Following our service at the Italian synagogue, we went to eat a picnic lunch in the Garden of Liberty (which happens to have a replica of the Liberty Bell). On the menu for this meal was a delicious box lunch featuring Cantor Lichterman’s favorite food, chicken schnitzel. In the park, we also played soccer and climbed dragon sculptures — “traditional” Israeli activities. There were lots of other people in the park; we met Israeli families and even witnessed pictures before an Ethiopian wedding.
After the park, we began a journey through thousands of years of history. Our tour guide Yair explained how, through five thousand years of history, there has only been two times (before 1948) that an autonomous Jewish state existed in the land of Israel. This occurred under the dynasties of King David and the Maccabbees. Otherwise, Yair explained, Israel was under the control of various empires. This was a great history lesson because it demonstrated how amazing it is that we live in a time where an independent Israel exists that Jews can visit and live in. It was a powerful reminder of how lucky we are.
Then, on the walk back to the hotel, we passed by — but did not enter — the historic King David Hotel. Previously, it was the home of the British police headquarters and the recipient of Israeli resistance fighter bombs in the short period between the end of World War 2 and 1948. Tragically, over a hundred people were killed, British and Israeli soldiers alike. Today, it is now a five star hotel. It also happens to be where chaperone Matt stayed when he visited Israel decades ago (its biggest accomplishment).
After a few hours of rest at the hotel, we went to the Kotel to celebrate Shavuot. There, we encountered a very crowded area with Jews from all over the country and all over the world. There were people from all different sects of Judaism, whether ultra orthodox or teenagers from Toledo. We held a short service outside the wall, then split into men and women and visited the wall itself. We were able to touch the wall and make a personal prayer, which was an incredible experience. We ended the day on this holy note, having had a once in a lifetime experience celebrating a holiday at the holiest place in Judaism.
– Nathan Podolsky