I danced with strangers, prayed with friends, and left feeling fulfilled.
Wow. Sitting here, typing this... I cannot believe that our journey is ending today. In just six hours, my grade will depart Jerusalem for Ben-Gurion airport, and begin the long trek back home. These past two weeks have flown by and I know I speak for everyone when I say that our class will not return the same.
On Friday we were given the chance to explore the Mahane Yehuda shuk (market). It was overflowing with people; all trying to get the last things needed before Shabbat would begin. With some tutelage, I quickly learned how to (politely) shove my way through to get to where I was going. I ate some delicious pita, drank refreshing Aroma coffee, and all too soon my friends and I had to exit the throngs.
Right after, we were given the unique opportunity to visit our bus driver’s home in the Arab sector of Jerusalem. In typical Israeli fashion, we were greeted with mountains of food that myself and others gladly accepted, which later our digestive systems would hate us for. As we ate, we learned about Arab life in Jerusalem, which gave us another perspective on this multifaceted city.
Once the stories were finished and the food was consumed, we headed back to our hotel to prepare for Shabbat at the Western Wall! I was extremely excited to have this opportunity to experience the Wall in such a holy context among the many other people that would be there.
At the Wall, I was struck by how many people were praying, davening, walking, and just soaking in their surroundings. There, I was able to place a note in the stones, praying for things I would only ever know. I danced with strangers, prayed with friends, and left feeling fulfilled, as I imagine others felt. Soon, our class walked back to our hotel for a scrumptious Shabbat dinner.
Back at the hotel, the Class of 2019 enjoyed oneg Shabbat activities planned by some of my classmates. From what I heard, these activities were very entertaining and a lovely end to the week, but I wasn’t able to attend because I felt somewhat ill so I hit the hay early. Now, typing this after eleven hours of sleep I feel like a new man!
All in all, I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to explore Israel in such an in-depth, spiritual, and joyous fashion. I am not the same Sam I was before the journey — I’ve matured, and my Jewish identity and connection with Israel has strengthened by tenfold. I want to thank the staff, my teachers, tour guides, and my class for supporting me throughout this trip; it’s been a crazy, wild, and lovely ride.