Here comes Day Five in Israel. We can’t believe how fast time flies. This is clearly a result of having lots of fun learning about Poland and the State of Israel. As we commence the day, we know the day at hand will increase and enhance our understanding and love for the State of Israel and our rich heritage.
We commence our day at the hotel with an outstanding breakfast followed by a conversation with David Horovitz, founding Editor of the Times of Israel. He is an expert on the geo political environment affecting Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. It is clear that though Israel is challenged by political, protective and defensive matters. Israel does not let conflict define the goodness of the country. There are challenges which are addressed and clearly vetted by all.
Onto Hezekiah’s Tunnel (or the Siloam Tunnel) which was dug underneath the Ophel in Jerusalem about 700 BC during the reign of Hezekiah. As we venture into the darkness of the tunnel (with our flashlights) which will lead us into the ground, we hear the movement of water which is so peaceful and an indication of “LIFE”. The cold water (knee high in places and ankle high in others) is refreshing and definitely gives a jolt of “energy” and make us remember and feel the “LIFE” of Israel.
Following our trek through the water tunnel, we finally got to walk through the gates of the Old City. We had some time allocated for “lunch on our own” which was quite confusing to us since we had become spoiled with amazing meals magically appearing each day. We quickly became oriented and divided into pairs, those with shekels finding someone without so that everyone could eat! The girls had the impossible decision to make of eating or shopping, luckily we were all able to do a little of both.
After lunch we approached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. To nobody’s surprise, our wonderful tour guide Abraham was friends with the holder of the key to the church. This key has been in the family for generations and the current owner sits at the entrance to the church every day, welcoming visitors into his house. The church was gorgeous and ornate. It was fascinating to see this Christian site and all of the devotees who had come to visit. Although we have come to Israel as Jews, this visit clearly showed us the power of the city of Jerusalem to all religions that come to visit.
Dinner was at yet another amazing restaurant called Eucalyptus. Chef Moshe Basson has led the slow food movement in Jerusalem and uses a delicious combination of fresh herbs in all of the food and drink. He came to our table to let us taste and see a variety of fresh herbs. Moshe was also quite kind to some of our group members who are a little under the weather and prepared some blander foods for them. He could not have been more hospitable.
Our day concluded with a visit to the Kotel/Western Wall. After a short stroll from dinner, we arrived in the Old City and made our way to a deck overseeing the site. The group had been dropping like flies but quickly found renewed energy the moment upon setting foot on the grounds. We proceeded to the tunnels and navigated our way underneath the platform constructed under the old temple, learning about the history of the magnificent structure developed by King Herod but built by the Jewish people. Only after walking what seemed like a mile through the narrow tunnels along the western edge of the platform could we understand and appreciate the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the original structure. We made our way back out of the tunnels and emerged back onto the main grounds. The absolute brilliance and beauty of the Kotel under the lights at night could not be put into words. We each then approached the wall to pray and reflect individually.
After finishing our personal reflections, we made our way to the pluralistic area where we could gather as a group. Our visit to the wall amazingly happened to fall on the exact same day that marked the end of the 30 days of mourning (the Shloshim) for Greg. Greg made a short tribute to his mother and then we all joined together to recite the mourner’s Kaddish to honor his mom and the others who’ve come before us. It was a special way for Greg to pay tribute to his mom and to conclude the day.