JNF Educators Study Tour 2020
Day 4 – Jerusalem
Reflections from our very own Adam and Eve 🙂
Adam Yee – Head of Music – King David School VIC
6 Tevet 5780 – 3 January 2020
My 46th birthday began a few hours early. Last night I was overlooking the Kotel plaza, when I received my first birthday greetings from my 10-year-old daughter, who happens to be nine hours in the future. As I always say, children are our future. Treat them well, let them lead the way.
Breakfast: surely one of the three most important meals of the day, and even more so when it’s in the hands of Israelis. My regular two Weet-Bix and milk is starting to look grim.
Har HaZeitim: a sun-bathed, picture postcard view only improved by the bracing winter breezes.
Old City: truly the Disneyland of monotheism! Lehavdil (i.e. forgive the comparison).
Ir David, tunnels, pools: incredibly ancient archeological marvels. There’s nothing like climbing uphill through narrow subterranean tunnels to make you appreciate not being in a narrow subterranean tunnel.
Machane Yehuda: Picture in your mind the new Coles Elsternwick. Imagine the complete opposite of that and you’re in Machane Yehuda.
Eve Figdor – Secondary Jewish Studies Educator- Mount Scopus Memorial College VIC
The Sights, Sounds and Scents of Jerusalem
For me, arriving by bus into Jerusalem was like returning to a beloved friend whom I enjoy visiting regularly. So I wondered what would be the feelings and emotions of those who were visiting this magical city for the first time? The joy and excitement on Thursday evening was palpable but on Friday morning as we readied ourselves for another day of incredible experiences there was a sense of great anticipation. As I looked on the city drenched in the morning sun, I was reminded of the quote from the Talmud in Kiddushin 49a that discusses the ten measures of beauty that were bestowed upon the world and nine of these were given to Jerusalem.
Mount of Olives
Our first stop was the Mount of Olives which in ancient times served as the border of Jerusalem. This mountain attained special religious significance and became an integral part of religious life because of its proximity to the Temple Mount and also because of the view that it offered of the surrounding area. According to the Bible, it will be on this mountain that future miraculous occurrences will take place during the period of the Jewish Messiah. As a result, the Mount of Olives developed great importance in Jewish tradition and various customs developed. The mountain’s holiness caused it to become a place of Jewish pilgrimage. Its close location to the city contributed to the mountain becoming a place of Jewish burial throughout the generations. The tradition of burial began during the First Temple period, and today the cemetery is full. Just like us, many visitors flock to the Mount of Olives to learn about its varied history and enjoy the breathtaking views of Mt. Moriah, the Antonia Fortress, the Golden Dome, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Off to the Kotel with its majestic walls and spiritual power. We dutifully allow security to check our bags and slowly make our way to this most holy place on earth which attracts people from every walk of life. The first timers are awed by its wonder and the returning visitors continue to be inspired by its inexplicable power. We approach slowly and try to nestle into a spot close to this wall full of dreams, tears and prayers. Small notes with personal prayers carefully pushed into the cracks and others that have dropped to the ground with yesterday’s prayers. Everyone has a request for a blessing. Then we pray for prosperity, health, our families and the safety and security of our land. Some of us also take the opportunity to make a small donation to the upkeep of the Western Wall Plaza and when we are ready we walk backwards carefully so as not to turn our backs on this holy place.
Claudia Prosser visiting Israel and the Kotel for the first time in her life!
The Jewish Quarter
This section of the old city is one of the four quarters of this part of Jerusalem and is inhabited by around 2,000 residents, many yeshivot and synagogues. In 1948, this part of the city was under Jordanian rule and during the nineteen years under this ruling a third of the Jewish Quarter’s buildings were demolished.
The Cardo was amazing as we walked through this ancient shopping area and admired the many beautiful art and jewellery shops including the ancient remnants of the area.
Tour of the City of David
King David arrived in this city in approximately 1000BCE after having ruled in Hebron for seven years. He conquered the Zion Fortress and turned the Jebusite city into his national and religious capital. He made the fortress his home and called it the City of David. The city is located near the Gichon Spring since it was critical for the city to be located near water. We entered the city through the Zion Gate and came across the Armenian quarter and moved onto the Jewish quarter. This section of the city was taken by the Jordanians in 1948 during the War of Independence and for 19 years Jews were unable to visit this area. It was only liberated in 1967 during the Six Day War. Underground it was fascinating to see the incredible planning and structures which indicated well organised homes and in some cases indoor toilets of the wealthier families. Viewing this ancient city I wondered about King David’s plans and hopes for the future and to what extent he was satisfied with this grand city that he built. Could he have envisaged that in modern times it would still be in existence and filled with myriads of visitors marvelling at his achievements, reading his writings and standing where he stood? Could he have guessed how many Jewish boys throughout history would have carried his name and how his image has been painted and carved by the greatest artists in the world? Could he have dreamed that tourists throughout the globe would make their pilgrimage to this city and marvel at its architectural brilliance and appreciate the foresight of its builders?
Machane Yehuda Market
A perfect Friday ends with a visit to the Machane Yehuda Market in downtown Jerusalem where people search for the best quality produce for their Shabbat meals. The vibe is crazy, amazing and all encompassing as we pushed through the crowds searching for a place to eat lunch. We enjoyed an incredible array of sensory delights walking through this magical place. Just looking at the array of fresh produce we were astounded by the selection of fruits- such as the huge pomegranates- which look as if they were plucked from the Garden of Eden. There were avocados sold by the kilo and of course the prickly Sabra fruit which invites us to sample something new and exotic. Then, there are the sounds of the storekeepers all beckoning us to buy their goods and wafting from the alleyways are aromatic scents of coffee and freshly baked challah. What to buy, and what to taste- these are our biggest decisions! Kosher certificates are displayed in all establishments especially to indicate that the produce has been tithed- which is a uniquely Israeli practice. And then there is the bargaining- a pure joy for those who relish the thrill of a great deal- just like me-the shopaholic (to my husband’s great dismay)!
Then, back to the hotel- to prepare for Shabbat and our next exhilarating experience!