“Have mercy, Lord, and return to Jerusalem. Your city. May Your Presence dwell there as You have promised. Build it now, in our days, and for all time. Reestablish there the majesty of David. Your servant, Praised are you, Lord who builds Jerusalem.”
The French may love Paris. Americans have allegiance to Washington, D.C. Italians are proud of Rome. But no people in history have ever pined for their capital city in the way that Jews have longed for Jerusalem. These are the words Yoni shared with us today as we made the ascent to Jerusalem from the Judean Desert. We had an introduction to the geography and history of the city while taking in the wondrous views from the Haas Promenade, with the full splendor of Jerusalem spread before us.
We then enjoyed burgers atop the Promenade and some reflections on our Israel experience so far with Yitzhak Sokoloff, the founder of Keshet, our tour provider. He asked, “Do you feel like you are this really strange place?” “No, I feel like I’ve come home because I’m not used to being with so many Jews in one place,” Benji said. “You went to a Jewish day school and live in Squirrel Hill!” his friends reminded him gently. Yitzhak said that Israeli Jews don’t see American Jews as tourists from a foreign country. “We see a bunch of relatives who are Jews,” he said. “You shouldn’t feel like you have come to someone else’s land; you have a home here.”
We then had a half-hour where we were ONLY allowed to speak in Hebrew (with chocolate rewards!) on the way to Machane Yehuda (Jerusalem Market) to stock up on freshly baked rugelach, fruit, and other goodies for Shavuot.
Tonight, we will have an abridged Tikkun Leil Shavuot of our own and then wake up before dawn to join the thousands of people in sunrise prayer at the Kotel, celebrating the giving of the Torah. No cameras allowed, but we’ll share the experience in words and impressions after the holiday.
Chag Shavuot Sameach, CDS friends and family!
P.S. – Here is the camel from the rest stop en route to Jerusalem … captions welcome.