’t expect. I walked up to the Kotel wall with my notes in hand when we heard some sort of gunshots (Note from Megan: don't worry -- turns out it was just fireworks.. we are all safe!) from a few hundred feet away. I looked up in the sky and saw and heard very loud fire cracker like things. Honestly in my head I had no idea what it was and was scared. There was an older religious lady who turned to her friend who was praying against the wall and screamed in Hebrew “ani pochedet, ani pochedet”. With the Hebrew I have learned this panic sounding woman was scared and was telling her friend that she was scared. Her friend responded that it would be okay and that she wasn’t scared, giving the woman no sympathy. I turned to the woman who had tears in her eyes and said, “gam ani ktzat pochedet” (I am also a little scared). With that she wrapped her arms around me and we hugged for a few seconds. We backed away full of tears and I knew it would be okay. She prayed at the wall and then let me have a turn. After we left the wall area the woman was standing at the entrance waiting for me to tell me that she had asked the police men and they told her that everything was okay. In her broken English she said, “Look where you are, nothing can go wrong. Enjoy your trip sweetie and stay safe.” This personal experience was a powerful one, especially for the first few days. This definitely sets the mood for the rest of the trip for me. One I won’t forget.
We will continue to keep you posted!
Miriam and Robert