The journey began in the Community Day School parking lot on Wednesday morning—well, actually, for our 8th Grade “lifers,” it began nine years ago. As Maya K. said today, “I’ve been waiting for this ever since kindergarten!”
And today, at 4 p.m. Jerusalem time, after 10 hours and 5,800 miles across the Atlantic and over Europe, we landed at Ben Gurion International Airport, with a mixture of joy, relief, and exhaustion. Greeting us at the airport were our madricha, Liora, and tour guide, Samuel, from Keshet, the educational tourism group running our trip. Roman the bus driver was ready and waiting outside to take us on the ride up to Jerusalem.
Along the way, Aaron recited in Hebrew the Tefilat Haderech (Traveler’s Prayer):
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ יְ-יָ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ וֵא-לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ. שֶׁתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם
And Eitan followed with a recitation of this prayer for a safe journey in English:
“May it be Your will, G-d, our G-d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace.”
Our first stop was Mount Scopus (“Mount of the Watchmen” – skopos, as in telescope), a ridge of hills northeast of Jerusalem that offers breathtaking views of the city, both ancient and modern. We began there with a brief history lesson and a refresher in Israel geography using Josh’s body posed like a ballerina as a makeshift map.
Huddled on the ground from the wind and the smoky air (lingering bonfires?), Liora gave us a short “D’var” connecting Lag B’Omer and the importance of treating our friends respectfully throughout the trip. Then we recited Shehechiyanu with grape juice and sang Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (“Jerusalem of Gold”) together in a circle at this historic site.
We ended with a hamburger dinner (complete with hummus and Heinz ketchup, of course, for these Pittsburgh kids) and then settled into our hotel for a good night’s sleep before a busy pre-Shabbat day tomorrow.
Here’s how everyone was feeling tonight in one or two words about being in Israel:
Eitan: Slightly hungry
Ari: Slightly hungrier (hamburgers were still on their way …)
Dylan G.: Sick (as in crazy cool)
Justin and Dylan L.: Sweet
Maya: Super duper excited
Leo: Awesome experience
Stay tuned for photos and video from the City of David …