Day 6 from Israel- Guest Blogger Dottie Yourtz

Friday March 13, 2015

We stepped outside of our hotel to have a front row viewing of the Jerusalem Marathon. The Ethiopian runners were leading the race followed by all ages inclusive of babies in their aerodynamic strollers being pushed by their marathon mom and/or dad; all running to the beat of multiple bands playing in the background.

Congregation Beth Jacob was also off to its own walking marathon following the footsteps of our ancestors 3,000 years ago heading to the excavations of the City of David. The walk was beautiful but layered with many stairs, up and down and up again! The excavations at the top and bottom of the hill were amazing to wonder how anyone could piece together these artifacts and puzzles of ancient living; but they did! It was here that David captured the city in 1004 BCE from the Jebusites. We watched a 3-D movie that really helped piece the blocks of limestone and mortar together showing yet again another example of a visionary where David established the capital of his kingdom…the birthplace of the city of Jerusalem. Water was vital to survival so it was another wonder of achievement again to see the way water was diverted to the city and stored. There were two set of tunnels that one could walk through that had provided the water systems of the city; one still with water and one without. The group chose to walk through these narrow water tunnels without the effect of the water.

As much as David built a city to defend in ancient times, it was sobering that just years ago before 1967, we viewed Israeli homes that were riddled with bullets from the border of Jordan at the top of Mount Zion. We could also see the Mount of Olives cemetery filled to capacity with white stones.

From the City of David, we went to the Kotel…the Wailing Wall. Here in the large courtyard, the men went to the left side of the wall and the women to the right side of the wall. It was so moving to observe the spiritual reverence of prayer and watch people stuff small pieces of papers with prayers in the crevices of the stones with the birds nestled in the stones of the wall watching all from above. It was also very interesting just observing the men is the black coats and fedoras and the women with the long skirts and scarfs around their heads as they prayed or were just walking around the courtyard. We were in the courtyard around lunchtime and although it appeared busy, we were told that it would fill to capacity for Shabbat.

After lunch, we were able to take a tour of the local market place called Machaneh Yehuda. There were main avenues and side avenues of vendors in their booths selling all types of food, spices, housewares, music and all Judaica. It was like stepping back in time walking about the outdoor market. All of your senses went into play and it was truly sensory overload! The olives, the dried fruit, the breads, were like a canvas painted in food. It was just beautiful to look at, much less eat. It appeared that everyone was hustling to get challahs and food for Shabbat. We also needed to return to the hotel for Shabbat and our driver and bus were waiting to bring us back to the hotel.

We met in the lobby. There was a tray of multiple tea candles so all who wanted to light a candle could do so. We gathered together reciting the blessing and lighting candles to bring in Shabbat. Some walked to services and others rested. However, we all came together again to have a beautiful Shabbat dinner together and enjoy the memories of what we had had seen that day and looking forward to resting on Shabbat.

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