My day with GoEco’s Israel orientation group began at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv. I am an intern with GoEco at their main office and was invited by Yan, the Field Coordinator, to join an orientation group for volunteers in Jerusalem! Once I arrived at the hostel, I met two volunteers for different programs in Israel, one was volunteering at an animal shelter in Tel Aviv and the other was volunteering at the Desert Wildlife Program. From there we took a bus to Jerusalem and met the other volunteers in our orientation group.
Yan was a great tour guide, and his goal was to show us a side of Jerusalem that is usually not shown in tours; he wanted us to see the hidden gems of this ancient city. Once all of the volunteers were gathered, we began our exploration of the city and made our way to our first stop: the famous Ben Sira Hummus Bar. This hummus restaurant deserves all the accolades in the world and was a perfect lunch spot for the orientation group. There was endless hummus and pita with delectable Israeli salad and pickles on the side, lunch couldn’t have been better. From there we ventured deeper into the city and stopped at a wall adorned with a mosaic which depicted a map of the world. Although, this was not your typical map, as it displayed a three petal flower labeled with prominent countries of the world and at the center of the flower was the city of Jerusalem. This composition was to demonstrate that Jerusalem is the seed of the world to which all other places grew from. Yan led us further into the city where we sat on cushions made from concrete for a hot summer day, saw beautiful vista views, and listened to a harpist playing at the Jaffa Gate.
Our entry into the Old City of Jerusalem began with the entrancing melodies of a woman playing a harp at the Jaffa Gate. This is one of the many reasons Jerusalem is such a special place, the blends of ancient life and modernity waft through the city and you can feel that history is alive there. We waded through the crevices of the Jerusalem stones and eventually found ourselves at an old church with Hebrew inscription on the altar and later on the balcony of Ash Hatora Yeshiva for an astounding panoramic view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. From the yeshiva we traveled to the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews. Since the wall is divided, one side for men and one side for women, we descended to the co-ed section of the wall where we were able to admire its intensity together as a group.
For the last leg of the orientation, we walked through the Mamilla Mall and ascended to the top of the Mamilla Hotel for one final look at the city. By this point we had already seen three rooftop views of the Jerusalem, but the final view was the most special. As darkness began to cloak the city, the Western Wall and other buildings in the area were shining in technicolor for a light show. I have been to Jerusalem multiple times for tours but I have to say this was one of my favorites. The people I met and the personal and tailored tour we were given made the day really special, and I even finished the day with a new friend.