Jerusalem Revisited (Israel: Part 10)

ABSTRACT: From sadness at the cemetery to shopping on Ben Yehuda Street, as the last day neared, it was eventful.  Like usual, I have some cleverness built in to my descriptions, as well as my opinions.

The photos are in Albums “Chamesh” and “Sheish.”  The latter has not been posted yet.

Friday, July 29 / Shishi, 27 Tammuz

The Radetzky March played without vibration at 700h, and it wasn’t mine.  I had set mine for 710h, since there was no packing required today.  Unlike other vacations I’ve recently taken, the morning routine didn’t have me up significantly earlier than others so as to let me do journaling in a hotel lobby!  Equipping my plain white button-down and long pants, I waited in the courtyard for some other people to accompany toward breakfast.  May as well walk with others!  I got some snapshots too of what I missed yesterday [926-929].  But, breakfast was boring, at least the food.  The conversations were random, but I actually took a picture of our table! [931-934]

I was to sing the second part of “The Pinnacle” since my camera case was claimed.  I plan to voluntarily sing the final part later today or tomorrow.  I got no seatmate conversation this time, as Victor decided to sleep on the bus ride.  Aaron talked about aliyah and the Law of Return, and in a separate topic, Birthright NEXT.  The state provides aid to those from the Diaspora who choose to live here permanently.  NEXT activities frequently involve going out, which sounds like a lot of fun!  The bus pictures didn’t turn out very well [936-948], save a few like the checkpoint and the barrier wall.

We got to Har Herzl and the military cemetery.  We started at the entrance and a shaded area therein to start [941-951].  The cemetery has lots of greenery, and Nitzan explained that the method of memory tells a lot about the morals.  The purpose of this place is to celebrate their lives, rather than focus on how they died.  Thank goodness!  I can’t take another Yad Vashem-style day.  We learnt that Yom Ha-zikaron is observed everywhere in Israel, since the world is so small there (i.e. all young adults serve in the IDF), which brings it closer to home for people our age (i.e. 22-26) in Israel.

After a few more pictures, we walked up several tiers of stairs, with me snapping a picture of the graves on the initial tier [952-956].  Going up another tier, a story was first told under the blue tent [957] of Klein, but I took no notes on either his life or death–I was too far back to hear well.  Burials can take place either here or in the soldier’s hometown.  Across the way, a grave had lots of personal mementos.  It was for Michael Levine, a former American who made aliyah (a person of this type is called an oleh) and died in one of the Lebanon wars [958].  Regardless of the grave, all have at least one candle house for storing “soul candles” (i.e. the ner tamid).  Then, the grave of Yosef “Sephie” made Nitzan emotional as she described the story—she must have know Sephie.  Memorialising the dead is said to expand his or her world, and this is one reason why saying Kaddish Yatom is so important.

Two more stories were given, about Yonatan Netanyahu and David Elazar [961-962].  The former is indeed the current Prime Minister’s son, and he was killed in a secret operation to save hostages from a hijacked flight.  David was the IDF’s commander in chief during the Yom Kippur War, and although he didn’t fall in battle, some say that he died from sorrow.  In this section (the graves of IDF soldiers), all of the graves are built identically, regardless of rank.  Any decorations are done by friends and family.  Each tier is built as more soldiers are killed.  The last words of the stories in this area were uttered by Dan: “It’s time for (the fighting) to end.”

The visitor’s trail was a steep walk upwards.  People in our group seemed to walk quietly, whether in thought, respect, or anything else.  I took a few pictures of this uphill climb [963-967].  In the area of the Rachel quote [968-969], two graves mark people with the same name: “Yuval Har’el.”  These two soldiers were close neighbours of each other.  The bad-news officers preliminarily showed up at the house of the one who was still alive before being informed that they went to the wrong house.  Imagine that feeling!  But, two days later, the then-alive Yuval was also killed in action.

Another story, told by Tal, was of an oleh who was killed, and the parents came to Israel for the funeral.  When they got there, they didn’t have a minyan with them, but pulling up to the cemetery, hundreds of strangers-to-them were there for the funeral.  The story of Yuval inspired a project “Soon We Will Become a Song.”

