A Travellerspoint blog

Israel Day 9

Last Day!!

Today was our last full day in Israel, and the nostalgia is already setting in. Something really special happened here over these last several days, and I'm not sure anything else in my life will ever be quite like it. I've definitely learned more than I expected, and I will never be the same. I don't want to be the same.

The plan for this morning was to head straight to Jaffa, a beautiful historic port city, but on our way to Jaffa we stopped by a tourist shop in East Jerusalem. Shai is incredibly well connected, and he always seems to know everyone in the area. People in our group had been asking about the best places to go shopping, so Shai called up some of his contacts in East Jerusalem and and one business agreed to open up their shop for us especially. Apparently, today several Palestinian Christians celebrate the ascension and didn’t go to work, so it meant a lot that these people accommodated us this way (although I’m sure they made quite a bit of money off of us).

I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but earlier Shai told us about some Israel tourist treasures that he thinks are actually worth buying, which says a lot considering that he has lived here his whole life. One of these products is an ancient coin from the Byzantine era. Apparently, so many of these coins were discovered,that many of them were put onto the public market. Most vendors sell forgeries, but Shai found us a certified, licensed store to sell us good products, so I splurged and got one. It’s arranged in a beautiful silver necklace. It’s so cool to own a piece of history in Jerusalem!

After shopping we continued into Jaffa, the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv. Apparently, the city is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter as well as the mythological story of Andromeda and Perseus. We visited St. Peter's cathedral and moved onto other historic parts around the area. One of the things I found most interesting was a public art piece featuring an orange tree suspended by cables in midair. According to Shai, this artwork is supposed to reflect the Oslo Accords, an agreement between Palestine and Israel to maintain relationships. No substantial agreement or progress was really made there, other than to keep talking, so hence the tree is suspended above the ground. I really liked the symbolism there.

My favorite site we visited today was the Independence Hall in Israel. The building was actually closed for renovations, but Shai worked his special tour guide magic and got someone to open it up for us and show us around. The building itself is nothing special. Inside there is a large picture of an iconic Jewish man from the late 1800s (who's name I can't seem to remember), and several chairs are assembled around a podium in the front. Apparently, this is where Israel formally declared itself independent and established an official Jewish state. The man who worked there seemed to swell with pride when he told us about the proceedings that occured in the room. In 1948 they managed to squeeze 100 plus people into a room designed for about 40, and the declaration of independence was read aloud and signed. Our site guide played a tape of the event aloud for us, and we all stood up when the national anthem was played. As Shai reminded us, it's important to remember the complicated nuances of this historic event. While thousands of holocaust survivors and severely abused Jews had a state to return to and defend, thousands of Palestinians also lost their homes. There are multiple sides to every story, but nevertheless it is amazing to see how the modern state of Israel came about.

We ended our trip with a Passages dinner, similar to the one we started our trip with. It was amazing to see how much our group has changed and grown closer over these past 9 days or so. Passages leaders talked about some post-trip work we need to complete, and then we thanked all of the people who were a part of our group. Our student leader collected some money from all of us to get nice gifts for Shai, Omar our bus driver, and Amit our security guard. For Shai we got a giant pack of mentos (which he occasionally offered us when we went a while without eating) and two necklaces for his daughters that signify life. We got Amit, who is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met we got a gift card for Choco shoes because he always talked about wanting some. My favorite gift was the OMG shirt we got for Omar, because “oh my gosh” was one of the few phrases he could say in English. It became a running joke between us to say, “Omar gosh!” and It was really sweet to see how much he loved his gift.

Finally, we headed back to the hotel and prepared to fly out the following morning. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to have had this experience. I am especially indebted to my parents and grandparents (Hi everyone! Love you!) for helping make this dream come true. I am going to keep traveling, exploring, and learning new things in the future. This coming semester I will be studying and traveling in Spain, so if you’re interested stay tuned for more blogs! I won’t able to post as often, but I’m going to share my experiences as often as I can. Thanks again to everyone who has followed my adventures this time.

And, as they say in Israel,

לילה טוב تصبح على خير good night!!

Posted by emschroen 15:27 Archived in Israel

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