40 years. A desert. And lots of wandering stood between Moses and the Promised Land.
For me, it was a delayed plane. A nasty United Airlines gate agent. And an overnight in New Jersey.
But after a handful of travel headaches, we finally made it safely to Israel where we met 500 other Cincinnatians on the city’s largest ever community trip. A much-needed champagne toast awaited us on the beach.
The drinks, plus the incredible views from our beautiful hotel, The InterContential David in Tel Aviv, were enough to make us mostly forget about our biblical-like setbacks.
After a quick check in at the hotel, we boarded a bus and visited the oldest part of Tel Aviv – historic Jaffa.
This ancient port city in Israel is known for its ties to the biblical stories of St. Peter, Solomon, and Jonah.
Then we saw Independence Hall, which for me, was a real reminder of just how new the country truly is. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was signed May 14, 1948 in a mostly secret ceremony because officials feared interference.
Next: A stop at the popular Carmel Market, an open-air market and craft fair full of local artisans in the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary scene.
Jackie and I checked one big item off our shopping list when we ran into a local artist and her boyfriend who both set up a booth at the craft fair.
They had just made a handful of beautiful mezuzah cases out of an African wood and reclaimed glass from stained glass windows.
I’ve loved the meaning behind a mezuzah ever since Jackie told me about them.
A mezuzah, in Jewish tradition, is placed on your home’s door frame, representing the dividing line between the sanctity inside your home and the chaos of the outside world. (Some believe one is required for every doorway of your home, but most people just choose a main door.)
The main part is actually a piece of parchment with verses of a prayer (22 lines from the Book of Deuteronomy) which is enclosed and protected by some kind of decorative case. We plan to pick up the parchment to place inside when we visit Jerusalem and then hang it near our front door back in Cincinnati.
Next it was off to a museum honoring fallen soldiers of the Israeli Army. A sculpture out front symbolizes a mother welcoming her child home from war.
The museum also pays tribute to the Holocaust. An actual railcar used to transport Jews to concentration camps sits on the property.
Inside the museum, we participated in a somber and moving activity that reminded us all why we can never forget the horrors of the Holocaust.
Then, for a big change in mood, we ended our jam packed Day 1 at Cincinnati’s partner city of Netanya.
All 500 of us were treated to a community beach party.
With delicious food including pita, hummus, falafel, fish and chips, and veal sliders.
And an official welcome ceremony and performances from the people of Netanya in their amphitheater.
Lastly, to cap it all off, a beautiful sunset by the water ended on our extraordinary first day in this unique, special, and amazing place.