Home August 2013 Trip of a Lifetime

Trip of a Lifetime

Marlon and I recently had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Israel, the first time for each of us.  From the moment we booked through the entire trip, there were many times that I thought “I can’t wait to share these thoughts and experiences with my OCJL readers!”  Besides Israel being an extremely interesting and professionally stimulating venue for an academic conference on “Real Estate and Urban Economics” and besides being able to enjoy spending a week with diverse and engaging colleagues and their spouses, this trip was the trip of a lifetime for us on a personal level. From the moment we got off the plane, it was clear that we were in a special place and that it was going to be a phenomenal trip.
Words cannot express our thoughts about everything we saw and experienced.  It was amazing how we really felt, from the very beginning, that we had not left home, but had “arrived” home.  Despite the fact that the money, street signs and language were all different, we were with our people and felt it.  We had a kindred attachment to everyone we met – from the hotel concierge to the cab drivers to strangers walking down the street.  If they were wearing traditional Jewish garb (and almost everyone was), they were instantly our mispacha!
We arrived on Friday afternoon, so after a quick cab ride to Mt Scopus and our hotel (the Dan Jerusalem, which was very nice), we checked in and immediately left again to go to the Western Wall to celebrate Shabbat.  Thanks to instructions from our rabbi and an excellent guide book (Fodors Israel), we knew exactly which gate to go to and what to do.  Shabbat at the Wall was spiritual, mystical and filled us with awe.  We loved watching the different groups dancing and singing and praying together.  Once I made my way through the crowd of women to get close enough to put my hand on the Wall, I was filled with such a sense of emotion – I could not believe that I was standing in Israel, praying at the Western Wall.  Marlon and I had not talked about what each of us would do on our respective sides of the Wall, but when we reunited in the plaza area, we found it interesting that we both chose to recite the “Shema” and the “Shehechiyanu,” as well as to give a silent prayer of thanks for our blessings in our lives.  Each of our written prayers also joined the millions of others in the cracks of the Wall.
When everyone started leaving at sundown, our cab driver took us to the top of Mount of Olives, where we were treated to the most amazing sunset view of Jerusalem and the old City.  Rather than being disappointed by the minimal selection of cold items we could order from our hotel restaurant (because it was Shabbat), we found it so incredible to be in a place where celebrating Shabbat and being Jewish was the norm, not the minority.  Mezuzzahs on every single doorway, a quiet city on Shabbat, yarmulkes on nearly every male head passing by, a sanctuary in the hotel – it was so different from anyplace else, but so wonderful.  It felt so right.  We were home.
The remainder of our week in Israel was packed with adventures, many of which I will describe next month.  I want to mention that we chose not to take our kids on this trip for three reasons: it would have been too expensive, we really needed a trip by ourselves and they had too much going on.  At first we felt a little guilty and sad that our first trip to Israel was not a family trip.  But a fourth – and more predominant – reason for not taking them is that we want them to experience Israel and all its beauty, magic and spirit with a group of their peers on a Birthright trip, which will be much more meaningful for them.  We saw multiple Birthright groups as we toured the various sites and they were all having an absolute blast.  We are going to start researching the options right away!  More next month.

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