Written by Lea-Rachel Kosnik

The morning, began with an early breakfast and checkout from our cabins at Kibbutz Dalia in Yokneam, then it was onto the bus for our drive to Jerusalem! On the way we learned important history from our guide, Yona, aided by his informativeand colorful maps. We stopped midway on our journey to Jerusalem to take in Kochav Yair, which overlooks the Disputed Territory/West Bank. We viewed old trenches from previous skirmishes, now grown over with weeds, and watched a tall flag of Israel flap in the breeze. It was a warm, clear day and as we took in the sights Yona continued to fill us in on the history and significance of what we were seeing.

Before continuing on our journey to Jerusalem we made one more stop, at the private home of Yona! He was gracious enough to introduce us to his lovely wife, Anat, and other family members (including two adorable dogs), and serve us pita bread topped cheese and Za’atar, labneh, and iced coffee (as a Separdic Jew from Turkey, let me add that the food reminded me very much of a vegetarian lahmacun). The main purpose, however, was to use the bathrooms!

One hour later, we began our ascent upwards into Jerusalem, a city for which nothing can really prepare you. Yona played the song Yerushalyim shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold), which my grandmother used to sing to my mother as a child, and for which my mother years later asked my grandmother to sing to her on her deathbed. There were tears as we entered the city and the colors, sounds, and smells surrounded us.

Next we went to the Shuk/Machane Yehuda market, which was packed in preparation for Shabbat. We ate lunch (more amazing falafel), bought colorful bags of spices, and tasted numerous flavors of halvah.

After checking into our hotel we had a one of a kind visit from Ruth Wasserman Lande, a current member of the Israeli Kinesset from the Blue and White Party. She was amazing, not just for making the effort to come all the way to us on a Friday afternoon just before Shabbat, but for her wealth of knowledge and patience with all our questions.

With barely an hour in our rooms to freshen up and dress, we gathered by 5pm in the lobby of the hotel in our skirts and collared shirts and made our way to the Western Wall. Mindee had us all close our eyes and she led us to the best possible view of the Temple Mount and Wall and Jerusalem, and only when we were standing right in front of it all did she have us all open our eyes – Wow! We stood in awe and contemplation for a few minutes before we said a prayer with some wine, and then walked down into the holiest place on earth for Jews.  Men went to one side, the women to the other. I can tell you that on the women’s side, at least, none of us left without tears in our eyes. It was an incredible feeling to be at the Wall on Shabbat, indescribable really.

Finally, after a bit of a walk that assured our appetite, we made our way to the home of Rabbi Ian Pear his wife Rachel, and their six lively children. We had a traditional Shabbat meal, shared stories around the table, and were grateful to end the day on such a gracious note of hospitality. The Israeli people have opened their hearts and homes to us, and for this we Rubinites continue to be amazed, and humbled.