Back in 2016 we decided we had to make a trip to Israel. Bonus reason was that at the time we only had one child and she was under 2 (her plane ride was free!). So as soon as we received our tax return, we bought our plane tickets for December so we could experience Chanukah in Israel. We decided to stay for a month because we didn’t know when we’d be back again and we really wanted to live like locals.
We rented an airbnb apartment in Rehavia, which is a very safe neighborhood in Jerusalem. Which put us within walking distance to pretty much everything. The Shuk, visited often by both locals and tourists, was one of our favorite places to frequent. The produce was inexpensive and so fresh. Pitas, also reasonably priced and baked fresh daily, were a staple of ours during our vacation.
Israel was amazing and so worth the trip. It felt like I was in a dream while walking through the beautiful cobblestone streets of Jerusalem. Seeing the Kotel for the first time took my breath away. Then, tearing kriah and being able to actually touch the wall which I had only heard about and seen in pictures brought so much emotion. Just being able to daven so close to where the Temple once stood and to touch a wall that was so old and full of history was beyond what I could ever imagine.
It was a dream I didn’t ever want to wake up from. There is an inner peace radiating the country that you’ve never felt before. With each step, the history of our Jewish ancestors can be felt radiating to your core. The past is connected to the present and the future at the same time. It really is timeless.
Shabbos also brought with it a serenity that I can’t even begin to describe. On Friday the Shuk was packed full of people getting ready for Shabbos. As Shabbos approached, hearing the horn echo throughout the country, issuing the beginning of Shabbos made me so happy to know that here Shabbos is a widely celebrated holiday. On Shabbos, seeing (most of) the streets empty was unreal. And then friends and even strangers opened their warm and loving homes to us to stay and eat for Shabbos.
The Talmud says that Jerusalem is where creation began and the rest of the world radiated outward from here. It is the connecting point between heaven and earth and where the Torah says Gd chose as His dwelling place. There is definitely a presence in the air that is indescribable. The Gemara (Talmud Bava Basra 158b) tells us that “The very air in the land (of Israel) makes one wise”. Gd has surely blessed this land and the people.
Everywhere we went in Israel felt like home. Everyone cares about each other. Even though this can sometimes come across a little annoying, for example after the 3rd person has told you your daughter needs a hat, and you have to explain nicely to them that she won’t keep it on. But regardless, you can always tell they are coming from a good place. As Jews, wherever we are, we are usually part of a minority. But in Israel, we were a part of something much larger. We are part of a community of individuals who all act as one body and with the help of Gd have made our own success amidst the impossible.
There are Jews of all walks of life, but all of them are connected to Gd. For instance, even the least observant Jew was putting tefillin on in random and unexpected places. Or wrapping themselves in their tallis gadol during a quick prayer at night time before they started their shift. Just seeing these individuals and their taking part of something much larger than themselves renewed our souls.
And of course, the food. Oh, the delicious Israeli food. Everywhere you go in Israel you can find an abundance of kosher food. Which to us, after living in small Jewish communities, was one of the best aspects of this trip. You haven’t lived until you’ve had the shawarma, even more specifically the shawarma at Halo Teiman in Jerusalem. And Israeli breakfast dishes will always warm your body and soul on a cold rainy December morning.
But really, no matter what religion you are, Israel is full of history and a sort of unity amongst the locals that will radiate to your core. It will bring the Bible and history to life in your mind. I highly suggest it as a must-visit place for everyone. It will truly recharge your soul. When you leave, you won’t want to say “goodbye”. Only “see you again soon”.