Israel, Part 6 – Gaza Border

First stop after leaving Jerusalem was Netiv HaAsara. This is a community right on the boarder of Gaza. This area is in constant danger of being hit by rockets coming from Gaza. There are multiple barricades, including 2 heavy duty cement walls. One to keep out artillery one to keep out sniper fire. Our host, Shmulik Rosenbaum, took us in FRONT OF the sniper wall to show us a taste of what life is like in their community.

gaza

walking along the sniper wall

gaza wall

pieces of the wall with an army guard station in the background

gaza border

members of the community have created a peace wall on a portion of the wall

peace wall

adding my own piece of peace!

peace wall

for lunch, we went to this amazing hummus place. Lots of different hummus options with different toppings: meat, mushrooms, pesto, egg, etc etc.

hummus

Next we visited Sderot, which is less than 1 mile from the Gaza Strip. The Sderot Media Center hosted us and taught us about life in Sderot. Since October 2000 the city has had thousands of Qassam rockets fired at it.  Many of these rockets are homemade so they’re not perfect and therefore don’t always kill, but they have killed an estimated 11 residents. Thousands have been injured, millions of dollars of damage done, and about 75% of the residents suffer from PTSD.

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A small amount of missiles fired at Sderot, housed at the local Police Station.

They have an alarm system which once the “Red Color” alarm sounds, they have 7-15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter before the rocket touches down. Because of this constant danger, there is about 1 bomb shelter for every 2 residents. All bus stations double as bomb shelters. The structure of the parks the kids play in double as bomb shelters

sderot

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Israel, Part 5 – Jerusalem

We’ve been up since 3am and have done more activities than I do sometimes in a week. We’re on the bus and I’m completely passed out in a deep sleep. I get woken up by someone handing me a blindfold saying “put it on” and in my sleepy state I oblige (I trust these people.) We’re all walked out of the bus and line up at (I found out after the blindfold was off) Mount Scopus Observation Point.

scopus

and when you take the blindfold off…..

jerusalem

After taking in the view we got checked into our hotel, Jerusalem Gate. We watched some videos on Mt Herzl, Michael Levin, and heard the story of a Holocaust survivor. Prepping us for what was to be one of the hardest days of the trip going to Yad Vashem and Mt Herzl the next day.

First stop, Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. To quote our tour guide before we went in “I hate this day, I hate this place, but it’s part of our history” The museum has done a beautiful job of telling the story and remembering those lost in such a tragic period of history. There is a separate building for the Children’s Memorial.  “This unique memorial, hollowed out from an underground cavern, is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust. Memorial candles, a customary Jewish tradition to remember the dead, are reflected infinitely in a dark and somber space, creating the impression of millions of stars shining in the firmament. The names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin can be heard in the background.” (Taken form the Yad Vashem website)

yad vashem

Walking through the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations . Tree’s have been planted in honor of people who helped save countless lives during the Holocaust. The double tree in the background was planted for Mr. and Mrs. Schindler.

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The Pillar of Heroism

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Next up was a trip to Mt Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery.

herzl

We heard stories of a few people buried there, but one story in particular stood out. Michael Levin was born and raised in the US and fought to be able to join the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) and was killed in battle during the Second Lebanon War

michael levin

People put rocks & objects on the tombs to show that they have visited.

Theodor Herzl is buried at the very top of Mt Herzl. Herzl is the founder of the State of Israel and this is where their Independence Day holiday kicks off.

herzl

Part of our group consisted of Israelis. Basically all Israelis join the IDF right out of High School. It’s typical for both men AND women to spend at least 3 years serving in the IDF and then travel, all before going into College. It’s crazy to think how different an Israel adult is than an American adult putting each of our experiences into perspective.

soldiers

Shabbat started at sundown, so we had a group shabbat at our hotel which was super casual. Saturday we walked around Jerusalem which becomes eerily quiet with very few cars on the road and most businesses shut down. We walked by the Knesset which is Israel’s government building. Across from the building is this beautiful Menorah which has many different scenes carved into it.

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After another casual service for Havdalah, all 48 people of our group ventured to downtown Jerusalem for a night out on the town

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Downtown Jerusalem

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Next day we explored the Old City Jerusalem. This is a .35 sq mi walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem.

old city

City of David

city of david

Casual. Bad ass IDF chicks hanging out

idf

This is the Cardo. Basically Main St Jerusalem circa 2nd-3rd centuries CE. So crazy how old this city is and how much history there is. Imagine all the people who have walked these exact streets…

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All around the old city you can walk from roof to roof

old city

And now… THE WESTERN WALL. Also known as The Wailing Wall or The Kotel. This is one of the most Holy sites. There are separate sections for males & females, you have to dress modestly/covered, and when you walk away you back up so you don’t turn your back to the wall.

kotel

Common practice is to write a prayer or a wish on paper, put it into the wall, hold your hands to the wall, kiss it, whatever you feel is right.

kotel

After the wall we ventured to Machane Yehuda Market. This is an open/closed air market or shuk.

Machane Yehuda Market

There are tons of stalls of different goods, a lot of chachki items and a lot of delish foods, spices, and candy.

Machane Yehuda Market

Machane Yehuda Market

The delicacy of the market is Rugelach. I’m not sure making them on your own could ever be as dreamy as the ones found in the market, but I found this recipe if you dare to try it. Maybe one day I’ll give it a shot.

rugelach

again, i was too busy enjoying to take a photo, so here is one from the recipe at http://crepesofwrath.net/

Group photo at The Western Wall

group kotel