Backstage Travels

All the world's a stage…

Day 9: Subdued and winding down

This morning started later than usual, and we gathered to watch a documentary about a young man named Michael Levin. He was American, but felt deeply about Israel and what it stood for. So when he was old enough, he made alliah (making pilgrimage to Israel), and joined the IDF to support and even fight for Israel. He made quite a mark on the people that he worked with, and died in the line of duty. It’s a really moving story, and I recommend looking it up.

This was our warm up for visiting Har Hertzel, the military cemetary for the IDF.

We didn’t even start the day with Sha-La-La. The bus ride was subdued and long. Snow had been dumped exactly where we were heading, and drifts were getting almost 4 or 5 feet tall. We finally arrived two and a half hours later, and started walking though the place, at one point ducking under some CAUTION: KEEP OUT tape (though it was in Hebrew). Officials came and kicked us out, almost. We stayed in the front courtyard area, where the Israelis performed a short ceremony in honor of the fallen soldiers.

Obviously the feelings of the military is different there because every citizen is required to join for two years, unless they have strong religious aversion, in which case they perform other civic duties for that time.

We had a short lunch break in the city, and I had shwarma for the first time. So good.

We went back to the Old City, and toured Mt. Zion. This place is sacred to all three of the major monotheistic religions

There’s a small Orthodox synagog inside.

Afterwards, we went to the Western Wall for a small good bye ceremony. The Egalitarian side of the Wall was closed because of the snow, so we went back to the Orthodox side.

There was a full moon.

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We all took pictures with the Israelis before we said our goodbyes.

We then went into the tunnel to the Muslim Quarter to be a little more sheltered. Everyone shared something about the experience with meeting all these different people. I was really sorry to see everyone go. We were told at the beginning that once the Israelis joined us, we’d wonder how we ever felt that our group was complete without them. We were skeptical at first, before they arrived. Now, we totally believed it.

We finished and then all got on the bus to drop them off at a bus stop. It seemed so strange to just leave them on the side of the road. The rest of the ride was subdued, but differently from the beginning of the day.

When we got back to the hostel, after dinner we had a meeting to prepare ourselves for the next day. We were going to go to the Israeli Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem. We started talking about why it’s important to remember, and modern antisemitism. So many people, including myself, shared stories. Shira told us that if the Israelis had been with us, they’d be surprised at all these stories. While they might be rare for us, it’s commonplace compared with how Jewish people are treated in Israel.

Each of us were given a piece of paper, and a candle. On each paper was the name and biography of a different child. A child that was killed in the Holocaust. We lit the candles and set them in front of our chairs, then went around the circle to read out the names and ages of the children we were given and blow out the candles.

We were told to leave when ever we felt like it. I sat for a long time.

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Israel Day 3: Finally Jerusalem!

Early wake up! …which was awesome with the jetlag… Oh well! Too excited! Now, I had to repack my bags. Apparently, I needed a bag with three sets of clothes, because I wasn’t getting access to my suitcase for 2 days. Fine, I can travel light.

First we have our Welcoming Ceremony, which we couldn’t do the night before because of our delayed flight. Little did we know, that this small flex in the schedule would foreshadow what was to come…*dun dun dunnn*

No. It was lovely. And our first look at Jerusalem in the daytime.

It really was breathtaking. The first moment that we were all like “Oh my G-d, we’re here.”

We said the Kiddish with some grape juice, and we were off to that city below.

We entered through the Zion Gate. At first, I thought I heard “Lion’s Gate,” and I’ve been reading the Game of Thrones series, so I was like “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?” But then Shira said the name again. Anyway, look at it!

The wall is littered with bullet holes. Those bullets were taken out and melted to make this mezuzah:

We walked through the city a bit…
Then Shira told us to get in a single-file line, hold on to each other, and close our eyes. We did, and then we started walking. Shira played some music from a device. And then we were herded, still with our eyes closed, next to a fence. Then we got to open our eyes.
Our first glimpse at the Western/Wailing Wall. A wall broken and rebuilt, but still standing since the days of Old(est) Jerusalem. A wall that my ancestors have made pilgrimages to see or touch. A wall that’s been touched so many times by people of faith, that it’s discolored from about man-height, down.
And I didn’t feel anything. Well, not at first.
But then there was something. I knew I felt something…I just couldn’t pinpoint what it was… And that was the start of the thoughts I struggled with for the whole trip.
So we went down to the Wall.
Men and women were divided by this fence:
There were so many different kinds of people here: Tourists, ultra-religious, school kids…you name it.
They say that the Wall has no mortar. It’s being held together by people’s prayers. Figuratively and literally.
I put a prayer in, too!
There it is!
Then we went to The Jerusalem Archeological Park:
We talked about ate wafers. And talked about how old cities are like them, I guess. How there are layers upon layers of the same city, from different times. WAFERS!
We also learned a lot of history. Some of which I remember! Here are more pictures!
Actually, we used the wafer metaphor quite a lot. And you can see it in the Wall. The bottom stones are very large (and smooth, from thousands of years of people touching it), the middle ones are slightly smaller, due to being taken from the rubble of destroyed larger ones, and the top ones are smallest for that same reason.
Now there was one thing that kept distracting us for all our learning and touring and such… Cats. There were so many cats. Cutest vermin I’ve ever seen. I didn’t take any pictures of these cuties, but there are so many, there’s a Tumblr about them. Yes. Click it.
Then it was back in the bus. Some of us took the remaining paper from the Western Wall prayers (unused, we didn’t take anyone’s prayers!) and used it for a game. This game was popular for the whole trip ๐Ÿ™‚
We must have spent too much time in Jerusalem (probably because of the cats), because we were late for our 90 second ride on our camels. Thankfully, we got there in time.
These images courtesy of Rachel L., on Adam S.’s camera ๐Ÿ™‚
Then it started to rain. In the desert. It never rains in the desert…
Then we met with one of the men who runs the “traditional” Bedouin tent. We had a lovely dinner that I’m pretty sure included camel meat. Whatever, it was delicious.
Then there was a bonfire and bonding!
And apparently, (weird-tasting) marshmallows aren’t the only thing Israelis roast on a fire. There were potatoes for us as well. Only on potato was made though.
Photo courtesy of Adam S.
They enjoyed it. After an hour.
Then we went to our tent. To sleep.
Image courtesy ofย  Mirav
I actually had no problem with our sleeping arrangements. It probably helped that I was so exhausted from the day before to care where I was sleeping, as long as I had a blanket.
On of the Joshes (there were three) disagreed. The complaining, real or exaggerated, was one of the most entertaining moments on the whole trip. Things like pointing out that you could see dirt under the blankets on the floor (which were screwed in to the hard ground, by the way), mentioning that he has every right to exterminate bugs in his house, but what will the bugs to to him now that he’s sleeping in theirs, and our favorite: “I make too much money to have to sleep in a tent.”
I still fell dead asleep…
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