Friday, February 12, 2016

Israel Day 1: Herzl and shuk

Wow. It is rather surreal for most of us that we are actually in Israel. We sat on the patio this afternoon talking about that fact- we are here, where thousands upon thousands of Jews stood before over thousands of years. Over breakfast, which was a buffet unlike any I'd seen before, we talked about how we slept, and while the guys seemed to sleep fine (shocker) us ladies, not so well. At one point when I woke up, around 2:43 am I think, I opened the curtains and just looked down on Jerusalem, not fully comprehending that I'm actually here.

The day started with a visit to the Herzl museum.  We were shuttled there by our driver from yesterday, who is a nice gentleman named Mahor (I know I spelled it wrong!). The museum itself was rather small, much smaller than I expected, but it packed a massive impact within the four rooms it housed. I think that Israel had to have pioneered the 4D theater experience, because that's pretty much what each room was. We were part of a movie playing, different scenes in each room, sharing the life of Theodor Herzl, the history of the Zionist movement, and the re-birth of Jerusalem as the heart of the future home of Israel and her people.

The grounds were beautiful, so lush and green. While Herzl died before he could witness his dream of Israel being recognized as a country, he knew it was only a matter of time before it happened, so he asked to ultimately be buried there, and his tomb rests on the grounds of the museum honoring his legacy on Mt. Herzl.  We saw so many memories for others through the the gardens, it was a moving place to visit.  There were multiple school groups there, too, and one group was assembled near a larger memorial singing and it was beautiful. 

From the calmness of the Herzl Museum, we headed to the opposite end of the spectrum: The Shuk. People say you have to experience the Shuk on Shabbat. Well.  They might have to, but it was not terribly enjoyable for me. Too many people, all pushing with voice and body, down streets too narrow, all made my anxiety spike. And yet, I survived. I even bought some incredible strawberries and grapes for us to snack on tomorrow (they were so delicious that I may or may not have tasted a few already!). It was a great place to watch people- haggling everywhere, speaking multiple languages, the smells of the spice stores and restaurants..... We actually spent some time at the Rosemary spice store, recommended from someone back home.  It was amazing! The smells were mouth watering, and many of us actually got to taste the spices as well as smell their aroma! Purchases were made, smiles exchanged, and we continued our search for delicious Israeli treats. 

Now. While I wasn't fond of the Shuk, we are planning to head back later in our visit, when it isn't so crazy. That will (hopefully) be more tolerable. One of my goals this trip is to work on working through challenging and uncomfortable situations like the one today (and the airplane ride), which I actually did today!

Tonight's dinner was a delicious meat buffet with so many different things to try.  The stuffed chicken was my favorite food. That said, my favorite part of dinner was being surrounded by tables full of people celebrating Shabbat. The hotel became full as people checked in for Shabbat, and families of all sizes recited blessings and shared in what was a lovely Shabbat dinner. 

We wrapped day one enjoying a continuation of our patio conversations from the afternoon. I think that one of the best parts about being in Israel with a small group like this is the connections we are deepening with each other. Tonight further reminded me how lucky I am to work with such wonderful people!

Until tomorrow.... Shabbat Shalom from "home!"

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