Day 8 - Flying to Israel & The Kotel
"Out of darkness comes light" - a quote which completely embodies and reflects the journey that we have just experienced whilst leaving behind the horrors of Poland and entering our homeland, Israel.
Israel, the Holy Land, & home are all common names which can be used to describe the place, the land on which we disembark today. The ground which acts as the incubator for thousands of memories which will inevitably be made by the 160 people participating in the Israel Study Tour of 2016.
We had an early start to the day with a 5:45 wake up call. Although this occurred several mornings throughout the week, today everyone was eager and overcome with excitement towards arriving in Israel. The atmosphere within the breakfast hall today immensely contrasted the past week as we were finally beginning the journey we have all been waiting for, a journey to remember.
We arrived at the Polish airport in Warsaw and are greeted with snow as we all rushed off the bus, this truly made our trip and was the perfect ending to such an informative and confronting experience. Everyone checked in and we waited, consumed by mixed emotions towards the next 5 weeks ahead. We boarded the El Al flight and even in that moment I was proud to be Jewish whilst being greeted with a smile by the Israeli flight hostesses. The plane was filled with hundreds of conversations and evolving friendships. There was not a quiet moment throughout the three and a half hours on the plane.
The plane touched down on Israeli soil and it hit me for the very first time, the journey of a lifetime has just commenced. There is one goal above all, we need to capture and cherish each and every moment because we will be back in Sydney within the blink of an eye. The plane roared with cheers and echoed with laughter. We were finally in Israel, we had arrived home at last. The singing of "Am Yisrael Chai" and the countdown from 10 until we touched the precious land of Israel became a reality in a matter of seconds. Anyone surrounding where I was located on the plane, observed my sheer excitement and felt how uncontrollably contempt I really was. The whole of IST disembarked from the plane, collected their luggage and met their new tour guides and bus drivers.
The journey today, was made especially special and powerful for me personally, as it was my first time entering the land in which the footsteps of our ancestors were left thousand of years ago.
We drove on our new bus from the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to the holy city of Jerusalem, where the Kotel is located. Every metre that we traveled closer, the more excited I and the entire bus became.
We pulled up outside the old city in Jerusalem and I stepped out onto the cobbled road made of sandstone and felt such excitement, the time had finally come, the time to see the wall, with my own eyes, and feel it with my own neshamah. I covered my eyes using an Israeli flag and was immediately grabbed on both arms, one mad and another a best friend. I was ready to embark upon the journey down the stairs towards the Kotel.
Whilst I was obstructed of my eye sight my other senses were heightened. I could hear the tzedakah boxes being rattled and the cool breeze passing through the passages and sending shivers down my spine. I was overwhelmed and completely taken aback by how spiritual the entire experience was. I was placed in line hand in hand with my best friends and Rabbi Benji enlightened the group with his powerful words of wisdom. The video began and my heart was racing, the blindfold was removed from in front of my eyes and I saw the Kotel, for the first time in my life.
Personally, I know that I am meant to try and express the feelings of the entire group who are a part of IST but at that moment I was lost for words. The emotions which I was feeling, standing there, in front of the Kotel is something which cannot be put into words. I am so thankful.
Stepping onto the Land of Israel and feeling a sense of belonging in a place which is so foreign to me is something that I feel so thankful for everyday of my life. Having a specific place within the Jewish people, coupled with the newfound ability to immerse myself in the land of Israel completely, makes me even prouder to be a Jewish individual living within society today.
I sit here in the dinner hall and am not only amazed at how delicious the humus tastes but am in awe, completely speechless and overcome by the Israeli culture, people and overall sense of belonging that I witnessed first hand.
I have always felt such a strong and unbreakable connection to the land of Israel but more importantly Judaism, and therefore this once in a lifetime opportunity is another aspect of my life which will inevitably be an underlying factor in shaping the person I am today and will assist me in moulding the person I want to become in the future.
A message to all of the people making my journey so special: Live in the moment, cherish each other and try and find yourselves within our homeland, Israel.