Jewish funerals do not use coffins, and “leave no soldier behind” applies even to dead soldiers, and even body parts thereof.  Horrid pictures exist, showing Israelis digging through destruction from roadside bombs, searching for bodies and body parts to save.  Thankfully, there were no pictures shown here.  The symbolism of the graves was explained: the grave looks like a bed, where the headstone is like a pillow.  Greenery grows out of the bed, symbolising life.  One of the stones in the grave also juts out, indicating the imperfection in this world.  Each soldier also has an ID number that was inscribed on his or her grave.

Exiting that area, we proceeded [973-974] to the area of memorials.  These plaques [976-977] have the names of all civilians killed in terrorist attacks from Israel (at least that’s my recollection of these names).  The names are listed in chronological order and it can be seen that some families were simultaneously killed.  An example was the Fogel family, who were all stabbed to death in the Golan Heights.  I decided to choose a random name, Meir Sigal, to remember.  I should look up more information about this.

Eyal gave a story of a friend of his, Noam, who frequently chatted together on Shabbat.  Alon tried to give a story about one of his friends who died, but quickly broke down in emotion and we comforted him while moving on.  Although losing a peer has never happened to me (thank goodness), it must tear you apart.  We moved to the area of the “nation’s greats,” where the graves are made of solid stone, including Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol, among others [978-980].  From what I saw, they were all great politicians.  For example, Golda was able to get huge support for Israel in the Diaspora with her moving speeches.

Over a few steps, the graves of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin were closely guarded by cameras and a chain rope [981].  Completeness for peace, convergence of dark and light, and the Ner Tamid in the center of the circle were some of the symbols shown in this grave.  The speech given by Noa (Rabin’s grand-daughter) was an appeal to both the people on Earth as well as the angels in ha’shamayim.  The excerpt was really touching, but what hasn’t been moving for me on this vacation?  I’ve never experienced this much emotion before!

At the top of the hill, we saw Theodor Herzl’s grave.  It is clearly different from all other graves we’ve seen here.  He was not originally buried here, but was moved to here once the state was founded.  Recalling his quote from 1896: “In 50 years we will have a Jewish state.” He clearly was the visionary of Israel [984-986].  Before we left, we sang Hatikvah together, but my tears and amnesia of the words muted me other than attempting to hum the nigun, without much success.  On the way out, I took a few pictures, including a Menorah [987-989].  Does it have special symbolism here?  I think it might.

Just as Yom Ha’atzma’ut follows immediately after Yom Ha’zikaron, we shift from sadness to happiness in shopping on Ben Yehuda Street.  The drive down there was a short 20 minutes, and we were told that we’d have until 1500h to shop, eat, etc.  In the original hand-written version of the journal, since it was several days after and I wanted to finish the journal, I merely kept the photo references but didn’t supplement it with words.  Because I want to have words tell some of the story, that provides me with an excellent opportunity to become a historian!  Here goes nothing!

I decided to play the afternoon by ear, as to whom to go along with, or whether I was hungry, what I wanted to buy, etc.  I started by heading down the street, (south?)bound.  It was a pedestrian mall, which reminded me of Pearl Street in Boulder.  But Duran Duran, we’re not in Colorado anymore. [992-993].  At the first intersection on the mall, I saw Noya [994], an ice cream/gelato place.  Since I haven’t had any ice cream yet while in Israel, and that’s something I always crave during the summer, I got a cappuccino-chip cone, and it tasted great!  Not on my camera, but a few others in the group staged a photo of me coming out and then talking with Heedye.

Some of us continued down the first drag, and I noticed Alexander, a store with all sorts of Judaica and kippot.  I looked inside for a short time, just to assess.  Restaurants and seating areas were in the middle of the street [995-997].  With Dina, we turned to the left at the next intersection and stopped at Osher.  It contained lotions and perfumes with ingredients from the Dead Sea.  Granted, we all know that I have no idea about perfumes, lotions, and other similar objects.  Still, window-shopping is fun, and walking about is always fun! [998-1000]

Continuing down the street, it was more window-shopping and snapping the interesting places.  There was a Kosher McDonald’s [1001] to the right of the main drag, but since I just had ice cream, I might as well only have other dairy or pareve if I’m eating again on this street.  Granted, perhaps I’m not being myself with this conviction of trying to keep Kashrut perfectly while in Israel… or maybe I just want to take advantage of the opportunity available to me!  I took a random picture that was occluded by some people I didn’t know [1002].  As I approached another intersection, I heard a familiar song playing from a radio: “I Can’t Turn You Loose.”  Turning around, a man was lip-synching it [1003].  The song is one of my favourites from the Big Red Express (the pep band at UNL) and I have a well-defined dance to it.  However, I thought “discretion is the better part of valour” and chose not to dance to it here, for fear of extreme awkwardness.

