December 21, 2013
The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and we were on our way to beautiful Tel Aviv. Bus one was privileged enough to have in-flight entertainment, courtesy of Perry Weinstock. He entertained half the bus with his hilarious stories and jokes. When we got to Tel-Aviv, the weather was gorgeous, blue sky and the sun on our backs was a welcome change to snowy Jerusalem.
Meirav, our new tour guide replacing Yaakov while he is on reserve duty, took us to Rabin Square, where we sat on the grass and she told us about the history of the area. Besides being a place where book fairs and memorial days were held, it was well known to be the place where Yitzchak Rabin, Israel’s Prime Minister was assassinated. In 1995 Rabin, King Hussein (Jordan), and Bill Clinton were discussing the Oslo agreements, to give over pieces of land from Israel, in exchange for peace. This caused great conflict amongst the citizens of the State, as some believed it to be the right choice and others didn’t for various reasons.
On the 4th of November 1995, at a rally in Rabin Square, where the famous song ‘Shir Hashalom’ was sung by Miri Alon, three gun shots reverberated across the square and the life of Yitzchak Rabin was taken away. The lyrics of ‘Shira Hashalom’, that Rabin had been holding while standing on stage, were found in his breast-pocket stained with his blood, a song of peace stained with the blood of a murdered Prime Minister who had planned to make peace.
The concept of anyone killing the Prime Minister seemed unfathomable to many, let alone a Jew killing another Jew. Personally, after being to Poland, the idea of a Jew killing another Jew, besides not being moral, is also sad and brings a feeling that the hope of the Jews prevailing is lost to an extent. After millions of us were murdered in the Holocaust, 45 years later, a Jew ends up killing a Jew, in the negotiations for peace itself. Later the education minister blamed the assassination on people not being educated, and decided that tolerance topics needed to be put into the education system.
We were then given free time to roam the streets of Tel Aviv around the square. Many people went to Aroma, and Re-Bar. The best part was that in the square there were deck chairs and we lay down on them in front of a Lillie pond under the beautiful hot sun.
The city of Yafo was our next stop, it was beautiful and you could see the coast of Tel-Aviv and the Mediterranean sea all from the one lookout. It was another old city and the architecture was so cultured. We learnt that it was one of the most ancient ports in the world, and Merav read out the story of Jonah and the Whale from the Tanach. It was really interesting as it was written so long ago and we were standing in the same area where the story of Jonah occurred. Yafo port is also famous for its exports of oranges, as well as thousands of immigrants, of various ethnicities, who have arrived at Yafo over the last century.
After a delicious lunch of various pasta’s and sandwiches, we continued to Independence Hall where the State of Israel was declared by David Ben Gurion on May 14th 1948. We watched a film about the founding of the Jewish State and then went to the actual room where independence was declared. What was really surprising, was that nothing was original, not even the chairs or tables. Since the invitees were only informed the day before, everything was very rushed. Invitations were sent out secretly and all the items were borrowed from people, such as; chairs, carpets, tables, and so on. They were therefore returned after the declaration. We also heard the speech by David Ben Gurion and the original version of Hatikva that was broadcasted live across that nation.
We then walked to Shuk HaCarmel, there were so many of us on the one street it was incredibly overwhelming. It was a surprising and powerful moment as it just really reminded me, how many of us there actually were, and that we had gone through Poland and Israel together, as the participants of IST 2013. At the shuk, some people went and bought heaps of sugary lollies and T-shirts, as well as appreciating the amazing glass works in the artist quarter. Last but not least, who could forget the food and fresh juices.
On the bus Laurence Boss surprised us all, he had bought lollies for everyone. What a mensch!
Once evening fell, we all went to Azrieli mall where we split up to have free time. Digging into delicious burgers or shopping in places like Forever 21, or even just meeting up with family or friends. We were all really excited to see Eli Kopel, Moriah’s old Hesder boy, who came to visit us in the mall. We hadn’t seen him for around half a year, and it just reminded me that it’s really important to keep in contact with people. Even if I don’t know them for so long, it just makes trips to places like Israel that much more meaningful. We jumped back on the bus to Netanya and settled in for a good nights sleep ahead of the excitement of what tomorrow may bring.