TL-45-103/79 Update 5

We woke up in Jerusalem, and we are preparing to rest for Shabbat in Jerusalem.
This morning, our group grew from 30 people to 36 with the welcoming of our six new Israeli friends. With every Birthright trip, several days are spent with Israelis who join us as Birthright participants, and help us understand more about the country we are calling home for the trip.
We went to the Tomb of David, walking past numerous churches and the historic 1948 border that cut Jerusalem in half. On the one side, a new society was born that affirmed Jewish life in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Farhud, and other traumatic events — yet included Muslim and Christian communities, too. On the other side, Jordan expelled every single Jew and systematically destroyed Jewish heritage. But today, we might not have noticed the border unless our guide told us, as Jerusalem has been reunified.
From the Tomb of David, we walked to Zion Gate, still riddled with the bullets of the wars with Jordan, and then entered past the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter. We went from courtyard to courtyard, and rooftop to rooftop, on our education journey across the Old City. For our lunch break, we enjoyed coffee and local food overlooking the Cardo, the original, ancient Roman road, complete with millennia-old graffiti inscribed into the massive paving stones.
And next, it was the Western Wall. There are few words to describe this, because for each of us it was a powerful experience. One of us wore a kippah for the very first time. Another of us brought a tallit that was a family heirloom. Each person wrote their own memories and experience, the same way we wrote our own notes. Along the way, we saw a family cutting their son’s hair for the first time, a rite of passage at the third birthday, after which peyot (side locks) hang down from the edges of the face. We spoke with Jews from the Ethiopian Jewish community and other backgrounds who stopped to chat with our Birthright group.
From there, we made our way to Mahane Yehuda to finish off the last of the secular week. We ate, bought gifts, and made our way back to the hotel before the sirens sound off across Jerusalem to signal the onset of Shabbat. It has been a magical day, and as it comes to a close, we are in our rooms preparing to light candles and welcome our 37th participant: Shabbat herself.