The second I opened my eyes this morning I was in shock; how could we be leaving IST tonight?! It seemed completely surreal. We packed our bags up for the final time, but it still felt like we were just going to another destination in Israel, not back to Sydney. Our final breakfast at Ramat Rachel, our adopted home, came and went, and we then had the final Shacharit service of IST. For six weeks we've all been davening together, and to know that this is the last time we will all be together in Israel, davening the morning prayers in unison was pretty crazy.
We all joke about Rabbi Benji's famous line; "Jewish continuity," but it came to fruition as we had a talk about different gap year programs offered in Israel, showing how this isn't the end of our journey and discovery of this land, but only the beginning of a long future.
From there, we had our final family group session. This group of people really had become a little family, whether just in the minor details of making sure we were all on the bus and no one was left behind, or by providing each other with support when needed.
What better final lunch in Israel then at the Shuk, and we all ran in and bustled around for an hour and a half like real Israelis. We tried every type of food, whether it be juice from the Etrog Man, Halva from the Halva King, or raiding the entirety of the Kippa Man - us kids really took the Shuk by storm, determined to stuff as much Israeli food into ourselves as possible.
The Old City was our final stop before the airport, and we as we arrived we were told to stand around a motorcycle with the Magen David Adom symbol on it. We were all a little bit confused until Rabbi Benji told us the amazing news. This was the motorbike that had been purchased with the money Hillel house had raised last term during their race of the Kinneret. I was filled with an intense sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, knowing that my friends and I had raised the money that had bought this motorbike that was saving the lives of Israelis everyday. What a brilliant way to emphasise the power of the Jewish people.
We walked down to the Kotel, everyone keenly aware that this was the last time they would visit this holy place, at least for a short amount of time, and we all just stood there and admired the place. We then stood around and Rabbi Benji gave us one final speech and we sang Hatikvah, our voices ringing loud and clear in the night air, before we screamed "Am Yisrael Chai" at the top of our voices. We were given two envelopes, one was our letter that we had written to ourselves on the way to Israel, and the second was blank, for us to write a message for our future selves, to be given to us in two years.
I sat in front of the Kotel and wrote this letter to myself, articulating how the trip had changed me, and what I wanted to take from this insane journey - this rollercoaster ride of emotions and experiences. This precious time I was able to reflect on everything, and where I wanted to go from here on. I then read my letter from the plane to Israel, and was able to compare my expectations to the reality, and then davened my final Maariv service in Israel on IST. I walked away from the Kotel and onto the bus a mess of emotions. I was happy and sad, scared and excited, but most of all, just in complete disbelief that this trip, this journey, was coming to a close.
What an incredible way to end an incredible trip, a day filled with the culture of Israel, the Shuk, and the spiritual center of the world, the Kotel.