Magical Moments in Jerusalem

From the new metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, we headed in our bus towards one of the most powerful museums I have ever visited: Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial.  It is built with the vision that people will never forget what happened by gaining a good understanding, and coming out of the museum hopeful about the future of the country rather than angry. We had two tour guides, who walked us through the museum in chronological order, sharing stories and pointing us towards the minute details of how each transition over 4.5 years is reflected in the physical ambiance, and describing the brutal murder of 6 million innocent Jews. Although most of us have read books or seen movies about the Holocaust, as we walked through each exhibit, we felt chills down our back and the expressions on our faces were unable to accept the reality of inhumane treatment in the concentrations camps. I found it extremely informative and emotionally challenging. But it was illustrated to evoke emotions and sentiments and I was glad we could visit for a few hours as it put a lot of things in perspective regarding the struggles and strengths of Israelis.

Our next stop was Jerusalem, which was one of the most anticipated parts of our trip due to the history and beauty. As we drove, we could see how all of the architecture looks the same and all exteriors are made of a particular type of stone. We stayed at the beautiful Mamila Hotel, and our afternoon began with a crash course on Israeli Economy. We got to meet with the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Eugene Kandell, and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat at the city council. I was really captivated by both of their presentations, their enthusiasm, belief in Israel’s human capital and the determination to grow, scale, and be self-sufficient by playing on the strengths. I loved when the Mayor talked about being a brand manager for the City of Jerusalem, taking initiatives that may not have been thought about before by treating the city as a product.

Nir Barkat – Mayor of Jerusalem

The next day, we began with a trip to the Dead Sea, which was so much FUN as you can see from our picture below! It was an incredible experience floating in the water, unable to swim, and being surrounded by mountains and gorgeous natural beauty. We got to rub mud that is supposed to be full of minerals and oils all over and have a mini competition on who does it best!

Dead Sea: #CBSatTheCenter of Beauty
Dead Sea: #CBSatTheCenter of Beauty. Photo Credit: Leslie Pebbles
Our incredible Israeli hosts, Yoav Rand & Guy Rejwan '15, relaxing at the Dead Sea
Our incredible Israeli hosts, Yoav Rand & Guy Rejwan ’15, relaxing at the Dead Sea

After our memorable visit at the Dead Sea, we finally headed for the tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, an ancient place that is considered holy for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Our tour guide was immensely valuable as he shared a ton of stories about each ethnic quarter, significant religious memorials, and stereotypes. It was an immersive experience watching the locals, the businesses, and the tourists all hustle through these ancient streets that I had only seen in pictures before.

Old City of Jerusalem
Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Mimi Vavilala

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, one of my favorite things about this trip was surprisingly delicious meals and really fun restaurant experiences. Our dinner at Machne Yehuda, a hip and trendy restaurant, surpassed all expectations and toped off the night. We had the place booked to ourselves, and what slowly started as dinner, turned into a dancing night with some of the popular songs of 1990’s and 2000’s. We also had a birthday celebration, where 6-7 of the chefs came out and created a dessert table with the BEST ICE CREAM SUNDAY I have ever had! It was truly an experience as none of us knew what was going on as the chefs danced to the music beats and within 2 minutes created what you see below in a long rectangular table covered with aluminum foil! Dessert was followed by more dancing and celebrations of all of us being in Jerusalem for our last night before we hit the road again the next morning!

Dessert Table Experience with Ice Cream Sunday created in front of our eyes
Dessert Table Experience with Ice Cream Sunday created in front of our eyes

Aditi Sahani ’15, Chazen Israel