Next Year in Jerusalem | Shorashim - Israel with Israelis

Next Year in Jerusalem

By Bus 525

We began our last day at Mount Herzl. Walking up the grassy hill and looking out onto the old city, we spent three hours sharing, singing, and sobbing. It was an incredible experience to be sharing this face with our new Israeli friends, all of whom had lost someone and bravely shared their story with us. We looked at the most recent grave, and imagined a world in which this would be the last one. A world in which Israel would not have to constantly be on the defense. 

After the tour, we went shopping on Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem. Amidst all of the touristy shops and sizzling falafel, some of us had the opportunity to visit the open house for the LGBTQ community in Israel. Our new rainbow earrings and yarmulkes will help support this safe space and forever remind us of the trip that we shared together.
Next we went to the JNF site to plant our own trees and leave something behind for generations to come. We each got to plant our own mini Alon tree, and were able to set our ramp and cynicism aside for a few minutes and believe that our trees would really grow in the desert. 
The group sat in one big circle and every single person took the chance to open up and share what this experience meant to them. It was inspiring to hear how meaningful this trip had been for so many of us, and how lucky we all were to have 50 new people that we could call family. And while we didn't always agree with one another, we would always care about and support each other, and it was hard not to start planning a reunion right then. For me personally, I was so touched by all of the individuals who shared these struggles with which they have been dealing over the past year or so and how this trip was the happiest they had been in a while. Every moment of vulnerability was validated, and clearly resonated with the rest of the room. I have never felt so much love from people I had only known for 10 days.
We enjoyed an incredible meal in the mysterious and cavernous dining hall at the JNF site. We received our beautiful T-shirts designed by Jennifer and Ruthie and proudly wore them for rest of the evening, both to show our unconditional love for one another and because we had all run out of clean clothes.
Driving to the airport, we had a sing-along of all of our favorite Israeli songs from the trip and danced as though it hadn't been over 10 days since we last slept. We said tearful goodbyes at the airport in and tried to make each hug last forever. Someday, I know we will all be reunited; in the meantime, we all have places to stay across the United States and Israel and dozens of new family members with whom we can stay in touch. While many of us came away with new connections to the country and to our religious identities, I can confidently say that we all came away with unbreakable bonds and better understandings of each other. 
Next year in Jerusalem. 
Photo Credits: Header Image and Image 1-@paperbackpizza, Image 2-@hadar_joy