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Day 9: February 22 — Jerusalem
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem! Everyone slept well last night and we woke up to a deep blue sky, sun, and cold temperatures. After all, Jerusalem’s is “up” at a higher elevation than most cities; you feel that higher altitude when you drive here from other places in Israel and you can see the heights and hills when you look out at the landscape around the city.
Jerusalem is a major urban center. It is crowded, it is expensive, it is international, it is large, it has terrible traffic, and it is sometimes frustrating and difficult to navigate if you are not used to it. But, Jerusalem is wonderful. As a home to 3 world religions and a city that is actually comprised of an ancient city and a modern city, it is quite remarkable. It is as if Jerusalem holds all of the religious secrets, history and contemporary problems and challenges of our world. It is said that in Jewish tradition that there are two Jerusalems: 1) the Jerusalem of the earth; the city that exists in reality - with all of its past history; and 2) Jerusalem of above - the Jerusalem of our imaginations, the ideal city that we wish for and we work for and that we hope will one day be at peace.
We started the day with breakfast and then got on the bus to go to Yad Va-Shem, the Holocaust memorial museum here in israel. It is an extraordinary living memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. It was very crowded - literally packed with people coming to learn about the Holocaust for the first time, surivivors and children of survivors, international tour groups, and more. We had a fantastic guide who was originally from London and who has been guiding groups at Yad Vashem for 20 years. She told me that our group was one of the very best she has ever had!
We were supposed to go from Yad Vashem to Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, but when we came out of Yad Vashem it was really raining. So instead we went directly to Machane Yehudah, the big Jerusalem market - which is both inside and outside. It is enormous - with every kind of fruit, vegetable, spice, dried fruit, nuts, breads... in the market. In addition there are literally tens of restaurants of all types... needless to say we have some snacks as we walked and students were given some free fine to explore. It was really raining for about an hour so it was unbelievably crowded inside as people were avoiding the rain. Friday afternoon is the busiest time to be at Machane Yehudah as people are rushing from work and school to the market and then home to prepare for Shabbat. There is a colorful excitement that is palpable in the market... and the sights, smells sounds and tastes of Israel all seem to meld together at Machane Yehudah in Jerusalem.
We came back to the hostel to rest and get ready for Shabbat.
We went to Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Conservative synagogue that is literally connected to our hostel, which was very convenient. But besides being convenient, it was a beautiful and meaningful service that was led by 2 American students - one cantorial and one rabbinic - who are studying in Jerusalem for the year and will continue their seminary studies next year in the US.
We had a lovely dinner together after the service. Following dinner, the students employed some free time together.
Tomorrow will be a long day and so bittersweet. We are excited to come home, but I always say that the worst part of coming to israel is leaving Israel. It is such an amazing and unique place... Israel has a way of entering the heart...
Rabbi Lisa S. Eiduson
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