Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taglit Mayanot Day 7: Jerusalem & Mt. Herzl

Welcome to the transcription of my Birthright journal, where I chronicled my day by day activities and thoughts in Israel. To start at the beginning, click here!
January 3, 2013

Hebrew word of the day: Tikvah (תקווה) = Hope

The Bedouin have excellent food, but terrible sleeping conditions. Sleeping on a thin mat on the ground in a cold tent is super uncomfortable. But even being cold, sore, and exhausted couldn't ruin my day, because today we are going to Jerusalem!

First things first, we got up at 7:00 AM to ride camels and eat breakfast. Camels are really cool and have a lot of personality. We were told by our Bedouin guide not to show our camels love (no petting, etc), but my camel and I had a good time anyway. Look, he's smiling!

After breakfast, we hit the road for Teva Tech a pharmaceutical company. They have videos and interactive stations to explain how they put the "active ingredient" in your medicine. It had the potential to be really boring, but turned out to be pretty cool.

Jerusalem was my most highly anticipated part of the trip. When we got close to the city, we sang Jerusalem by Matisyahu and as we were singing, we rounded a bend in the road and there it was!

First sight of Jerusalem
This was the beginning of one of the most emotional days of my life. It started out light-hearted enough, between the singing and lunch. We stopped at a food court kind of place and there was a kosher McDonalds that I found really impressive. Not all McDonalds in Israel are kosher, but this one was and it had two separate sides, one for meat and one for dairy, with separate entrances and everything. We didn't eat there though. Instead, we got pizza and iced coffee. I don't usually drink coffee, but if we had this stuff in the US, I would drink it all the time. It's like a coffee slushy. It's a good thing Israeli coffee is so good, because I needed it after yesterday.

I was fully awake for the next part of the day: Mt. Herzl cemetery. I bawled my eyes out through the whole thing as we heard stories of our fallen heroes from Ariel and our soldiers. I cried more when we sang Hatikvah and said "until we meet again" to our soldiers. I miss them already.

After dinner we met in the hotel's bomb shelter for Yad Vashem prep. We went around the room and talked about our feelings about the Holocaust and the importance of Yad Vashem. I broke down crying in front of forty people and didn't even care. It doesn't matter who you are, the Holocaust should make you sick to your stomach. The violence and hatred and death is incomprehensible. And yet it is important that we remember it, to give meaning to the senseless loss of life and to celebrate our survival. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, we got the strong and beautiful State of Israel. Yad Vashem is an important piece of keeping history alive. As a history major with a focus in museum studies and a former intern at the Field Museum in Chicago, I believe in the importance of memory, specifically regarding the Holocaust in our generation. We will be the last generation to interact with Shoah survivors. How we memorialize the people who perished and remember the atrocities of the Holocaust will be important for ensuring that future generations remain connected to it. I can't wait to see how Yad Vashem encapsulates the horrors of the past, the hopes for the future, and the wide range of emotions that we all expressed in the hotel bomb shelter.

Read my thoughts on Yad Vashem and Shabbat at the Kotel!