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Day 8

Monday, 16 January, 2012 - 4:49 pm

Out of the hotel and into Jerusalem!  After a few days of feeling cooped up and rained in causing a bit of cabin fever (with the exception of yesterday of course), we finally spent an entire day outside in the sun in the holeyest of places: Jerusalem. After a brief religious learning activity in the hotel following breakfast, the group excitedly boarded our caravan – the bus, so very ready to explore!

We began in Old Jerusalem. Kuti, our guide led us through significant ruins providing informative stints at each location. Occasionally Kuti was interrupted by noisy Israeli school kids playing outside (extremely cute too) or passing garbage pickup trucks. Although distracting, it was an interesting mix of modern living within the ancient sites. We ended the morning tour in front of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish quarter. Next stop: Shopping!

Two glorious hours to skip merrily along the cobblestone alleyways and spend hundreds of shekels (souvenirs for parents obviously) were just what we needed. We bought jewelry, scarfs, Israeli Army t-shirt, and falafel- our new favorite food. We explored a roofed market lined with a variety of stores. The jewelry shops effectively lured us tourists in with beautiful rings, necklaces, and shiny menorahs. We like shiny things.  But some prices were steep, so many found financial refuge in a forbidden area: the Muslim quarter. Of course we were warned by our guides to avoid the “Narrow streets after a big gate”, but that was as effective as a parent telling their child in a candy shop to look but don’t eat. We obviously shopped there anyways. Many did well with their purchases in the Muslim quarter by bargaining down prices and ignoring pushy sellers. Then, there were those of us that fell victim to inflated prices and persuasive trickery- myself included :-/.

After our two hour break we joined together once again to prepare for the much anticipated visit to the Western Wall. We wrote our wishes, folded then tightly, listened to Mendel make a Lchaim, then made our way to one of the most historic Jewish sites. Girls to the right and boys to the left. We visited the Wall in two separate groups but all felt the unified in the spiritual experience. To me, this was the most moving part of the entire birthright trip. What amazed me the most was the years of history embedded in the stones. The boys and girls reunited in the square where the people who had Bar/Bat Mitzvahs the night before received official certificates of recognition.

Our day in Jerusalem ended with an explanation and visit to the ancient Michvas and a brief movie viewing in a Western Wall museum. We then boarded our bus once again to start our three hour journey to the south. Tonight we stay in a Bedouin tent and tomorrow, Masada. Today was a long day followed by an even longer one tomorrow. But the excitement to experience more fuels us!


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