Thursday, August 4, 2016

A #JWRP Trip That Has Changed My Life Exponentially, part 2

"What sweat is for the body, tears are for the soul."

First, I have to talk about the bus. For our entire trip, we (Palm Beach Gardens) were on the same bus as Boca, Stuart, and a small Israeli group from Alexander Muss High School. Truly, we were blessed. We loved being together as the entire group from Florida, but we were so fortunate to have five of the friendliest Israelis you could imagine on our bus: Orit, Judy, Tammy, Rachelle, and Inbal. We rode together for hours, which you would think could feel like forever, but our Go Inspire guides: Ken, Patrick, David, and Ayala told us fascinating tidbits of where we were headed. Perhaps even more importantly, they told us their stories, from making aliyah to telling us about near death experiences, we were captivated as a whole. Our lovely bus leader, Orlie talked to us about her 8 kids and we LOVED her side job of designing earrings. Several of us took a bit of her home with those beautiful laser cut earrings. The overall bus leader, Estee, brought us all to tears with her story of having 14 children, two of whom were taken in as foster children when she and her husband knew they had no choice but to do so after their mother died. City leaders told stories and answered questions about what it's like to go to a Mikvah. Israelis told us their life stories and why they came to Israel or what it was like for them growing up in Israel. Bus mates got up and spoke about very personal stories that made us all cry. We may have been 50 + tourists on that bus, but we became one strong entity by the end of that trip. We even created a facebook group of only the members of the bus, and many of us are now facebook friends. It will certainly not be the last time we see one another.


Day 4 Theme: Privilege and Responsibility

The day started as we visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. We had a fantastic tour guide (Ayala) who walked us through the galleries, narrating all that happened from beginning to end. Walls were covered with artifacts and pictures that stuck in our minds and gave us a visual picture of how Jews lived (or didn't) during the Holocaust. We ended with the Hall of Names, where we stood in a dome covered with pictures of those who perished. It was chilling and there really were no words. We hugged, we cried, we remembered. I have chills as I write this. Many of us did not know one another when we started this trip, but we all had this in common: we had family members who perished in the Holocaust, and we would never forget. The most chilling moment, perhaps, was when we were in the children's memorial. This memorial was housed in an underground cavern and is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million children who were murdered in the Holocaust. Walking through the dark cave, with candles lit everywhere and names of the children being read one by one, was truly one of the saddest things I have ever experienced. But I am stronger for it. We were asked what we thought the artistic sculpture of white columns,  shown below. Answers were: lives cut short, older kids looking after younger, standing straight amongst the pain and suffering, etc. I think they were all right. We were also asked about the sculpture, at the top of this blog, left, of Janusz Korczak, who stayed with his orphans and refused freedom when they were sent from The Ghetto to the Treblinca extermination camp. It was so moving, as we all saw how big he was depicted in the artist's rendition and how thin and filled with sorrow the orphans were. 
Uziel perished in the Holocaust at two and half years old, and the Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem was built with the generous donations made by his parents
We got on the bus in grief and headed to our volunteer experience at One Family. One Family is a leading organization that supports families of the bereaved or injured in terrorist attacks. We were not sure what to expect, but when we watched the video of many family members telling their stories of how they lost their loved ones due to terrorism, we knew this was a day for non-stop crying.
Several of us felt helpless as we listened to their stories. One account involved a very handsome young man named Daniel. He was a soldier and we saw several playful pictures of him with his family or of him playing the guitar. He was killed in combat. His mother came to speak with us. When we were so down and sad, listening to his story, she miraculously lifted us up. Her spirit was unbreakable. Although she went through so much devastation, she was inspiring, and she was able to live through Daniel by speaking to people about One Family. Daniel's mother told us a story of how his commander (yelling, "Mendel!") made him carry a very heavy weapon for miles. It was an impossible burden for him, but he did it. When his mother heard of his passing (three soldiers showed up at her door), she felt the same impossible burden on her shoulders from G-d. She made a decision to use her pain to propel forward to do positive in Daniel's memory. How? Why? In her words, "Just like my son took orders from his commanding officer in the army, I am taking orders from my commanding officer...I'm doing it not for Daniel but for all of the Jews. Please do something good and nice in Daniel's memory - do a mitzvah." She reminded us that we as Jews internalize the pain and transfer it into positive energy to bring more light into the world, to create organizations, and to help others (thank you to Bruchy for reminding me of her words.) One of our members was so inspired, she said her daughter would be raising money in honor of Daniel for her Bat Mitzvah project. We were touched and moved by her strength. We cried together, but particularly moving was noticing our Israeli women in the room with us whose very own children were currently serving in the army. There was not a dry eye.
Below is the video about Daniel.
We switched gears and made rugelach for the One Family children, and then had a wonderful salad lunch.

We then left to tour the Old City of Jerusalem, heading through the Jaffa Gate. Here we got to meet and thank soldiers and give them care packages, but we are not allowed post pictures from that experience. It was a perfect way to give back after going to One Family.

A mural depicting the old and the new
The Jewish Quarter

We headed back for our lecture with Lori: Connecting to the Power of Prayer. Here are some bullet points: 
  • There are 4 steps to prayer: RPAT
  • R - recognize there is a G-d. 
  • G-d needs nothing. You don't need to get a gift for someone who has it all.
  • He can't receive, he can only give.
  • Lori's son said, "please/thank you/excuse me" for a cookie because he didn't know which to say, just that he had to say something
  • P - we all like praise. Not for G-d, for us.
  • A - don't be afraid to ask G-d. 
  • Not bothering G-d. Ask for the little things.
  • What do you want and why do you want it.
  • Lori shared with us about how she donated her kidney to someone she did not know
  • T - thank him.
I have not yet watched this video yet, but I will. It is of Lori and is about why she donated her kidney to a stranger: 

Finally: The Kotel. The Western Wall. We were here in Old Jerusalem, and we went to the top of the Aish building to look at the beautiful wall. It was mesmerizing, to say the least. Again, words cannot describe the feeling of seeing the Kotel and all the people praying there for the first time. The walls are filled with little notes containing prayers from people around the world. There is a dividing wall between the men and the women. There is so much history, so much feeling inside of you that there truly are no words when you see it--not just for the first time, but anytime. We cried again, and some of us joked that after today, we could be wrung out. What a touching, meaningful day all around.

Finally, we went back to our hotel and left for Ben Yahuda Street. This was a bustling street that made us feel so alive and free. It was like any city street: New York, Boston, etc. There were shops everywhere, and we walked until we found a great place to sit and have dinner. There was a live band with a fiddler and we got up and danced with several people, but a lively old man stood out, and we danced with him quite a bit. It was a great way to end the night, and again, our minds raced until we finally fell asleep, feeling more complete than we had when we began the day.

Photobombed by a rabbi!

1 comment:

Meg Craig said...

Thank you so much for blogging about your experience, Lisa, and so beautifully at that. It was obviously a deeply personal time and I'm honored that you choose to share your experience with the MTBoS!