What a busy past few days! On Monday, we started our day at the new Tower of David museum. It explained the history of the old city, and we climbed 91 stairs to get to a fantastic view of the old city. After we left the museum, we “walked on the walls” as our tour guide Or said, aka, we did the ramparts walk. We sped through to try to avoid staying in the sun for too long but the views were awesome. After the walk, we trekked over to the Jewish Quarter. There, we had pizur lunch and some time to walk around, explore, and shop. In the Jewish Quarter, many teens bought cool Jewlery, mezuzas and other Jewish trinkets. In the afternoon, we made our way over towards the Kotel, or the Western Wall. Before going, we talked about the significance and everyone had the opportunity to write prayers and messages to stick in the wall. At the wall, we all had the opportunity to touch it, deposit our messages and take some time to reflect and pray. Many of the boys got to wrap tefillin! On our way back from the Kotel, our 25 minute drive turned into a 2 -hour drive as we were stuck in standstill traffic but some much needed naps were taken, as well as lots of time for group singalong. After some down time at the hotel, we walked to Cinema City for pizur dinner. It was nice to take some time in the air-conditioned space and spread out to enjoy dinner. A quick walk back to the hotel and some good quality hanging out led to a lovely night!

On Tuesday, we were back in the old city but this time at the Temple Mount. It was really special to get to visit and learn about why this space is so holy to so many groups besides Jews. Even though we weren’t allowed in the buildings there, we were able to walk around and take pictures of the beautiful architecture and art surrounding us. As we left the Temple Mount, we walked to the Christian Quarter to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Again, it was cool to hear about the history of the building as well as the amount of people who consider this to be such a meaningful physical space for them. We had a delicious hummus lunch (dare I say the best hummus we’ve eaten on this trip so far) with all the accouterments like pita, falafel, Israeli salad, schug, and refreshing limonada, at a local restaurant in the Muslim quarter. As we were digesting lunch, we left the Old City through the Damascus gate, and walked into East Jerusalem to a bookstore. The bookstore is a place that prides itself in teaching people about the Palestinian perspective in Israel. In the bookstore, we heard from a Palestinian man who resides in East Jerusalem about his experiences and opinions on culture, treatment and overall geopolitics of the area. Back at the hotel that night, we heard from another speaker who discussed the importance of seeing multiple perspectives to gain a full understanding of any situation. He discussed an Israeli perspective of the conflict and encouraged our teens to question not only what he said, but everything they hear while they’re here. We ate dinner at the hotel and hung out, taking some time to process our experiences from the day.

Stay cool (because it’s hot here),

Havaya Israel 2023