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Natalia / Natalia in the Holy Land / Israel: Day 2

Israel: Day 2

21 January, 201021 January, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

"That's when I miss you, you who are my home" - "Orange Sky" lyrics

We began our second day in the land of Israel by visiting Yad Vashem, Israel's National Holocaust Memorial. As we had just come from Poland, we did not go into the actual museum, but rather spent our time walking around the extensive gardens. Among other things, we saw all the trees marked with plaques, one for each Righteous Gentile (there are to this day about 22,000 documented ones). The name of Yad Vashem comes from Isaiah 56 in the Bible, where we read the phrase, "I will give them a monument and a name. I will give them a permanent name that will not be forgotten." I won't dwell on this other than to say that, despite the oppressive heat, the walk was really nice and we got to see the many representations that the Israeli people - and the Jews in general - give to the Holocaust and their rebirth.

One of the most amazing parts of the day was walking for 30 minutes through Hezekiah's tunnel,

which was used to fetch water as far back as 700 BCE!!

I'm pretty certain that it is the kind of experience that, in its retelling, looses a lot of its coolness, so try to picture what wading through the water of a 2,700 year old conduit built by a Judean king would feel like in terms of the geeky, historical value.... (!!!) After this, we finished our time in the City of David and walked through some incredible current excavations.

After this, we ventured into the Old City

and explored the Temple Mount (or rather, the part of the mount that we are allowed on). On an interesting note, King Solomon (son of David), who was supposed to have built the Temple on the mount has never been mentioned in an archeological evidence; thus, as far as science is concerned, it is entirely unclear if the man ever existed! Personally, I really enjoyed walking around the Temple Mount because, historically, it is a place of layers and overlaps (First Temple period, Second Temple period, Crusader period, Byzantine period, etc) that spans and incredible amount of time...it might be easy to overlook that the piles of stones one side-steps were carved thousands of years ago and then moved, for political reasons, at some other point in history. The dichotomies and contradictions that exist in this part of the Jerusalem really struck a cord with me, in part because I am geeky and silly I guess.

After dinner,

when it was already dark out, we returned to the Mount to visit the Western Wall


Once there, the men and women among us shuffled to their respective (and separate) zones. I walked in and edged past bunches of grouped chairs and reading, praying women, some of them spaying, some of them chanting, some of them silently sitting with head bowed. I don't think I have ever been in quite as public a place of prayer and I have to admit I was slightly overwhelmed, especially when, by the wall, some women were crying. I hovered near the wall and closed by eye. Suddenly, I felt a skirt brushed past me and found, upon opening my eyes, that a space by the wall had been freed in front of me. Thus, I stood at the wall for fifteen minutes, eyes shut close, praying in a way that was somehow different from other times (I won't go into this because a blog is not entirely the best place for such an intimate discussion, but just trust me that it was a different experience). I must interject and say that some of this was not a matter of personal faith, it was an acute feeling of shared humanity: here we all were, sisters, mothers, daughters - women, all of us, equals - caught in a shared second of time, frozen with uplifted thoughts, with pleads and prayers on a beautiful summer evening.

In the Talmud there is a passage that posits (as a metaphor, not a metaphysical theory) that every person has two souls - one that always accompanies them and one that resides permanently in Jerusalem - and that when people feel "whole" in Jerusalem it is because their two souls are joined. I have to say, myth and cliché aside, that I felt entirely at peace and content in Jerusalem. I could not have chosen a better door through which to enter this magnificent land.


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