Sunday, January 20, 2013

Taglit Mayanot Day 10: The Kotel Tunnels

I am transcribing my Birthright journal, a day by day account of my time in Israel. To start at the beginning, click here!

January 6, 2013

Hebrew word of the day: Para Para (פּרה פּרה) = one thing at a time

This morning we went to a senior living facility to hang out with the residents. I got to talk to a man named Zvi, who was born in Denmark in 1943. His family had to flee to Sweden to escape the Nazis and lived there for two years before returning to Denmark in 1945. At the age of 24, in 1967, Zvi made Aliyah. He served as a commander in the army for fifteen years and then went to school and got two PhDs - one in math, the other in immunochemistry. He spent his life studying cancer. He has two daughters, one son, and seven grandchildren. Talking to him was a great experience. When I asked how he came to live in Israel, he said, "because I wanted to live in Israel," as if there were no conflict, no fear of leaving behind the land of his childhood and the life he had built there.

We had lunch in the Jewish Quarter and then went to the Kotel, where three of our group members became Bar and Bat Mitzvah. After the ceremony, we went down to the Wall, men on one side of the mechitza and women on the other. The guys wrapped tefillin and we all said the Sh'ma. There were more women than men at the Wall today, so we had to push our way to the front of the crowd to stick our notes to God in the Wall. When I got up to the Wall, I said the Sh'ma again and Shehecheyanu before sticking my little note in the wall.

The Western Wall
It started to rain just as we were entering the Kotel tunnels, which was perfect timing. The tunnels are excavated under the Muslim Quarter to see more of the Western Wall. There were a number of (mostly) women down there praying. The holiest spot along the Western Wall, the closest point to what used to be the Holy of Holies, is in the tunnels. It was very cool and unreal to be there.

Read about my last day in Israel (for now)!