Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The (GIANT) Israel Post

Hannah, me and Max, watching the sun set in Tel Aviv
To make a very long story short, I will say the following: our trip to Israel was amazing. Fantastic. Life-altering. The realization of a long-held dream and goal for Marc and me. Unforgettable and unrepeatable.

I literally took 1000 pictures, and you can see them all at my Flickr photostream. My new camera was a joy, even though I barely knew how to use it, and I loved capturing as many moments as I could.

I've struggled with how best to tell this story, as I realize it's just too many stories. So this is going to be the highlights for me, and I'm sure in future posts, I'll go into more detail on certain aspects of the trip. That will be one way for me to stave off the depression that the trip is already part of my past, and not the longed for future anymore.

The four of us arrived in Israel late on Thursday evening, and had three days on our own before we were joined by another 75 members of Temple Emanuel. Marc and I really wanted the kids to have the experience of a Shabbat in Jerusalem, since so much shuts down in a way that doesn't happen anywhere else.This turned out to be an unexpectedly good turn of events, as we had time to do some exploring on our own, but we also had time to simply rest. We took naps and adjusted to the time change, and when the main part of our trip began, we were ready for it.

In Jerusalem, we stayed at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel, which was an easy walk into the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Walking there was the first thing we did on Friday morning. We got to experience the rare snow in Jerusalem. As we walked, the kids were fascinated by the differences (all of the golden stone work) and the similarities (it still feels like a city, not something they couldn't identify with). We finally turned a corner and saw the iconic view of the Kotel (the Western Wall), and Max pulled on me saying, "we're really in Jerusalem now."

Hannah's and my hands
I was completely overcome as we approached the wall, and I'm actually teary as I write this. For as much as I participate in Jewish life, I don't think of myself as deriving much from the actual prayer and spiritual experiences. But standing outside the barriers (men and women are separated at the wall), with my little family, knowing that families just like mine have traveled here together for thousands of years to touch the stones, well, I found it hard just to breathe. I was overwhelmed by gratefulness in that moment, that we had actually done it, we brought our once hypothetical children to this place, as a family, to experience the interconnectedness of generations to this place. I will never, ever forget it.
Max, in blue, putting his prayers in the wall.

On our second visit with our group.
An historic moment: as a family, touching the newly-excavated section of the Kotel, expanded for pluralistic prayer experiences.

Now, on to the rest of the trip. I'll never finish this post if I write about everything, so here are pictures with captions, and you'll just have to trust me that it was all amazing.

Shabbat lunch purchased the day before at Mechane Yehuda, including the best pita ever.
With the "ahava" (love) sculpture at the Israel Museum
Services atop Mt. Masada

Camel riding at Genesis Land (Hannah is in orange)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Christmas Eve
Ethan and Max's hotel room shofar blow off
Exploring Tsfat
Hannah and Julia after our jeep tour of the Golan
Jocelyn and Hannah after dinner at a Druze village
The Baha'i Gardens in Haifa
Israeli dancing at a Haifa elementary school

Getting ready for Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Shabbat afternoon walk along the Mediterranean Sea
Dates at Tel Aviv's Levinsky Market
Exploring Latrun with some Israeli soldiers
And finally, a quick hello to Big Ben on our London layover.

So that's the really, really high level version of events. Believe it or not, but there are things we did that aren't even in the pictures above! It was a very busy trip. Just how I like it.

A huge thank you to everyone at Temple Emanuel who helped make our dream a reality, especially Michelle, Terri, Wayne and Ilene, and our excellent guides Abraham, Bill and Tal from Da'at. It was such a pleasure getting to travel with everyone, deepening friendships and creating new ones.
All of us!
The only question that remains? When can we all go back?

1 comment:

  1. I remember when I went to Israel when I was 15 and the amazement if going to the Western Wall. After learning about it basically my entire life it was such an incredible thing to experience it in person, to know all that history before me. I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip!