There’s an episode Friends that takes place in real time, in which the crew is desperately struggling to get ready in time for a Paleontology dinner in which Ross is getting honored. At one point, Phoebe is noshing on some hummus, where she spills a glob of it on her dress. As she put it, “I got the hummus! I got the hummus!” Well folks, today, I got the hummus. More on that later.
So anyway, here we are. Jerusalem. After 20 years, 10 months, and four weeks, I finally made it. The heart of Israel, the heart of Judaism, the holiest place in the world. If my language seems all too grandiose to you, then I’m doing my job. “Grandiose” seemed to be the theme of the day, and it started right from the top. About five minutes before our first destination, bandanas we had been carrying, whose purposes were shrouded in mystery, made their debut, and were used to blindfold us. With some careful help from our advisors and soldiers, we were led out from the bus, on a 2 minute-walk, and after a few words about the city of Jerusalem, Ronen told us to remove our blindfolds. And there it was. Standing on a hill just south of the city, we got a panoramic view of the entire city, the same view Abraham saw, just before taking his son Isaac up to be sacrificed. All he saw was mountains and desert, but we got something a little different. It was a picturesque moment that none of us are soon to forget.
After soaking in the view for a little bit, we made our way to the Old City. We trekked through its alleyways, and in a day full of grandiose moments, we emerged at the Western Wall. As per custom, men and women separated, and we made our way up. You’ll get some different perspectives from both sides of the wall from guest columnists soon, but for now, all you have is me.
This was a special, special experience. All the men donned tzfillin-the first time I had done so in my life; it couldn’t have been more appropriate-wrote our prayers down, recited the sh’ma, various psalms, and each went about our own unique way of placing our prayers in the wall. I don’t think I’m going to return from this trip with a religious revelation, completely changing the way I practice my religion, but there’s no denying that this was a special, holy experience.
After taking it all in, we got some photo opportunities, reunited with the ladies on the plaza, and celebrated the B’nai Mitzvah of Dan, Paul, Jamie, and Jessica, as well as the giving of Hebrew names to Kat, Sam, Izzy, and Jordana. It was an awesome moment for them, and for the rest of us. We got to celebrate with song and dance right outside the wall. Some bystanding Israeli soldiers even joined us, which was a bunch of fun. Hopefully we can get one of the new Bar or Bat Mitzvah to write a guest post to give you some better insight.
We toured a little bit more throughout the Old City, checked out the ruins of the southwest end of the temple, and got some time to stroll about the Old City for lunch and shopping.
Oh, right, about that intro from before. So me, Ethan, Andrew, Chicago Rachel, Jen Goldstein, Alecia, Shir, and Rabbi Levi went for lunch. It was all fun and games, until I learned the hard way that the laffa surrounding my shwarma madness wasn’t wrapped as tight as I thought. As soon as I bit into the delectable goodness, a stream of creamy hummus made its way onto my white khaki shorts. There was no club soda or Tide To Go in sight. I thought back to the plight of Phoebe Buffay. She opted to cover the stain up with a Christmas ornament. I don’t know many things, but I can be fairly certain that wasn’t an option for me.
I sucked it up, finished my meal, and made my way about the shops. Mom and dad, rest easy, I got little ditties for each of you. Alex, stand by. Yours is coming soon, I promise.
We finished up in the Old City, headed back to the hotel for a Taste of Jewish Learning with Rabbi Braun, where we dabbled in a little lesson in companionship, and made our way to where we are now, on the bus to the Taglit Mega Event. I’m from Plainview, NY, and I go to Binghamton University, so when I was told this is going to be the biggest gathering of Jews I attend in my life, I wanted to retort. I’d probably lose, though. All things aside, we’re all pretty excited for the event. Rumors of Matisyahu, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Lou Bega, and Los Del Rio performing at the event have all been circulating, but they all seem to be as true as, well, something that isn’t true at all. (I tried to think of something to complete the simile, but nothing came to mind. Sorry).
Alright, we’re parking, so I’ve gotta go. Laila Tov!