As soon as our tour educator said, “Welcome to Jerusalem!” the level of chatter on the bus became subdued enough that I took notice. “What are you wondering about?” I asked the boy sitting across the aisle from me, as I observed him gazing out the window. My question was prompted by his rapid transition to silence from his animated conversation with another teen that took place for more than a half hour. “I can’t believe I’m in Jerusalem,” he responded. “Debbie, I’m actually in Jerusalem.”

Anticipation filled the air, as it always does when we arrive in Jerusalem. The rolling hills, the religious people in their identifiable garb waiting at bus stops along the route, the white Jerusalem stone of the buildings—the visual stark difference of Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, our previous location jolts you to attention.

“What do you think?” I asked him.

This is what I imagined Israel to look like,” he replied. “Like…religious,” he added.

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Different from Tel Aviv, right?”

“Much different, I did not expect Tel Aviv to look like it did. It felt familiar, like Boston. I loved it!”

“So, how are you feeling right now?,” I asked.

“Like something really special is happening,” he replied.

I let him go back to his wondering.

Jerusalem is magical. Regardless of how much or what you know about Jerusalem, you understand it is a place unlike any other. Jerusalem is often the place where “being Jewish” takes on a whole new meaning for Y2I teens. Whether it’s a life-changing moment at the Kotel (Western Wall) on Friday evening, or the intense feeling of connection you get from being at ancient sites that are thousands, not hundreds of years old, or the intense bond that forms between you and all the Jewish people around you, something magical happens in Jerusalem.

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During our next few days in Jerusalem, we will explore the sites, alley-ways, walls, and tunnels (dry and wet!) of Jerusalem. I know teens will also marvel at how ancient and how modern it is! The contrasts are startling. High rise apartment buildings, modern-clad people, high speed transportation, and cars…cars everywhere! The ancient and the new, side by side. Jerusalem is the past in the present, alive and vibrant.

I often refer to Jerusalem as the heartbeat of the world, especially the Old City. Judaism, Christianity, Islam…all together, in an insanely small area. What happens in this teeny-tiny part of our earth reverberates not only around the world, but across time. Jerusalem…place of our ancestors, our prayers, our hopes, our dreams. Your children are in for something really special during our time in Jerusalem.

We checked into the really nice Crowne Plaza Hotel, our home for the next four nights. The teens are really excited and happy to be here. We have lots planned to see and do over the next few days, including an uplifting musical “Welcome to Jerusalem,” with shofar, drums and dancing! We will spend our days and evenings touring sites, getting in as much as we can.

Charlotte from Stand With Us, an Israel education organization focusing on Israel advocacy, led a fantastic workshop this evening, the first of several we will have during the trip. Teens will learn important advocacy skills and begin to formulate their own “Israel story” to share with family and friends.

We will be at the Wall on Friday night, when we will join thousands of other Jewish people, our Family, our brothers and sisters from around the world, for what will truly be a magical experience for your kids.

Be happy knowing that everyone is well and excited and fully engaged in the Y2I experience. They are especially excited to be in Jerusalem!

With love from 2017 Y2I in Jerusalem.

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