Shalom from a beautiful but sweaty Jerusalem,
The Park Synagogue crew has spent the last two days exploring our people’s ancient past. After an early wake-up call and breakfast on Sunday, the big purple tour bus pushed into the old city of Jerusalem. First up, we learned about the building of the first temple and the pre-Babalonian exile era in the City of David. As we began our tour, our guide Anat and Rabbi Skoff led us to a lookout with a break-taking view of the ruins. I couldn’t help but reflect that most every prayer in our tradition revolves, at least in part, on that very spot. Reading about Jerusalem in a book might give some black and white perspective, but actually experiencing it first-hand gives a sense of color and shape I didn’t know before this trip.
Allie and I were so impressed by the way our ancestors saved and stored water so many centuries ago. In addition, we were blown away by the evidence that supports the existence of some of the personalities we learned about as kids in Sunday school. After crawling through tunnels and exploring the site in 90 degree heat, we figured that we were due for an iced beverage. Allie went with an iced coffee and I enjoyed a delicious passion fruit slushy thing. Tremendous!
Next up, it was time to visit the most important physical place in Judaism: the Western Wall. Going in, both Allie and I knew the historical significance, but the strong emotions that go along with visiting the wall were unexpected for us. Many in our group brought personal notes and prayers with them. Taking the time to reflect on what’s most important to you while watching 50 new friends do the same felt powerful. From our careers to our friendships and relationships, we actually have control over so many of the things that give us day-to-day stress. I reflected on the things I don’t have power over, like health, happiness, strength, and safety.
On Sunday at lunch, we discovered a very rare a precious Israeli commodity: ice. Temperatures are climbing into the triple digits and, unlike in America, most drinks here are served cold but without any cubes.
We spent the afternoon learning about who’s living in the old city today and doing some shopping in the Jewish quarter. I made enough purchases to quality for the 400 shekel tax reimbursement.
Dinner was at a parve pasta bar at First Station, the old train depot that has transformed into Jerusalem’s answer to the West Side Market. We enjoyed fettuccine with tomato sauce and bruschetta. After dinner, we watched some line dancing. Allie and I would have participated, but the instructions were in Hebrew and we didn’t want to embarrass the natives with our moves.
In tomorrow’s blog: morning and mourning at Massada, 117 degrees at the dead sea, and riding a camel 4000 years in the past
Aaron Goldhammer is a host and producer at ESPN Cleveland.