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Monday, January 6, 2014

Har Herzl

Seeing a cemetery on the itinerary was not necessarily an attractive notion. As an American who has seen the neat, white rows of tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the notion of a military cemetery was one that seemed to be more uncomfortable than anything else.


When we crested the hill, though, at Mount Herzl, the National Cemetery, it was hard not to be struck by the beauty. From the very first moments, it was clear that this was not a site of mourning, but rather a reflection on the incredible lives that have given everything to the creation of the state of Israel. Glimmering stone, sculpted agriculture, and a sky that seemed permanently blue decorated the landscape.
We saw the graves of the greatest leaders in Israel's history. With his voice, Yitzhak Rabin was able to bring Israel as close to peace as it has ever been. With her might, Golda Meir was able to serve her country in times of war, defending the place she loved. With his pen, Theodore Herzl, the namesake of the cemetery, was able to create an idea so infectious that we, almost 100 years later, are able to see the fruits of his labor. Each and every individual was able to give just one small piece of the puzzle to the Zionist idea. Yet, all together, it is their collective contribution that we see the beauty of this country.

As we made our way through the incredible natural park that housed the bodies of the greatest defendants of Israel, we were blessed with the opportunity to hear from our companions currently serving in the IDF. Each group had several soldiers who had traveled and explored with us, and getting to hear their own connections to those who had lost their lives in Israel's defense was something that left most of us in tears.

The weight of the moment was immense, painful, and moving. Yet, above all of the emotional turmoil, there was one, undeniable feeling: Hope. These men, these women, who gave their lives to allow us to visit and love this incredible place, lay in a beautiful resting place.



We have so much to learn from them, and we share these moments with our peers, both American and Israeli. Looking off, into the distance, past the sorrow and loss, the Israeli hills stretch out, Jerusalem shining in the last rays of daylight, a future of peace just doesn't seem that far away.


May the memory of all of those who gave their life so that we, their inheritance, can come to this incredible place be forever for a blessing.

-- Austin Zoot, Bus 1121

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