Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Birthright Trip to Israel: Day 3

This is the view from Haas Promenade. The gold dome is the Dome of the Rock on top of Temple Mount. This is where Muhammad came down from heaven on a winged horse and where Abraham almost killed his son, Isaac.
I am happy to say that after Day 2, the trip really couldn't get any worse, so things could only get better from there. This next day we traveled to Jerusalem. We went to Haas Promenade first, where we could look over the city. There we learned about some of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, including the "security wall" (in Palestine it is seen more as an "apartheid wall"). The wall is meant to keep both groups safe, and in most places it's not actually a wall, but just a fence. We also discussed the old city of Jerusalem. It is divided into four sections: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian (we could only see the Jewish section on the Birthright trip).

Here is a view of the security/safety wall.
This is the Western Wall. Notice how much larger the men's side is on the left than the women's side.
Then we walked over to the Western Wall. Contrary to belief, this is not the western wall of the ancient temple. It is actually the western wall of the platform that was built around Temple Mount, and the temple was built on top of that platform. This space is used as a synagogue, and people go there to pray. Many people write down wishes or prayers on little pieces of paper, fold them up, and then find a crack in the wall to stick the notes in (the notes are eventually ceremoniously burned, though I am not sure how often that happens). People are crying and praying at the wall, and it can be overwhelming.

I will admit that visiting the Western Wall probably would not have meant much to me. However, our male American tour guide, Max, told a very touching story to us before we went. His dad got sick and passed away before his son had the chance to say goodbye. This haunted Max for a long time with "what ifs." He was on a trip to Israel after his father passed, and he visited the Western Wall. He had been before, and he never really thought much of it. But this one time, Max walked up to the wall to pray, and he felt this breeze and a moment of peace wash over him, and he knew his father was with him. (At this point, most of us in the group were crying.) Even though telling this story is about the only good thing this guy did on our entire trip, I am glad he shared it with us, because it made me respect my trip to the Wailing Wall and made it more meaningful.

The Orchid Hotel
At the end of the day, we headed to the Orchid Hotel. This hotel is on a resort kibbutz, and it was quite fancy (we weren't originally going to stay here, but our itinerary changed). There was a beautiful courtyard, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a gym, a HUGE dining room...It was amazing! The food was very good, and such variety! AND they actually had desserts! They had small dessert plates, but I always took a dinner plate: I wanted to try everything! I think we were all very pleased with our accommodations.

Because it was Friday, we did Shabbat-related activities that night. We sang Hebrew songs (I knew none of them, but I was glad my sister and I weren't the only ones not singing.), and some participants shared their own stories about how they celebrate Shabbat (I've actually never observed the Sabbath before.). We also played some games, like charades and a sing-along (which weren't so bad).

This was a very good day, and I was looking forward to the next day because it was Saturday, the holy day for Jews. So I knew we'd get to relax and just hang out without running around like crazy!


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    1. Yes, I think the people you travel with make a big difference for each vacation!