Wow, it’s been a busy few days since our last post! We had an incredible night out on Thursday in Tel Aviv where we experienced the night life and culture of this amazing city. We woke up Friday ready to see more. The morning started out at Rabin Square, the site in Tel Aviv where former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. We had a chance to interview people in the square to learn about what they knew from this horrible event. Afterwards, we headed to the birthright entrepreneurship center located in the Tel Aviv stock exchange. Here, we were able to see the Israeli intelleigence and technology that fuels so many things we use daily. Did you know the GPS app Waze was designed by Israelis?! Now we all know! We ended our time in Tel Aviv by enjoying lunch outdoors and grabbing some delicious iced coffee from Aroma.
We ventured into our next location where we would be spending our Shabbat experience: Jerusalem. After arriving at the hotel, we had time to get ready for our evening. We drove to the Old City in Jerusalem where we toured around the Jewish quarter, making our way to where we would officially welcome in Shabbat: the Kotel (or the Western Wall). There were so many people sharing this experience with us, like families from Jerusalem, Jewish people from around Israel, and other birthright and tour groups from around the world. Seeing that much culture in the holy city was moving, emotional, and brought so many memories from home of Shabbat’s that we experience and how this one differs. We enjoyed a walk back to the hotel and a Shabbat dinner with one another.
Waking up late on Saturday morning felt incredible after all of our early mornings this past week. We approached this week’s Parasha, Behar, in a unique and fun way that made the Torah accessible to those of us who had never found it interesting. We each wrote and performed a short skit describing the stories and morals found in each section and it wound up being incredibly funny. The rest of the day was filled with either down time or activities. We were either by the pool or with our bus learning about the geopolitical history and reality of Israel, debating and weighing various Jewish values, or lighting the Havdallah candles. Once Shabbat ended we went out to Jerusalem’s open air market, Machane Yehuda, and we watched the market come to life after dark. Seeing the real Israeli nightlife in Jerusalem was an awesome experience.
Sunday morning started off on a more serious note with a trip to Yad Vashem, or the Holocaust Memorial Museum. We walked through the museum, some of us for the first time, others the second or third. Our guide went through the years of horror that happened to the Jewish people in just a few hours. This was an emotional experience for many of us, whether we had family involved in this or not. However, we know that this is an important part of the birthright experience. We cannot forget these tragedies that happened to our people.
The next stop for us was lunch and shopping. After getting our fill of food and Aroma (as always), Bus 134 made their trek down to Masada and Bus 108 headed to the Bedouin tents.
Bus 108 enjoyed a night under the stars, getting to see the beauty of the sky without any buildings or lights obstructing the breathtaking view. We ate authentic, delicious Bedouin food together sitting on the floor of the tents. We sang songs and stayed up late hanging out around the camp fire. It was a night we will never forget.
Bus 134 had an earlier bed time, enjoying dinner at the hotel and wrapping up our day together, as we will be waking up at 4:00 am to have our sun-rise hike of Masada!