Posted by: heatherlehrman | August 17, 2011

My first trip to Jerusalem

I went to Jerusalem through the trip I am on (OSP- overseas program). We left the dorms at 7:30 AM and headed to a park called, Canada Park for breakfast. We got there around 8:30 AM. The breakfast was a choice of a tuna sandwich, a cheese sandwich or an avocado sandwich. If you know me well you can guess that I took the tuna. It was pretty tasty. They also gave us a piece of fruit, a water bottle and a piece of chocolate. Mmmm. We headed out around 9:15AM.

Our first place we went to was Mountain Scopus. Hebrew University on this mountain. On the edge of the mountain there is this awesome spot to look out and see all of Jerusalem. A full view! You could see old city and the modern city. This was a very cool spot.

Next we went to Ammunition Hill, which is a famous battle site from the 6-Day War. We watched a short movie on the war and I am glad I did because I didn’t know much about it. (A war between Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Israel – Once the war was over, Israeli’s paraded to the Kotel to celebrate their victory and the land they could consider their own). I didn’t realize how much history there is in Israel and how hard people fought for the land. It made my experience to the Kotel that much more moving. The view from Ammunition Hill is incredible. There were these walk ways in the ground that the people fighting used to stand in. It looks like a maze if you stand above it and look down. There were a lot of kids running around in them- it was fun to watch them play tag.

My group leader had us discuss how we felt about the possibility of Palestinian statehood and how it could become a recognized sovereign state through the UN and what that would mean for Israel and the people in it. It was interesting to hear everyone’s point of view. The decision will be made in September, which is only a few weeks away. I think it is very cool that I will be here when that happens.

Next, we had some time in the shuk. I went to the best bakery in the world, Marzipan, which is right outside of the shuk. I think I died and went to heaven. It had the best rugelach I’ve ever had!! I only had an hour in the area so my friends and I just walked around and tasted a few things here and there. (I ate way too much)

After the shuk we went to the center of the city to where the housing protest was (This protest is all over Israel). It was in a huge park. One side of it had tents and the other is this open grassland where families were just hanging out on blankets. It was pretty dirty because it had many people, but the park over all was very nice.

At this point it was about 4:30 PM. We headed to the old city. It is crazy how quickly Jerusalem changes from the modern city to the old city and the difference in how it looks. About 5 others and myself in my group had never been to Jerusalem so our tour guide decided to take us through the Jewish Quarter (there is the Christian, Armenian and Muslim Quarter as well) to a lookout over the Kotel (Western Wall). Since it was our first time, she had a friend lead each of us to the edge with our eyes closed. Opening them up gave me a feeling that I’ll never forget. I still have the mental picture in my head. I don’t think I’ll lose that either. It was breathtaking too see the view from high up and to see people so in love with this space. There were people everywhere. There was a ceremony of firefighters being inducted into the IDF so we watched from high up. There are two sides to the wall – men and women. The men’s side is much bigger and spaced out so the women’s side seemed packed, which it was. From this look out spot, you could see the Dome of the Rock. That was amazing. After looking out for a while we went down. We had to go through security to get in. Once we got in, the Hatikvah came on (for the ceremony, I believe) and I looked around and just saw people melt and break down. I myself broke down. I never realized how holy this place was and how much people love and appreciate it. I stood near the entrance for a while with people on my group just looking around. My friends were also writing their prayers to put in the wall. With my prayers in my hands, I slowly walked up to the wall. This was one of the most overwhelming walks I have ever taken. All that was going through my head was that I was in front of such an amazing and holy wall that generations upon generations of people have gone to, to pray and appreciate. In front of the wall are rows of chairs to sit on and there are also bookshelves of prayer books to choose from if you so choose. There were woman who were right up against the wall and then women right behind them. I had to wait my turn for a good spot. Just looking at the wall gave me chills. The wall had cracks and grass growing out of it. There were notes in every crack and also, on the floor (they had fallen off). Women to the left and right of me were crying, praying, holding their family members, praying to each other, sitting in silence and just looking at the wall. Just to touch it was special. There was a woman who was in the second row and she just reached her hand over and just stood there. She had red nail polish and a very chunky ring – I took a picture of it. I’ll never forget my first touch. For me, it was like magic. The wall was bumpy with cracks but was smooth at the same me, probably because so many people touch it. I stood so close to it. I felt as if I were hugging the wall. There was this breeze that I can’t describe. Everything in my life felt right at that moment. I felt really holy and really proud to be a Jewish American in Israel. It was a comforting feeling that all of the woman and myself were there for the exact same reason.

There is a tradition that you walk backwards from the wall instead of putting your back to it. And so I did. Once I was well away from the wall, I walked around the area with my friends. We took pictures in front of the flags and all over. There were so many different kinds of people there, going to pray. The Kotel is AMAZING for people watching. I could have walked around there all day.

After the Kotel, we walked through the Jewish Quarter a bit. We stopped at a few sights and had some free time. I got a delicious slice of pizza. At the end of our tour my group went to this rooftop, which was this incredible lookout over Jerusalem. The sun was setting and you could see everything from the modern city to the old city. If you couldn’t see something, it was because it was next to you or behind you.

There was so much traffic getting out of Jerusalem because of Ramadan and also because there was an art fair going on.

This trip was amazing. It was very structured which was great since it was my first time going, but I am really looking forward to going back with my friends to roam around and see the different Quarters for what they are. I know I will be going back many more times in my life.

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Responses

  1. OMG I actually cried when I read about The Kotel. I cannot wait to get there!
    I miss you!!

  2. Heather I loved reading about your day in Israel. Looking forward to reading more over the next few months. I’m so happy for you. Sounds like it’s a trip of a lifetime.

  3. FYI-I (Linda) wrote the above comment , not Jeff.

  4. Send home Marzipan if you want to be picked up at the airport on January 7th!


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