Touch down in Jo'burg. Some may say we are home but I cannot associate Johannesburg with the word "home". But when I think about Johannesburg, I think about the place where I was brought up and a place where I have all my childhood memories. But home , home for me is not some place in Johannesburg. Home is some place where there is the Hebrew language being spoken constantly, where you don't have to have any driving skills whatsoever because you just drive however you want, a place which is beyond chaotic on a Friday afternoon at the shuk because everyone is trying to get those last minute products. Home is a place where my ancestors arrived and turned into a Jewish homeland. Home is a place where I can feel safe as I walk in the street because I know I have an incredible army protecting me. Home is a place where I can go to a holy wall and pray to Hashem. My home .... OUR HOME is Israel and there is no place I would rather be right now.
This year I said לשנה הבא בירושלים at my pesach Seder and please god my wish will come true.
Dzion dobre, shalom.
How do I fathom to try put into words to try and help you to understand how life changing this experience was to me and to the rest of the group? As I sit on the airplane I look back at Poland, it seems so far away, however it also seems like yesterday. I remember the emotions that puzzled me, the camps which angered me and the family that comforted me. Yes, family. We are not just a group of 16/17 year olds, that could call each other friends. We are a group of 16/17 year olds who have had each other's backs each step of the way, who have comforted one another, who have been a family. And for that, I am so grateful.
And then I reflect on the past week, in Israel, which made me understand why Israel is so important to the Jewish nation and why we need to fight for our home land. It showed me that every person has a different perspective and it reminded me that Hitler did not succeed. Last night, we sat in a circle of teenagers who's lives have changed. The shy, became comfortable enough to speak, the loud, were over come by silence, everyone expressed themselves. Although I am going home more confused then ever, scared and anxious, I know that there are another 32 people my age feeling the same and I know that the other 32 people will have a very special place in my heart forever.
Tonight was our official closing ceremony of March of the living. Everyone was encouraged to say a few words about the journey they had just traveled and experience they had just gained. Lost for words we all tried our best to portray the way we all were feeling. Unable to explain this truly indescribable experience , every single one of us brought up the same key point. We traveled this journey as a FAMILY. We felt connected and unified through this completely phenomenal and life changing experience. As they say , we began this journey as friends as crossed the finishing line as a family.
Yad Vashem - a Holocaust museum in Israel, the land of the Jews. Today I felt the pride of being a Jew. As we walked out of the children's museum to see a view of the whole of Jerusalem, a city that the 6 million Jews including the 1.5 million children, never had the opportunity to see, I felt proud of how far the Jews have come.
We then went to Shuk Hakarmel and Nachalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv where we met with the Canadian delegation and sat and ate with them. Again, I felt part of something bigger than myself. Sitting in Israel having lunch with complete strangers I felt safe because I had the security of knowing that they were also Jewish. We had many things in common and didn't battle to find a topic of conversation. We spoke about our feelings and lessons from the experience and what this trip meant to us.
During the bus drive back to Jerusalem, I've been reflecting on the trip. When I first arrived, I didn't know what was awaiting me and I was ready to put the experience behind me because I was scared and nervous for what lay ahead of me. Looking back, I'm not ready to leave and go home back to reality. I wish it was still my first day. This whole experience has been life changing. I became a witness amongst witnesses, I engaged with Jews from all over the world, I learnt so many lessons, and I learnt about the importance of tolerance. As we head back to our hotel and prepare for our last Shabbat together, I am privileged and grateful to be spending Shabbat in Jerusalem. I am spending this Shabbat in Israel in honour of the 6 million that never had the opportunity to do so.
March of the Living has been a life changing experience that I will never forget and as I prepare to go back home, I take back with me all the lessons and memories but most importantly the realisation of how important it is to educate the future generations and learn from our past so that history will not repeat itself.
Did you know that in Ethiopian traditions they wouldn't put up a sukkah during Sukkot because they had one standing all year round? This is one of the few things I've learnt as of late. We travelled to a local Ethiopian woman's house and we spent time with her learning about her story and her culture. We drank coffee and ate a type of bread that had cabbage leaves on top of it. She told us of how she came from Ethiopia without her parents and about how she started up a centre to educate people on the topic of Ethiopian Jews. That was the end of our Poria leg of the trip.
We then drove to Jerusalem. We did some exploring around the city and when we got to the hotel we had time to unpack and relax before we attended a lecture by Neal Lazarus where he taught us about the Palestinian conflict, the strategies and solutions of it and he tried to put the conflict into perspective by showing us videos of children singing songs and doing dances during a bomb drill as a way to ensure that the children know what to do when there’s an actual air raid. Granted that by itself it sounds rather depressing or uncomfortable but when it is explained in the way Neal does it almost gives you a sense of hope.
After that we spent a while getting ready for the Ben Yehuda street party in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. We were all told where to meet at midnight but aside from that we were free to roam around and do whatever we pleased. We split off into groups some went shopping around and others met up with the foreign delegations. All in all it was a night I will not easily forget. I mean this trip as a whole, these have been two weeks that I hope to remember every second of.
Today we stood for the sound of the siren. We stood to commemorate those precious lives that were lost in wars. Today we attended an Israeli school, as I was walking through the corridors there was a wall of pictures of those young soldiers who lived in their communities and who attended their schools, the soldiers who have died, and I realized that these Israeli students have to deal with these occurrences every day of their lives. "The pain is knowing who they were but the true pain is not knowing who they will be". These soldiers lost their ability to reach their full potential, their lives were cut short, they had so much ahead of them. But these brave souls, fought for our country, fought for our home and protected us. They put every Jew's life before their own. They died fighting for our country and for that I am, along with all Jews, eternally grateful and will mourn tonight and tomorrow for them.
We had just concluded our emotional, meaningful and spiritually uplifting journey in Poland and began yet another spiritually enriching experience in our holy land. Touch down into ISRAEL!!
No time to rest or relax in this beautiful city so off we went to Masada to eat some breakfast and learn the history about this beautiful landscape. Desperately in need of rest, we made our way to our hostel and made ourselves comfortable in our rooms. 3 hours to rest , shower and get ready for our night out cruising on the kineret with the West , we all couldn't wait and prepared for this big night. This was a night filled with music, dancing, singing and flirting of course. There was no other place any of us would have rather been. Despite our differences in countries, we found similarities with our culture, our music and our lives. This was a truly unforgettable night!
Today after a 3 hour drive to Lublin, we arrived at Majdanek death camp. As we walked through Majdanek, we looked at the camp through the eyes of a 13 year old girl. How a normal 13 year old would think. Through these eyes, we never saw gas chambers or death of these prisoners. We saw showers for cleansing and prisoners who were still alive - meaning that they are in a camp but they are still alive so it can't be too bad. We saw what we would call small patches of grass but big fields for a 13 year old. We came face to face with the peak of evil. How a man would spend his days killing people in the most cruel manner but then go home to father and love his children with the same hands that he murdered all those families.
Today we marched. We marched for the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. We marched to remember those who died. We marched to honour those who survived. We marched to show the Nazis that we survived, we are still here, and they did not win. They did not succeed. Walking with thousands of other Jews from all over the world was the most extraordinary and most life changing experience. We all had the same aim, we all had the same idea in mind, we all were there to remember and to honour and all together, that is what we did. We proved to the world, to the Nazis that we are a proud nation, a dedicated religion and we will stand together throughout our lives. The March of the Living was an experience that opened my eyes, dropped my heart and exposed me to do much more than ever before. Never will we forget the six million and never will I forget this experience.
Am Yisrael Chai