Yesterday was intense. We began the day with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. Its architectural design and physical placement (low) on the mountain add to the intensity of the visitor’s experience. Going through the museum was an extraordinary experience that punched us in the gut and stirred our souls, forcing us to ask the questions Why? and How? While some say answers are complicated, I propose they are obvious—anti-Semitism and lack of humanity. Many of us left there wondering why the lessons of the Holocaust have not yet been learned.

Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, was commemorated earlier this week. It is a deeply sad and emotional day. Soon there will be no Holocaust survivors amongst the living to bear witness. The museum’s responsibility, and that of everyone who walks through its doors, becomes even more important with the passage of time. Our visit to the museum is one I am sure PJ Library Parents to Israel will use to teach their children and others about the dangerous outcomes of hatred and intolerance.

From there we walked to Mt. Herzl and spent time visiting the Military Cemetery. Yariv, our guide, shared deeply emotional and personal stories of some of the soldiers who are buried there. Yariv, who served as a military officer for six years and in the reserves for decades, stands at the threshold he wishes did not exist. Next year his son will be entering the IDF, something every parent wishes their child did not have to do.

Sadly, the cemetery is expanding. We visited some of the newer eternal resting places, marked with pictures, flowers, and personal items, including a surf board, of the brave soldiers who are buried there. Every parent on the trip was touched by what we saw. I think some gained a new perspective on Israel and what it means to be an Israeli.

A visit with Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, lifted our spirits. Mayor Barkat was gracious and informative, proudly sharing news about Jerusalem’s economic boom and Israel’s general well-being with us. His talk was inspiring and full of hope, illuminating Israel’s vital role in the region and in the world. We’ll keep an eye on Mayor Barkat as his future role in politics develops from the local level to a more national role.

Today had to be one of the most fun days of the trip! Even though it’s Friday, today was HUMP DAY! Camel rides! Everyone had so much fun! Camels can do that to you.

The camels we rode live at Eretz Braysheet, loosely translated as the Land of the Beginning. Eretz Braysheet is ancient, biblical Israel. We did not need to use our imagination as to how Israel looked in those days. The spectacular, biblical landscape transported us back in time to the days of our ancestors. As we patiently waited our turn to ride, we soaked in the beauty of the land of old; rolling hills as far as our eyes could see.

Then it was on to highs and lows—Mount Masada and the Dead Sea! We enjoyed an exciting cable car ride to the top of Mount Masada. What a place! A fortress built on top of a mountain in the middle of the desert. Just how did they do that? We could only marvel at the drive, ingenuity and life back in the day. Walking on top of the mountain fortress, all the while learning about the story of Masada was a unique learning experience.

We made our way down the mountain. Then it was on to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth! We had a blast floating in the salt-laden sea. What an experience! What was truly impressive to many people was the fact that the country of Jordan was at our fingertips. The border between Jordan and Israel is in the Dead Sea itself; part of it is in Israel and part in Jordan.

The salt and minerals of the Dead Sea are used in cosmetics (Ahava and other products) and for medical treatment, especially skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. The salt and minerals have healing properties, and people come from around the world to the Dead Sea to benefit from its healing powers. Totally enjoyable and fun day for everyone.

We are preparing now to experience Shabbat of a lifetime. We are eagerly looking forward to welcoming in Shabbat at the Kotel (Wall), followed by a private dinner at the home of Rabbi Hillel and Chaya Lester. I know all of the parents will be thinking about their families, especially their children, and friends, as we stand at the Western Wall in the most holy of holy places on earth. I am sure when PJ Library Parents to Israel return home and share their experiences with you, tonight will be high on their list.

It’s on to see the Dead Sea Scrolls tomorrow, followed by a walking tour of the Old City, something we are all looking forward to.

Shabbat will soon be here. May it bring peace and wholeness to everyone.

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