Day 15 - Lehava - Gabi Balkin & Kayla Krug
With a 5:00am start, we were given a true Israeli experience - Hashkama minyan at the Kotel. Many students woke up bright and early for this optional experience, eager to take part in an incredible opportunity. We took the bus to the old city and after a few photos began our teffilah. The Kotel was not as packed as usual and the difference of people was a true metaphor of what the Jewish people intrinsically are. As Yoni Goldberg led us through the shacharit service and the Hallel songs, we stood united listening to the sounds around us, appreciating the stunning sunrise over the ancient iconic city walls. Adam Jankelowitz continued the service with a beautiful rendition of his barmitvah parsha and we concluded the service together. After more photos were taken and meaningful notes were dispersed throughout the wall, we made our way up to the Jewish Square, where we were surprised with a delicious Hanukkah breakfast.
We made our way back to our hotel where we met with the rest of the Lehava group who didn’t come to the Kotel, and told them about our morning adventure. After we were finished at the breakfast and tefilla, we got back on the bus ready to spend the day in the old city and for our first Lehava activity of the day.
With the tension of the game “bang bang you’re dead” filling the air, we arrived at our first destination as a group; the City of David, where we met our tour guide, Jonty Blackman, who took us to a lookout overlooking three very important mountains and valleys in Jerusalem . The three mountains that we saw and learnt about were Mount Olives, Mount Moriah and Mount Zion. The first mountain, Mount Olives, is located just outside the walls of the Old City and is filled with the graves of many inspirational and important Jewish people. It is said to be where the Moshiach will descend when he comes. The second mountain was Mount Moriah, despite our excitement over the familiarity of the name, this is the mountain where the famous sacrifice of Yitzchak almost took place. Currently the Temple Mount is located on Mount Moriah and it is also where the Beit Hamikdash once stood. The last mountain was Mount Zion, which was a part of King David’s infamous city. The mountains are in the shape of the Hebrew letter, shin (ש), symbolising God’s name and His eternal presence in Jerusalem.
We continued through the exhibition where we were shown some of the belongings of the Jewish people who lived in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, which allowed us to gain a significant insight into the comparison between our lives and theirs. Some of these belongings included, beauty appliances, envelope seals and hair appliances.
Jonty continued to guide us through the exhibition, while looking at the different wells the Jewish people used as their water supply. There were visual representations of what David’s castle and ancient houses looked like and also how they received water. We finally approached the place we were all anticipating, Hezikiah’s water tunnels. This was where the Jewish people efficiently acquired their water and was a huge technological advancement for that era. We stepped into the wet, dark and narrow tunnel and with quite a few screams began our walk. Though there was no light in the tunnel, the walk turned out to be an amazing experience we will never forget.
We then made the tiring journey back up to the entrance of the City of David, very keen for our free time and lunch in the Old City. After two hours of eating and shopping for our Mystery Maccabia presents, we began our second tour of the day.
This tour was a further look into the preserved excavations and gave us more insight into the Jewish people’s ways in an era in which they lived. Throughout the exhibition we saw various houses, belongings and properties of wealthy Jewish people who lived 2000 years ago. We also saw more technological advancement through the mosaic patterns in the floors and the progression of different cooking utensils.
Jonty concludes our tour by showing us a glass cabinet which had wood that was burned from the roof of the Beit Hamikdash. The original whole piece of burned wood discovered had in 1972 had slowly decomposed due to being introduced to elements and is now a pile of ash and coals. Though this all didn’t seem like much, Jonty reinforced how we, the Jewish people, have come so far from so much destruction but we still continue to celebrate and create life. Our actions should not follow the path of the destruction like portrayed by the ashes but rather highlight what we can build from all that has been destroyed.
After the insightful tour, we separated into our family groups and had a twenty minute discussion. Our family group leader Dean, decided that we would do something a bit different. Dean took us to an area surrounded by six daycare centres. By this area there was a quote from the tanach “כה אמר ה׳ צבאות עד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלים ואיש משענתו בידו מרב ימים ורחובות העיר ימלאו ילדים וילדות משחקים ברחובות ברחבתיה״ This quote translates to “old men and women shall sit in the streets of jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of old age and the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.” It was amazing to see a prophesy from the tanach, come to a reality. This constant relation of our lives to the tanach continues to help grow and strengthen our connection to Israel. Dean then excitedly took us to his favourite place, the only garden in the old city and a nice way to end of our little learning session.
To the dismay of the rest of our group, we turned up 15 minutes later than planned and made our way down to Mamilla for more free time. As soon as we arrived at Mamilla, IST jumpers quickly filled up the Golda ice cream shop and Roladin cafe. Two hours later, post many ice creams, donuts and A LOT of shopping, Lehava got back onto the buses after a tiring and interesting day filled with learning and fun!
Learning about our Holy City whilst standing in the footsteps of our ancestors, truly gave us a deeper understanding and connection to our roots and heritage from over 2000 years ago. We all cherish and appreciate this experience and hope to have many more wonderful days similar to this.
Gabi Balkin and Kayla Krug