I have been fortunate to embark on numerous meaningful trips to Israel throughout my life. Each visit has left an indelible mark on my soul, connecting me to the rich tapestry of Jewish history, culture and spirituality.
However, my most recent trip in January was particularly special. Aside from attending a family bar mitzvah, it presented several moments that touched my heart in profound ways.
One such moment occurred during a joyous celebration with IDF soldiers at an army base in Hebron. As we danced the night away together, the energy in the air was electrifying. It was a testament to the strength and resilience of our people and the courageous efforts of those who protect our land. Amid the pulsating music, I struck up a conversation with an IDF soldier named Doron. He shared his experiences serving in the military and the deep sense of purpose he felt in protecting his homeland. His passion and dedication were truly inspiring, and it made me appreciate the sacrifices made by these brave men and women even more.
Another highlight was experiencing a magical Friday night in Tzfat. The ancient city, steeped in mysticism and spiritual energy, served as the perfect backdrop for a soul-stirring experience. Engaging in a “shule hop”, we partook in the timeless ritual of Kabbalat Shabbat. There was a Chassid with long peyot who welcomed us into the Carlebach Shule and was so excited when we told him we were from Australia. I put my arm around his shoulder and in that moment, the melodies of the prayers seemed to carry our collective hopes and dreams to the heavens, leaving me with an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquillity.
We also visited Kevar Rachel, the burial place of our matriarch Rachel. Standing at this sacred site and seeing the hundreds of visitors make their way through the entrance, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of history and the connection to our ancestral roots. Praying at Rachel’s tomb, I offered heartfelt prayers for peace, unity and the wellbeing of our people. The visit served as a poignant reminder of the challenges our ancestors faced and the enduring faith that has sustained us throughout the ages.
“I put my arm around his shoulder and in that moment, the melodies of the prayers seemed to carry our collective hopes and dreams to the heavens…”
Additionally, our trip included exploring the vibrant atmosphere of the shuk, where we immersed ourselves in the sights, sounds and flavours of Israeli culture. I thoroughly enjoyed all the food we got to taste and I would have to agree that Israel certainly makes the best hummus in the world! It was a celebration of the vibrant Israeli spirit, a testament to the resilience of a nation that finds joy amid adversity.
An emotionally charged visit to the Atlit detention camp evoked a profound sense of remembrance and gratitude. Walking through the remnants of the camp, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the stories of struggle and resilience that unfolded within those walls. The visit served as a sombre reminder of the price our ancestors paid for our homeland and the importance of preserving our heritage for future generations.
The culmination of the bar mitzvah journey was marked by a deeply emotional visit to the Western Wall, marching together with the young bar mitzvah boy, surrounded by a special Kotel band. As we walked toward this ancient remnant of our holy Temple, I was struck by the collective power of prayer and the unbroken chain of generations. The harmonious sounds of the band echoed through the air, elevating the significance of the occasion and reinforcing the importance of passing down our traditions to the next generation.
At the Kotel, it was wonderful to see many familiar faces from others who were visiting from Australia and to also see an old classmate from my childhood in South Africa. It was a moment of pure joy and celebration, where the past and the present merged in perfect harmony.
May the memories of these special moments continue to guide and inspire me, and may they serve as a constant reminder of the enduring legacy of our people and the everlasting connection we have to our beloved land of Israel.
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