When you think of Jerusalem, the first thought that comes to mind is
The Kotel – The Western Wall. This is where we started our very busy day.

Looking at the Kotel, you can only see about 60 meters of wall. However, there is actually over 500 meters. Most of the wall is covered by centuries of building hide the actual length of the Western Wall. We began our day by touring the underground tunnels that follow the entire span of the wall. We spent a few moments offering personal prayers at what is called the “Kotel HaKatan,” the little Kotel. This is the hidden location that is the closest to the actual ancient Temple’s Kodesh HaKadoshim – the Holy of Holies.

After our underground tour, we had the opportunity to visit the actual Kotel, put on Tefillin, place notes in the wall and celebrate that since 1967, we have the Kotel in our possession once again.

Before going to the next site, we had a treat. Our guide, Lior, bought for the group “Beigala,” the special Jerusalem bagels (not to be compared with our beloved Montreal bagels) and we tasted them dipped in the Middle Eastern Zatar seasoning.

We then went to the City of David archaeological site. This is where King David, over three thousand years ago built his capital city. As part of the tour we followed the Gichon Stream through the underground man-made tunnel built by King Chizkiyahu. The water was freezing and we all appreciated cooling off. There are no lights and the entire 40-minute walk was conducted by flashlights our guide provided for all of the participants.

Between the City of David and our next stop, we had a driving tour of the some of the major sites of Jerusalem – The Knesset, Har Herzl, where Theodore Herzl, the Zionist visionary along with Israeli soldiers who gave their lives in service of our nation are buried. Finally, we ended up at Yad Vashem.

Before describing the visit, I need to talk about lunch at Yad Vashem. The cafeteria and how they serve food is truly unique. I ordered my lunch and it was served to me. I then took my tray to the cashier to pay. She looked at what I ordered and said, “go back and get more food, you also don’t have enough salad.” She then gave me, my family and the entire group a blessing for success, good health and to always be happy. Only in Jerusalem are you served at a restaurant the same way your Bubbie would have fed you.

Our day continued with a very meaningful visit to Yad Vashem – the National Holocaust Museum. Words cannot describe how moving Yad Vashem is. We started with a visit to the Garden of the Righteous Gentiles. This is the area that pays tribute to the non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews, during the Holocaust. We then toured the museum shedding tears with each and every step. Our guide made sure to remind everyone that the generation of survivors to tell the story of the holocaust is nearing its end. It is up to each of us to make sure that it is never forgotten.

Tonight, we begin our Shabbat in Jerusalem. We will celebrate Shabbat as a Beth Zion family. Tomorrow morning, we will walk as a group to the Kotel for services and then return to the hotel for the remainder of Shabbat. I am sure that the special Shabbat in Jerusalem will be inspirational for everyone.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

Rabbi Perton


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