Welcome to Jerusalem!

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We arrived at our hotel on Tuesday a few hours prior to our first dinner with the JCPA. The Inbal is gorgeous, and Leah and I were lucky enough to get a room with a balcony!

View from the room onto the courtyard. 

A few of us took advantage of the extra time by taking a walk around the city. Jerusalem has a building ordinance that every structure must be covered in white stone. Often, cities with such strict rules end up feeling a little oppressive, like Santa Fe. But in Jerusalem, the most holy city in the world, the white doesn't feel artificial. It's more like a warm light that appears to envelope the streets and the people walking by. 

We walked up to the Mamilla Mall, where local and international stores line the sidewalk on either side. 

Dan showed us a place behind a cafe where there's a beautiful view:

Next, we went to the Arab Market, which ironically mostly sells Judaica. After being surrounded by so much white, stepping into such a colorful, vibrant space is exciting. 

There are dozens of t-shirts, with every cartoon character or sports team imaginable written in Hebrew. This was my favorite:

It was time to head back for dinner, but we did manage to get a group photo in before we left the market:

After we got back to the Inbal, we went downstairs to meet the group we were joining. Up to this point, it had only been the Frank Fellows and Andi Milens, but Andi was handing us off to join the Jewish Council for Public Affairs' Israel Mission. After days of organizing flights, buses, hotel rooms, and meals, I'm sure she was relieved to do so! 

We all received name tags and went into a room for drinks and appetizers with the JCPA. Everyone was warm and welcoming, despite being such an accomplished group of people, all of them were very open to speaking with us and hearing about our experiences on the trip thus far. 

When we sat down for dinner, we chatted a little bit with our seatmates before going around the room and introducing ourselves. We each shared our name, our hometown, our position, and what we wished to accomplish on the trip. While individual issues were brought to attention by different people, most responses included a desire to learn more about the current situation in Israel, and about how we can help to improve it. 

In terms of food, the dinner was beyond satisfying. There were half a dozen salads to choose from, and before we even ordered our main course, I was full. That didn't stop me from eating more, of course! It's pretty rare to have any options for dairy-free desserts, if I'm lucky there are some macaroons or Oreos in a corner. Here, though, everything was parve, so how could I not take advantage? This was the beginning of many meals at which I ate past the point of comfort; by the end of the trip, I think my stomach became slightly distended. I'm still writing this from Israel, so if I come back to San Jose looking like the Buddha, be kind and don't mention it, okay?

Towards the end of the meal we heard from five women working in different Israeli organizations: Becky Caspi from the Jewish Federation of North America, Shari Eshet from the National Council of Jewish Women, Leslie Mirchin from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Carole Nuriel from the Anti-Defamation League, and Ella Spivack from the American Jewish Committee. One of them shared a story of stopping her car on the highway during the Summer when a siren went off and lying in a ditch, waiting for the danger to pass. When American Jewish eyes light up at the mention of aliyah, do they think of these hardships? In theory, it's glamorous to go pick up, move abroad, and fight the good fight, but reality is much more messy.  

After they left we went over the schedule for the next day, and headed back to our rooms for some rest before we began our packed agenda for Wednesday morning.

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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