Continuing downstream, we saw one of the shops that was recommended by Dan (but I forgot the name and didn’t take a picture of the outside).  I saw a few interesting T-shirts, including Maxwell’s Equations in Hebrew, but I decided to hold off on it [1004].  Continuing, Dina and I headed to Ahava, another lotion/perfume store [1005], before continuing down the main drag [1006].  At the end, I noticed Union Bank [1007].  The slight catch to this, Men At Work, is that we’re not in Nebraska anymore!

Returning toward where we came in, the current time was about 1345h, so we had 75 minutes left.  Dina got some ice cream at Noya [1008], and I noticed the Kipa Man [1009-1010].  He wanted 125 shekels for the Northwestern kipah, which Nitzan, Dan, and I all thought was a pretty steep price.  Hopefully someone else will have it!  From there, I sort of went on my own, looking for the other Israelis in the group (particularly Inbar since she said she’d help me with the music selections), a place selling less-expensive Northwestern kippot, or perhaps other items that I’d grab on a whim.

Along the way [1011], there was another branch of Big Apple Pizza, and this one did have a Nebraska license plate—the one with the sunset and Sandhill cranes, series 2003.  Of course, I had to snap it [1012].  Eventually, I caught up with some of the people of our group, although the memory reconstruction didn’t re-construct that part, and we saw the end of the street again [1013-1014].  Returning and heading toward the store Ann (pronounced “on”), a man was carrying a board about peace, and the message was fresh in my mind from Monday.  If I would have seen a sign like that in the Golan Heights, I would have had no background on what it was implying.  Interesting!

In Ann, they had a large variety of kippot, including colleges from all over the USA, so I asked if they had Northwestern.  Rummaging through the countless stacks, eventually one was found.  The clerk originally wanted 85 shekels for it, but I was able to convince him to knock it down to 80 for a Taglit member.  Score!  [1015-1016].  Then, I headed up to the top of the street, finding a smoothie stand [1018-1019] and getting a mango-grapefruit-watermelon smoothie.  It was better than what I can get at Jamba Juice.  The combination of fruits tasted odd, but recall, Bon Jovi, that we’re not in Illinois anymore.  (Yes, I had to do that three times for effect!)  Still, fresh juice is always good!  Heading down again with the Goldshers, King David’s Treasures [1020] was the last stop, although I had to snap a picture of Ann [1022] again, since I didn’t write it down or get the whole storefront.

After a misparay barzel l’hitpakeid near the smoothie stand, the bus was called and we got on quickly like usual.  We returned toward Almog, and I snapped some more road pictures [1023-1035], with several failures.  Another interview came up, and it was Inbar.  Among other things, her favorite color is purple, and she sings opera.  In the Army, there was a push-up penalty in misparay barzel l’hitpakeid for slow responders.  She would fly if she had super-powers, and loves dark chocolate.  Interesting facts to know!

As we continued, Rachel began a sing-along, with songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Build Me Up Buttercup,” and more.  Some of these songs the people in the front got lines on, but there were a few songs that I killed either by starting on the wrong verse (e.g. “Brown-Eyed Girl”) or completely blanking on the lyrics (e.g. “Summer Nights”).  Other songs were either completely unfamiliar or songs for which I had only heard the instrumentals before (example on the latter: “Seasons of Love,” which I played in middle school but had never heard the lyrics before.)  Speaking of instrumentals, songs like “Psalm and Celebration” or “Seagate Overture” were running interference through my head.  Arriving at the kibbutz, the Shabbat Committee met in Room 321.  It will be more Hebrew from what I can tell versus last week.  Each of us will also say what prayer means to us.

Mom had attempted to call me a few times, and this time I was ready after the meeting.  I just quickly rehashed the day, and let her know that I will text her upon return.  Returning to Room 303, it was time to shower before our Shabbat meeting.  Naturally, I attempted to do some journaling afterward, but I didn’t get to add much.  Heading in the heat toward reception, it was time for Shabbat, and my last 28 hours in Israel for this trip!  Part 11 will be posted later… either tonight or tomorrow.

>> TO BE CONTINUED…

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