It’s been a wonderful couple of days in Jerusalem, beginning with our joyous sheh-heh-cheh-yanu moment, where we recited the blessing marking this special moment in time in the lives of your children. The sounds of shofars and drums welcomed your kids to Jerusalem, as they joyously danced the hora.
We toured from morning until night, getting in as much as we could during our stay in Jerusalem. “There’s nothing like Jerusalem,” said one of the girls. She is right. You feel it in the air. It’s holy and charged, both at the same time.
Teens toured the Old City and were awestruck by the history…thousands of years of history that come alive in every stone and every step. Stories of our ancestors, prophets, and kings jump off the pages of Jerusalem’s storybook. From our history, others were born. Jerusalem gives depth to our rich Jewish heritage. Layer upon layer of proof of Jewish life in Jerusalem ties our People to this land. History proves it, no matter how hard some try to deny it.
Yesterday was a day for tunnels. Teens enjoyed Hezekiah’s Water Tunnel, a unique underground tunnel water-walk during the day, and they explored the mind-blowing Western Wall Tunnels in the evening. Both tunnels leave you in awe of those who imagined them and built them. What’s really incredible is that we can still walk in them today!
Following small group debriefing time this morning, we’ll begin this gorgeous, sunny day with a hike at the Sataf Springs. What a beautiful way to start the day! We’ll spend the afternoon at Machane Yehudah, the “market,” where thousands of people will be shopping for Shabbat. Machane Yehudah is awesome! It’s food, fun, and tons of activity, all in one place! It’s like a hyper burst of energy before the calm and serenity of Shabbat. Your kids will love the experience here, unlike anything we have at home.
Teens are making all kinds of connections here in Jerusalem. Bonds of friendships are forming and deepening; spiritual connections are igniting even the tiniest of sparks; and links in the chain of Jewish heritage and tradition are strengthening teens’ Jewish identity, here in Jerusalem. I see this as they proudly wear their newly purchased Jewish stars and chais, and eye-catching t-shirts with Hebrew words or expressions of Jewish pride. A few boys decided to celebrate their Bar Mitzvah at the Wall, which Bernie Horowitz made very special and meaningful for them. A few girls have been inspired to do the same, and Bernie will help to make this dream come true for them too.
We will welcome in Shabbat with candles, challah, Kiddush, and a delicious Shabbat dinner, along with lots of love and friendship that will envelope the group. It will be a special time for sure. We are heading to the Kotel (Western Wall) for what will be a most memorable Shabbat for your kids.
We will spend tomorrow on a walking tour, visiting the Israel Museum and viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls. We’ll enjoy some group activities and some down time at the pool or catching up on sleep during our relaxing afternoon. Then it will be on to Ben Yehudah Street on Saturday night after Shabbat for shopping and more fun!
On Sunday morning, we will leave for our exciting desert adventure. 30 Israeli teens will join us for the mifgash (time together) for four days. This is a very special part of the Y2I experience. Israeli and American teens will quickly become friends, discovering their similarities and differences, and teaching each other about life in their communities and in their countries.
Most likely you will not hear from me until Tuesday, when I write from the north. Not to worry, though. It’s because we have fun-filled days and nights planned from early morning Sunday, including camel rides in the desert, a delicious Bedouin feast, spending the night in tents (it’s a really nice camp with available bathrooms and showers, not to worry!), a drumming circle, and lots of time forming new friendships with the Israeli teens and making more friends within our Y2I group.
Monday will be a really special day when we wake up very early to experience a day of highs and lows, beginning with our 4:30 a.m. climb up Mt. Masada to witness the birth of a new day with the sunrise over the Dead Sea. Then we go really, really low…so low, it’s the lowest place on earth—the Dead Sea. What fun!
I love what happens to people here in Jerusalem, and it is happening to your kids too. They feel part of something really big. They are cementing their links in our chain of tradition. They are strengthening their connections to Israel, and they are strengthening their responsibility and love for our Family. It’s a beautiful thing what’s happening to your kids.
Shabbat Shalom…from Jerusalem!
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