After the very compelling talk, Oren led a group discussion on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While it (predictably) trended towards the Israeli views, it took all sides into consideration.
After the scintillating academic morning, we switched gears to a more spiritual and emotional angle. At Mt. Herzl, (the stunningly gorgeous) Akiva gave a very moving speech about a fallen soldier that he was very close with. Ariel and Gelfand spoke on Lone Soldiers who made Aliyah and passed away while serving. After the three very personal talks, everyone was clearly moved. The feeling of Jewish community was very strong, so we did the only logical thing-- go to a mall for a startlingly average lunch before visiting the Old City.
The Old City was beautiful. The history of the surroundings, the countless Orthodox Jews, and Oren's voice left everyone with feelings of excitement. After weaving through roads that couldn't fit most compact cars (but were used for trucks and buses), we finally reached our destination. I can't speak for everyone, but the Western Wall was a truly incredible experience for me. Just being at a spot that has been so central to Judaism for thousands of years was completely surreal. The power that eminated from the wall showed on the faces of all those who were near it. When I was forced to step away to avoid holding up the group for the third time, it honestly felt like saying goodbye to a loved one. It was difficult to wrap my mind around the concept of such a pinnacle-- I had done what so many Jews wish to do. Each year at Channukah, my family finishes the prayer by saying "next year in Jerusalem". For me, it was this year in Jerusalem. And this day at the Western Wall.
Afterwards, we were able to explore the Jerusalem shuk. It was a very cool opportunity to buy gifts for (somewhat) loved ones and practice our bargaining skills. It is safe to say that noone succeeded in lowering any price more than the equivalent of three US Dollars, but the experience was nice nonetheless.This was all followed by a short bus ride and some great birthright trip bonding with the students and soldiers.I think it is safe to say, whether academically, religiously, or socially, everyone is better for having lived this day.
O. Frederick "Freddy" Warmbier
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,800 Jewish students on Grounds.