City of Gold
Friday, 21 December 2012
After an amazing day venturing through Old Jaffa, and an incredible night out in Tel Aviv, the group may have been a little exhausted, but we sure did not let it stop us in reaching our goal to experience Jerusalem and Shabbat together. Unfortunately, sleep has been quite the commodity among the group throughout the week, and even though we started our day earlier than most of us would have liked it could not withstand our resiliency to rebound for what many felt was the most spiritual day of our lives.
The sound of the alarm clocks rang annoyingly, our eye lids opened slowly, but our excitement had not been higher all trip long. The group made our way down to the dining room for breakfast where we were met with a beautiful assortment of fruit, eggs, bread, cereal, tomato and cucumber salads and the ever so needed . . .coffee. Finishing breakfast in record time, (less than 40 min) it was time to head to the bus for the long haul to the infamous Jerusalem.
“Okay guys, it’s time to count off, so everyone be quiet now,” trip staff stated attempting to speak through our laughter and music.
Numbers one through forty-five were present and our day could begin. The bus ride began relatively silent, other than the usual wake up song led by trip leader, Michal. However, the closer we were getting to Jerusalem, the more the group began to come alive. The bus’ breaks squealed and the announcement to wear our rain coats rang, we headed off the bus for our first look at the beautiful city.
When we first stepped outside onto the Haas Promenade, rain drops fell on our faces, and the sounds of surrounding Taglit trips greeted us immediately. But, as our eyes looked curiously to our right, locked on they became. The clouds were lifting above the city and the sun was peering through just enough to give us the most incredible view of all of Jerusalem.
As Michal explained to us the short version of the history of Jerusalem, she emphasized one important concept to the group that really hit us deeply.
“Where do all the Jews from across the world pray towards?“ She asked the group.
“Jerusalem,” we answered.
“And if you are in Jerusalem, where does one pray to?”
“The Western Wall,” we replied.
“So, if all the Jews in the world pray in the direction of the city, and in the direction of the Western Wall, imagine all of the energy that is traveling towards this city. It is absolutely amazing.” she stated confidently.
We thought about that, took some beautiful landscape photo’s, excitedly got back on the bus for the short ride down to the city.
As we traveled throughout the Old City and the Jewish Quarter, we had never felt so connected to one place before. Pillar after pillar, room after room, and historical relics one after the other connected with our thoughts and our cameras. The history and partialness of the city was attaching itself to our souls. We reached the markets and smelt the freshly heated nuts on the corner, heard the excited shouts of the vendors, and tasted the fresh water from the sky and nothing mattered, because we were home.
The group grew antsy as time grew close to our last stop on the visit, the Western Wall. Upon sight of the wall, face after face lit up in amazement, not only at the size and the amount of people praying, but the idea that we were actually here, experiencing it for ourselves with our own two eyes. The group made its way down through the security checkpoint and onto the open area in front of the wall where the women went and prayed to the right as the men traveled to the left side and prayed among the larger portion. The was larger than life. Sure it may be ten stories high and built out of stone hundreds of years ago, but as one looks closely among it’s cracks, the hopes, the prayers, the wishes and the dreams of hundreds if not thousands of people are written and left inside.
The idea that all Jews, from Hassidic, to modern, from fathers to sons, and mothers to daughters, all were coming together in one place, for the most amazing praying in our life yet.
The group re-joined together, arm in arm in front of the praying areas. We listened to our Israeli Officer, Elit, speak to us of the importance of group togetherness at the wall. Together we chanted “Brothers” in Hebrew, and jumping in a circle, the group had become something more than just a bunch of Jewish college students and their guides and Israeli friends, we became a new family.
After arriving at the hotel, we prepared for Shabbat with clean showers, clean clothes, and our spirits high. We told each other what Shabbat meant to each on of us, and the guys surprised the girls with some roses showing their soft sides for the first time. We sang, we studied, we laughed, we prayed, and we dedicated the night to a reconnection to our faith and our people. The food was incredible as expected, but the company was even better.
But, the night was still young. This new family that had been formed was sick, tired, and out right exhausted, but it did not refrain us from coming together for the remainder of the night to share our snacks and storied from Jerusalem. Heck, we even were fortunate to enjoy a mass group game of Ninja!
After an outright glorious day, our heads hit our pillows and our eyes shut faster than ever, but our dreams and our spirits, had never been more alive.