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…..
Morning sun streaming into our beautiful suite at the Mount Zion Hotel
I 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!
Our 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!
On 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.
My father, the modern-day Herzl, overlooking the country that he loves.
We 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…
Probably 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.
After 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.
Daddy 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!