Our Journey Ends (But We Hope it Inspires a Life Long Love of Israel)!
With the snow in Jerusalem, it was questionable as to whether we would be able to travel there on Saturday from Tel Aviv to spend our final day and evening in what many believe to be the holiest city in the world. We took it a bit easy on Saturday morning in Tel Aviv at the hotel and got everything packed and ready to go for the long day and night ahead. We understood from our bus driver that the roads to Jerusalem were back open, and though there was snow on the ground it is was very cold, it was sunny and clear in Jerusalem. So, we loaded all of our bags and boarded the bus for what turned out to be a fantastic day in Jerusalem. Because it was Shabbat, the only places we were unable to explore were those related to the shops and restaurants and usual goings-on in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. But we did spend the entire day in the Old City exploring the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City -- that is only 1 square kilometer in area, but filled with people of every religion, nationality, ethnic group and race. I never tire of seeing Jerusalem, and it is also such an exciting thing to share it with our students -- those who have visited before and those who are there for the first time. There is something about Jerusalem that is so compelling that it always feels to me as if it is the first time I am there. Past, present and future come together somehow in those ancient walls, and though there is always a certain tension in Jerusalem, there is no city in my mind that is more beautiful or interesting. We began our day at a fabulous point on Mount Scopus overlooking the entire city of Jerusalem. Our guide, Noam, pointed out all of the important sites and we learned all about the way in which the city developed from ancient times to today. The hills were covered with light snow and there was an almost mystical look to the entire area in front of us. Jessica, Tom and Nina even acted out the Biblical story about the very first documented purchase of the land by David. We walked through the Old City itself, entering the Christian Quarter to discuss the importance of Jerusalem to Christians of all types and made a fabulous visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was said to have ascended and resurrected following his crucifixion by the Romans. Just before we were ready to leave, we heard singing and smelled incense and realized that we were in the middle of the French Catholic mass celebration with tens of priests participating. It was quite extraordinary! We then stopped at a 200 year-old hummus factory which is said to have the best hummus in all of Jerusalem! We saw the way hummus was ground and prepared the traditional way between two stones made of volcanic rock...and sampled some of the different types of hummus made there. Lunch was at a fantastic little hummus place in the Old City (yes, we ate a lot of hummus!), and then we proceeded to a viewpoint where we could overlook the portion of the Western Wall of the city of Jerusalem - the closest remaining city wall to the Temple that was built by King Solomon. The sun was beginning to set over the city, and we made our way down to the Wall (or "Kotel") just as the sky was turning red and then dark. What an incredible way to conclude a meaningful and exciting adventure! Heidi and I truly enjoyed traveling with the Grade 10 students, who never complained the entire time we were there,even through some very challenging weather and changes in plans. They were flexible, respectful, polite and interested. It was a pleasure to have Debby Posin with us as well. As a active participant in some of the Boston-Haifa projects in Haifa over the past few years, it was wonderful to share not only Haifa, but the rest of the State of Israel with Debby and we thank her. We often say that the worst part of Israel is leaving Israel...and I could not concur more heartily. But we will all carry the photos and memories that will last a lifetime, and hopefully, we will all return many more times to Israel in the years ahead. In the meantime, it is good to be home. ~Rabbi Lisa Eiduson