After an intense three days, we were all too happy to spend a restful Shabbat in Jerusalem. We all did our own thing, whatever each of us needed to recharge his batteries-some rested, some met with their kids living in Israel, and some chose to wander Jerusalem’s mystical streets.
We met again in the evening for a special Havdalah with our friend, Rabbi Boaz and we ushered in the week with song.
It’s a good thing that yesterday was the day of rest because today was full of joy, wonder, and emotion. We drove to the Zion Gate for our first visit to the Old City. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we walked the ancient streets with our guides as well as Rabbis Avi and Boaz. Rabbi Boaz was raised in the Old City and shared some of her hidden secrets with us.
After seeing King David’s tomb and the Cardo, we descended the steps to the Kotel, resplendent in the late morning sun.
Being in Judaism’s holiest site inspired some of us to pray and some to place notes in the cracks of the wall, hoping our private wishes would come true.
We had a yummy lunch at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and then we drove in the early afternoon to Yad Vashem for what was sure to be a powerful experience. Our guide, Ewa Lutkiewicz spoke perfect Polish and was extremely knowledgeable.
As you might imagine, visiting Yad Vashem is particularly difficult for Holocaust survivors but we were glad to be there nonetheless. For many of us, saved by non-Jewish Poles, visiting the Garden of the Righteous which commemorates their heroism was the highlight of our trip to Israel so far.
We were honored to be hosted after our tour by educators and guides from Yad Vashem who asked us to tell them our stories so that they might live on and be passed to the next generation. It wasn’t easy and tears were shed but we emerged feeling strong, united, and proud that we were able to help.
We left Yad Vashem saddened by the terrible loss but knowing that our stories of survival belong to the whole Jewish world and mirror the story of the Jewish people: Against all odds, we not only survive but thrive.