Josh and I had such a gloriously fantastic day today. My office very generously gives us the day off for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), and this year we took full advantage of that opportunity. We left first thing in the morning and headed for the city. We wanted to enjoy the vibrancy that is modern Jerusalem by walking from the new, to the old and then to the really old before returning home to the warm embrace of Gush Etzion. We ate breakfast at a great little cafe at the First Station (which has been beautifully remodeled in the last few years and has turned into a real center of entertainment ) and then walked toward the center of town. We had the opportunity to join a number of different tours that were taking place, but this year we decided to just go to our favorite stomping grounds and to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city we so dearly love.
As we were heading towards Ben Yehuda…the first person that we ran into was son #2! He was in town for the day with school (as was son #1) and there he was with his entire grade. It was a great surprise and fun to give him a hug before he headed on his way.
As we got to the center of town, there was a great energy. Most people were dressed in the traditional white and blue and there were groups of school kids everywhere, people singing and musicians playing. We walked around for a while and I went for two of my favorite activities – a pedicure and shopping!
Armed with my bright red toes and a cute shirt from Klafti (a store that employs at-risk women), we were off to the Mahane Yehuda Shuk.
We’ve never been to the restaurant that everyone is raving about, so we decided to check out Crave Gourmet Street Food. It was a fun, delicious experience. Their hook is that they offer food from a large variety of cultures in an eclectic atmosphere. Highly recommended.
Next, it was off from the new (pedicure and shopping in the modern city) and the somewhat old (shuk) to the really old. We headed through Mamila to the Old City and the Kotel. But first, of course, in the city swarming with thousands upon thousands…we ran into our first born with his friends. I gave that one a kiss, and told him to be smart and to have fun at the afternoon parade. Look how cute these kids are…our Zionist future.
When we got to the Old City it was hopping with old people, young people and everyone in between. It’s almost impossible to imagine what it was like 50 years ago as the paratroopers descended onto the Old City and managed to secure it, and the Temple Mount, for our people.
If you’ve never listened to the radio broadcast as the soldiers went through the gates to the Old City and onto the Kotel, you should listen here with some tissues. It’s amazing.
But here we were, 50 years later, relishing the unbelievable opportunity to simply walk in the streets of the Old City to the Kotel Plaza. There were large groups of young boys singing at the top of their lungs behind us and people flooding the restaurant and the stairs leading to the Kotel…it was a sea of humanity all celebrating together! We davened at the Kotel and then sat in the Rova for a bit, soaking up the ambiance.
There is a huge parade in the afternoon every Yom Yerushalayim that fills the streets of the city with flags and music and dancing. We’ve never participated (since our kids have school on this day and we haven’t ever driven in after school) and we vowed that next year we will come in with the kids and enjoy the day together. Just as we got home, I saw that a friend had shared this video from Stand with Us as the parade warms up. And there, with their enormous flag, is Susya and our older two boys dancing.
We dashed back home to our younger kids, and topped off the perfect day by taking them to dinner in the Gush. At the Gush Etzion junction there is now a mall and shopping area. Just this week, a sushi restaurant opened and we ate there, marveling at the expansive view of the rolling hills that face the road to Hebron.
On this day, we celebrate Gush Etzion and all of Yehuda and Shomron as much as we do Jerusalem. In 1948, the entire Jewish population of the area was completely wiped out. The children of these heroes spent 19 years waiting to return to Gush Etzion and hoping that they would be able to resettle the area some day. When you speak to the founders of Neve Daniel, they describe sleeping in tents, driving convoys through Bethlehem to get to the area, and looking out on the barren land.
Fifty very short years later we dined in a sushi restaurant, in a mall in the middle of Gush Etzion. Even when we made Aliyah only 13 years ago it was beyond our wildest dreams that the area would soon be the site of restaurants, shops and activities for the entire family. We are living in the most amazing of times!
And that, really, is the end to a perfect day of celebrations.
May we continue to grow and build and flourish in the modern State as we remember those who have secured it for us. To our past and our future…for all of us.