After waking up and eating breakfast in Jerusalem, we headed out to Mount Herzl also known as Har Ha-Zikaron, the Military and National Cemetery of Israel.
Upon arrival, we first saw the beauty of the trees and the surrounding nature. As we got deeper into the Cemetery, we saw many grave sites of young men and women who sacrificed their lives for the protection of Israel. As we visited specific fallen solders grave sites, some of the Israeli solders that were part of the group would speak a little about each person.
One story that stood out to many, also known to be a very famous story throughout Israel is that of Michael Levin, a lone solider from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a 130-pound kid, he decided he wanted to move to Israel and enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, as a paratrooper due to his love for the state of Israel. From one IDF recruitment office to the next, he was unsuccessful in being recruited due to his small size and weight. Eventually, he snuck into a recruitment office through the 2nd floor window, was able to convince the recruitment officer to give him a chance, and was drafted into the IDF in the elite paratroop unit #890 at the age of 19.
In the summer of 2006, Michael was given permission to visit his family in the United States, but suddenly the 2nd Lebanon war broke out and Michael took the first flight back to Israel to join his unit in the north. When Michael arrived, his unit was sent to the Hezbollah village of Aita al-Shaab, in which an intense firefight with Hezbollah forces broke out on Tuesday, August 1st. Michael Levin was 22 years old when he fell fighting for the country he loved. At his funeral over 2,000 people from across the country were at attendance. Only then did his family truly understand Michaels love for the State of Israel and how his story and ideals touched the hearts and minds of thousands of young men and women across the nation. His memory and courage live on in the thousands of lone soldiers who continue down the path Michael set; to make Aliyah, to serve in the IDF, and to build a life in the land of Israel.
As we continued through Mount Herzl, our tour guide pointed out that many gravesites had green grass and plants growing on them, while others did not. The green represented the life that continued after the death of the fallen solider through their family and loved ones. The gravesite with no presence of green represented that there was no life present and that the family could not bear the pain of their lost loved ones, and ultimately ended their own lives.
We eventually ended up seeing the grave sites of several leaders and founders of Israel, such as Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Theodore Herzl.
After leaving Mount Herzl, we headed to a very beautiful lookout point, in which you could see the entire city of Jerusalem. There, we took many beautiful pictures as a group with the city of Jerusalem in the background. There our tour guide Itamar also pointed out, how there were three major religious sites within a one square kilometer area within the city of Jerusalem.
After a short time at the lookout point, we headed to the old city of Jerusalem. It happened to be May 23rd, which of this year on the Hebrew calendar was the 50-year anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem at the end of the 6-day war. Upon arrival, we first went to the Western Wall, we’re all given some time to write a note, pray at the wall, and put our note in a crack of the wall. Many, including myself were non-religious, but somehow connected to the wall through its religious significance and the day we happened to be there. Many people also put on tefillin and a tallit with the help of a rabbi to further their connection to the Western Wall.
After sometime at the western wall and eating lunch in the old city, we headed to tour the old city. We saw many sites such as going through some of the different quarters (The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter), along with seeing where King David’s tomb and where last supper took place. Our tour guide also mentioned that there was a statue of King David gifted to the State of Israel, but had his nose broken off. This was because; when the statue first arrived it was in all sense of the word perfect, making King David seem god like. No one, not even a king can be perfect; only God can be. So someone ended up breaking the nose off the statue to make him seem more human, or imperfect. As we continued through the old city, our tour guide also pointed out how there were holes in some of the walls. This was not from decay, but were bullet holes from the 6-day way, in which Jerusalem was recaptured. It was truly special and an honor to be in the old city on the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem day; the reunification of Jerusalem after the 6 day war.
After our tour of the old city, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and some activates to prepare for one of the most activity heavy days, “Tel-Aviv Day”. We also had a short talk by someone from Gift of Life, a bone marrow registry program, in which at the end many of whom who were not registered did register that night. Later we called it a night to prepare for the next days activities.