FOLLOWING my bat mitzvah in mid-2012, I had the privilege of experiencing Israel for the first time in an action-packed, dad-daughter trip with my father, Jonny.
As a proud Jewish kid at a government primary school, I had relished in digressing to my non-Jewish friends about my future trip to “the Holy Land” that I had learned about throughout my life.
In travelling to this mystical, new country, and seeing it through the eyes of my father, my first impression of Israel was a land of 100 faces.
As I recall vignettes of the trip now, more than a decade later, I see my first shawarma in a Jerusalem train station and sitting on the ledge of the fountain at Rabin Square. I remember my first glimpse of the harsh desert looking out from Masada, my first Israel Shabbat experience in Raanana, falling asleep in our rental car as we passed kilometres of olive trees, the sunset at Kibbutz Gazit over the hills, dipping my feet into the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias.
Then my mind drifts to the more chaotic moments of the adventure: losing the family camera on day four and being comforted by being force-fed cheesecake for breakfast, accidentally meeting a Mossad agent on a late-night Jerusalem bus, getting a mother-daughter duo to photograph us at the Dead Sea – and never receiving those photos.
It was the perfect conclusion to my bat mitzvah growth to finally see the culmination of my history, heritage and culture in one stretch of land in the middle of the world.
While the trip as a whole has grown into a cornerstone of the relationship between my father and myself, there is one particular memory that we never fail to revisit when we’re reminded that things don’t always go exactly to plan …
During our stint in Jerusalem, we stayed at the Leonardo Davinci Hotel in a precinct of other hotels. My dad and I are notorious for having no sense of direction, but because of its unique name, we were (rather proudly) able to easily find our way back to our hotel after our daily adventures – until day three.
After a busy day, we returned to our hotel for a hot shower and an early night, only to find … it was missing. Instead, we had come to the Jerusalem Gardens and Spa Hotel.
Panicked, we spent half-an-hour pacing around the precinct, desperately trying to remember where our hotel had been.
With the sunset and despondent feelings upon us, we returned to the Jerusalem Gardens and Spa Hotel to enquire if they could guide us … only to find out that the Leonardo Davinci Hotel had undergone a hotel name change throughout the day, and that we had actually found our original hotel!
While a ridiculous story we get to regularly reflect on, it serves as a reminder of the beginning of my Zionist journey into this chaotic, diverse and deeply spiritual place. It was the perfect conclusion to my bat mitzvah growth to finally see the culmination of my history, heritage and culture in one stretch of land in the middle of the world – all thanks to this incredibly special experience that I got to have with my dad.
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