Our first full day in the Holy Land already was off to a great start when we got a 2 hour sleep in and a leisurely wake up at 8 o’clock. We all got dressed in non- thermal gear and headed down for a true Israeli breakfast feast. After our averaged three plates of shakshuka and 2 glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice we had our first Shacharit in Jerusalem. This was a somewhat surreal experience, there we were saying the words in the very place we reference daily in our prayers.
Jumping onto the busses for the last day trip in our beloved Poland bus groups, we were infatuated by our magnificent surroundings of the Jewish State in daylight. I have laid my eyes on Jerusalem now twice on this trip, and have found myself increasingly awe-inspired by the vision that meets me whilst I peer out the window. It is hard to describe the pride I feel, knowing this place is ours, this place is mine.
We arrived in Yad Vashem eager to gain closure to the Poland experience and emotional week that was. Although we were all exhausted, the museum certainly was the perfect ending to the Holocaust component of the trip. Being able to stand in the Land of Israel and reflect on the atrocities we have learnt so much about is something truly special. We all stood in bewilderment in the gas chambers at Majdanek, the bunkers at Auschwitz and nostalgically toured the hubs of the once thriving Jewish community of Eastern Europe. Nothing, therefore, can quite compare to standing in Yad Vashem in our own Jewish land as a testament to the fact that we cannot be destructed. I had visited Yad Vashem prior to IST but the experience this time was simply overwhelming. It was a lot more personal knowing I have stood on the train lines at Birkenau, recognizing images and photographs as places we had just visited. As we headed towards the shul in the museum and heard personal stories from Gavi Grauman And Doron Lewin about their grandmother’s story and also heard about Zac Morris' family history we then went on to daven a meaningful minchah. We all sat down and ate our burgers and schnitzels and treats from the Yad Vashem cafe, our first delicious Israeli lunch.
We then hopped back on our bus and drove to downtown Jerusalem to the beautiful Independence Park where we took part in a whole bunch of team building and bonding activities. Boys and girls were split up and smaller groups were formed as people were able to talk to new people while participating in some crazy tasks including holding planks up in the air while our teammates had to walk over them. It was a great opportunity to relax and bond together as a group and with new people.
group and with new people.
When we arrived back at the hotel we were thrilled, after a week of long bus rides in Poland, to finally have some free time. We all showered and got ready for dinner and the nighttime activities. After filling ourselves up on a huge dinner buffet we had the option to go to Cinema City to watch the Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 or to walk around the shopping centre. With over 100 of us packing into Aroma Cafe, inundating the Waffle Factory and KOSHER McDonalds we quickly provided them with enough business to sustain them for two weeks! With our new friends we spent a hour out and about enjoying the first of many iced coffees and donut trips. From the gloom of Poland we are enveloped by our love and immediate comfort of our first day in Eretz Yisrael, the mood has lifted exponentially and I am certain this rise Is just the beginning of what still awaits.