hello from new york! i’m back on american soil and aching to share with you all a taste of my experiences. i’m going to try and take you on a logistical tour, sprinkled with a little ashley-flavor. of course, writings tend to take on a direction of their own so…we’ll travel the words together! for anyone reading this that was a part of the trip, PLEASE add your own comments and expand the perspective. i can only share one view…i love to see things through other people’s eyes. (and just to note, i haven’t read through all of the links…they’re just there for those that are interested in learning more of the places i mention.)
Day 1: the airplane took off and landed, everyone clapped. our first destination was the old city of jerusalem. a quick jolt into the land and culture, history and awe of the country that would host us for the next two weeks. my tired and disoriented body first experienced the western wall, cloaked in the darkness of the night. (fyi- the men and women are separated when visiting the wall.)
from my journal: “dovening, chanting, whispers from generations past sprinkling down around me. showering me….
the wall- the kotel- was definitely moving. feeling such an awareness of my ancestry. i was bent over, squatting, my hands and forehead against the wall. it felt like water. the light flickering through to me from the dovening women above me… rhythmically rocking, whispering prayers. it bathed over me. the females of my past sending their spirit like water, protecting me from above. i felt separate below–underneath my shield of confusion and separateness from the judaism…and yet so connected to the ancestry.”
i’ll go ahead and share that a major intention of this trip was for me to connect my spirituality with Judaism. as you can see from the experiences of my first day. there were some definite barriers with which i needed to deal.
Day 2: crawling through caves used during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt . tightness, claustrophobia, imagining living underground…at the threat of being captured. we entered through a hole in the ground and shimmied our way through the tunnels on all fours and at times sliding on our stomachs. tight spaces opened into huge caves. it was amazing how my body responded to being in such an environment. everything just tightened up and condensed in…like holding my breathe with my whole body, and breathing at the same time.
Day 3: back to the western wall, the kotel, and an incredible tour guided by ester through the tunnels underneath the old city, leading to the western wall. We then explored the old city of Jaffo, next to tel-aviv.
Day 4: we did our first community service work, painting the walls of an old building that is being fixed up and used for a school. then we went to yad-vashem, the holocaust museum. this museum is absolutely amazing. there are different structures, buildings, areas that communicate such a feeling and message in their very composition. i can’t really explain it…you’ll just have to visit. i returned with my friend sarah after the birthright trip was over and explored more of the incredible exhibits outside and around the museum. the most moving place to me was the children’s memorial. here are the words from the official website “Memorial candles, a customary Jewish tradition to remember the dead, are reflected infinitely in a dark and somber space, creating the impression of millions of stars shining in the firmament. The names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin can be heard in the background.”
inside the museum we met a man (can someone remind me of his name?) who was a survivor of the holocaust. walking through he showed us pictures of his town, the barrack that he dwelled in while a captive at auschwitz, and shared about how he was getting ready to make his first trip back to his hometown and to Auschwitz since the holocaust… his pride in being able to walk in and walk out on his own accord…alive. he helped so much to put the words and pictures into some sort of a reality. i can still hear him inside my head repeating, “i was only 12 years old. i was still incomplete.”
from my journal: “for such trauma to sweep into your life and take hold of you–gripping on for the rest of your life…60 some years later, he still speaks of being incomplete. what strength must be in a people to be able to endure such a harsh, traumatic life/living…such a reality to be theirs….??????”
Day 5: jerusalem time elevator (kindof like a ride). shabbat dinner and a late night of amazing conversations… i’ll stop on that note. it must be a given that the entirety of this trip was fueled by nourishing conversations with so many amazing people.