Living in Israel is a special gift for many reasons. The beauty, the flora, the fauna, the people, but most of all, the history. You feel it with you in every step. Whether you are running errands in downtown Jerusalem or driving to Ben Gurion Airport, there are little reminders along the way that pop up and say “Things happened here. Important things”. Some are really old, like the Maccabees’ Tombs. Some are not so old, like the sign on a building on King George Street that states that it housed the first Knesset.
There is one place in Israel where the history, ancient and modern, is almost overwhelming. Most of the time, a trip to the Old City of Jerusalem is for a singular purpose: to visit the Kotel, Judaism’s holiest spot. As you slip on ancient stones, the walls of the city tower over you. You smell pizza while walking past an ancient shopping mall. Tourist shops are right next door to archaeological sites. Every corner has something to teach you.
I was lucky enough to spend a day in the Old City where the goal was not to rush to the Kotel, dodge tourists, or buy a piece of jewelry. (Haven’t been to Hadaya?)
Invited by Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts to participate in one of their amazing adventures, I spent the day looking, searching, finding. There were things that we had to find that I had never seen before, though I passed them many times. Stories were told that I had never heard before (Did you know that the real Good Will Hunting was in Yeshivat HaMekubalim?)
What really grabbed me that day was not the ancient history. It was the battle stories. The stories of the young men and women who risk their lives and died for sake of Jerusalem. The Scavenger Hunt led us to places of importance from both the War of Independence when the Old City was lost and from the Six Day War when it was miraculously returned to Jewish hands. As you walk along the alleyways and byways, you can hear the echo of the bullets, you can smell the smoke. For the first time, I really understood that this was a battlefront, not just a quaint ancient city.
I just kept hearing in my head the recording of the liberation of the Old City (Video here) and thanking G-d for the merit to live in a time where I could walk these streets and live in a place that is a mere 20 minutes away.
Thank you Tali Tarlow and Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts for allowing me to slow down. Listen to the stones. Walk through history. It was an incredibly meaningful and fun day. I recommend the experience to anyone in Israel, tourist or resident.
You can see all my pictures from that day here.