By Michele Ellner and Armona Nadler-Strick
We’ve been immersed fully in our journey so far, absorbing all the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings each full day has had to offer. But yet, we’ve been holding our breath a bit waiting for something else, something significant. Today was that day. Today we ascended toward Shabbat in Jerusalem and collectively exhaled with that something extra special that we knew was coming all along. She was finally here.
But first, we had a fun full day ahead. We began the day at the historic YMCA to take a group picture of trips “A” and “B” combined. This was the first time all 400 women were together from Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, West Virginia, LA, Seattle, Melbourne, Perth, Montreal, Memphis, Cape Town, and more. Our group picture brought life to our theme: unity with out uniformity, as each group of women wore her city’s uniquely colored pashminas. We then heard from our two speakers on topics related to Shabbat, highlights included:
Just because you haven’t experienced it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
All the pleasures of the world combined is not as good as one moment in the world to come.
Shabbat is our taste of heaven. It is our moment to live in the present — disconnect to connect.
Judaism is not all or nothing. Everything counts.
We enjoyed some free time to ourselves to shop and experience Jerusalem as everybody was out preparing for their own Shabbat celebrations. The streets were full. We took to heart the many recommendations to visit Marzipan to purchase their famous baklava and rugelach.
We came back together as a huge group to light the Shabbat candles and converge upon the Kotel. Our voices lifted high in song as we danced with ruach greeting the Shabbat queen. After dinner we heard inspiring stories including a woman deciding to make Aliyah with her family, another formalizing her conversion, and then our very own Marina who courageously shared her story and perspective on migrating from the former Soviet Union to the United States and her feeling of peace and belonging in Israel. Her authenticity and humor rocked the house and made us all proud.
Capping off our day, we heard from a lone soldier, a lovely young woman from Dallas serving in the Israeli army. Thanking her for her service seemed a fitting end to an inspirational day.