Pilgrimages have been traveling to Israel for years and years and each for a different purpose.
The birthplace for three of the world's major religions have scores of Muslims, Christians and Jews arriving to follow in the footsteps of our histories. Being able to pray on the Temple Mount, at the Western Wall or at the Church of the Holy Selplechre brings a spiritual experience that is like no other.
Others come not from a religious impetus but from a cultural or historical curiosity and still others come because they love to travel and want to find the best falafel.
Whatever the reason visiting Israel leaves no one untouched.
This is my 5th trip to Israel and the 40th anniversary of my year spent living on Kibbutz. I can't believe that 40 years have gone by and the dramatic changes that have occurred in the interval.
I wholeheartedly admit that my favorite way of visiting Israel is with a mixed group-mixed in religion, background and interests. Everywhere you turn it is with a different lens, experience and enthusiasm. So it is true with this amazing group of some 44 people living in or related to Tucson.
We started our group trip in Tel Aviv with a Shechianu, the blessing for new things and experiences. Together we have been experiencing the history and religious sites of Israel.
The highlight for me in Tell Aviv was visiting Independence Hall where Ben Gurion announced the creation of the state of Israel. Let's just say it was good I came supplied with tissues.
This country never ceases to amaze me. When I spent my year here I was 20 and celebrated turning 21 on Kibbutz.
In 1976 Israel was only 28 years old. .still an infant. I didn't appreciate how far the country had come in such a short time then, but certainly do now.
Remember the old fashioned ping pong machines? With the ball popping backwards and forwards? That's how my brain is here.
As I have been writing this a housekeeper came to clean our room and as is my wantout came a combo of Hebrew and Spanish (Rick calls it Hebranish). Turns out the housekeeper is an Arab woman who lived in Spain for many years who could much more easily converse in Spanish than in Hebrew. She also speaks English. The fact that this lovely woman who speaks a minimum of three languages is cleaning hotel rooms does nothing to lessen the ping pong.
Another highlight of the trip was visiting an friend of Oshrat's who had turned her home into an Ethiopian community center. Hearing her incredible story of her year and a half struggle to get to Israel reminded us of how blessed we are.
It was then on to visit with our Shaliach's mom at her home. After meeting her I now know where Oshrat gets her inner glow!
We spent a night on a Kibbutz arriving after dark. Awakening to Yam Kinneret was breathtaking.
Next. .onto Jerusalem!