Home in the Holy Land Part 1: Jerusalem

One of the reasons that I started this blog two years ago was for my semester abroad in Israel.  It is so crazy to think how long ago that already was, especially since it is so hard for me to be away from the country that I love.  A love of Israel and Zionism is practically a genetic trait in my family!  My grandparents spent time in Israel in the early days of Statehood, and I have relatives who founded a Kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee BEFORE Statehood.  My family lived there when I was a kid, and my dad runs an education company teaching adults the history of Zionism and Israel.  In addition to school and a part-time job, I work for him doing marketing, social media, and other odd jobs.  So when it came time for my dad’s company trip, I knew I had to get in on it!  This involved some begging, crying, arguing, and a now-broken promise to clean out my childhood bedroom.  But my dad is the best, and he never says no to me or my sister, so it was off to Israel!!!  We had such an amazing trip; my dad is my favorite person to be in Israel with because his love for the country is so great and it just fills my heart with so much happiness to watch him be there and to share in the love.  He also knows everything about the country, past and present, so you’re traveling with a walking guidebook!  Every time I go to Israel, I never want to leave, and I count the days until I go back…..

11721334_10152831568216571_224039349_nDad took this picture of me before takeoff.  You can’t tell, but I kept crying with happiness just thinking about landing in Tel Aviv.

10941906_10152633578581571_4530696922137226725_nDaddy in front of his tour bus looking so proud!

11774297_10152831568201571_269022170_nFirst of many pictures I took in the hotel.  Dad and I had the Presidential Suite, complete with our own gorgeous patio!

DSC09655Our first night in Jerusalem we went for a midnight walk on the Old City rooftops…

11759517_10152831568191571_1540487059_n…And then we walked all the way back to the hotel across the valley

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.00.21 PMMorning sun streaming into our beautiful suite at the Mount Zion Hotel

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.00.35 PMShopping in the Shuk (open-air market)

10373092_10152635491336571_1221265461106378048_oI was so happy to go to my favorite fruit juice stand in the Shuk.  I used to come here almost every week when my family lived in Israel.

11078132_10152635491341571_3795477998834279071_oDried fruit, nuts, and spices in the Shuk

11154810_10152635480751571_2703766279640285091_oI picked up about 2 pounds of Halvah (sesame paste cake) for my dad while he napped.  It comes in a million flavors and is such a delicious dessert.  We always bring a ton back to America and eat it in small portions for months!

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.01.35 PMIncredible view from the hotel suite

11774424_10152831568171571_147639285_nOur hotel has been around longer than the state of Israel, and this ancient-style Hammam (Turkish Bath) is part of its Old-World charm.  I spent half an hour in here sweating and exfoliating with Dead Sea salts, and it was magical.  This picture doesn’t do the magnificent room justice!

11174496_10152638296656571_287352047668369289_oOn Saturday we went shopping in the Arab Shuk in the Old City.  The sweet owner of this amazing shop taught me how to tie scarves in five different ways, and then used me as a model to show other customers.

11774561_10152831568161571_321594594_nThis store in the Arab Shuk has belonged to the same family for over 300 years!  It is a treasure trove of jewelry, scarves, and ceramics, with an ancient well in the middle of the shop.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.07.02 PMMy father, the modern-day Herzl, overlooking the country that he loves.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.02.34 PMWe spent a day at the Security Fence and in the West Bank

11774273_10152831567971571_1772548994_nI’ve been to Israel so many times, but this was my first time at the Security Fence.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.06.40 PMDaddy and I in the West Bank, also known by the Biblical name Judea and Samaria

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.07.31 PMHad a great visit with one of my oldest, dearest friends (and my junior prom date!) who made Aliyah and joined the army.

DSC00278We spent Israel’s Memorial Day at Mount Herzl, the national cemetery.  It was so awe-inspiring and heartbreaking to see soldiers in tears at the graves of their friends.  I can’t even put into words how different it is from American Memorial Day…

DSC00296Probably the most emotional scene I have ever witnessed.  Because there are many lone soldiers (soldiers who come from other countries to join the Israeli forces) buried at Mount Herzl, soldiers go around and pray at each grave so that no fallen soldier will be alone on Yom HaZikaron.  There was a newer part of the cemetery where the soldiers who lost their lives last summer are buried, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to see their families cry besides their graves.  I didn’t take any pictures there out of respect.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.08.00 PMAfter a morning at Mount Herzl, we walked to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum.  Here I am in the Valley of the Communities, looking up at one of the walls bearing the names of over 5000 Jewish communities wiped out by the Nazis.  My ancestral towns, Lubieszow and Ratno are listed towards the top.  There are 106 other walls in the Valley.

11225588_10152674981591571_127943551_nDaddy trying to cheer us up as we finished a long day of remembering fallen soldiers and victims of the Holocaust.  We went straight to Tel Aviv as the country prepared to go from mourning to celebrating its Independence Day…

That’s all on the Jerusalem photo diary, so next up, Tel Aviv!

XX, Gabrielle

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