One Shavuot in Jerusalem
I grew up in a fairly observant household when it came to Judaism, observing most every Jewish holiday that came up. Maybe that is why when the opportunity presented itself for me to spend a Shavuot in Jerusalem, I jumped at the chance. It's one thing to stay up late and study at synagogue with family and other members of the community, most of whom you know or are at least familiar with, but to be able to be in the holiest city in Judaism and study all night, then cap it off by praying at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, that is something else entirely.
Year after year, every Shavuot since 1967, Jews have gathered in masses at the Western Wall to celebrate receiving the Torah. Everyone should try to be in Jerusalem for a Shavuot at some point in their lives. You experience things and are part of something so incredible, it can be difficult to accurately and adequately describe and express it. I have not had any prayer experiences more meaningful and inspiring to me than the experiences I had being in the Old City for Shavuot.
One of the lesser known things about the Aish building in Jerusalem is it has arguably the best view of the Kotel in Israel without having to go through any security lines to get there. That is why I made the choice to go experience Shavuot in the Old City from the roof of the Aish building. I had already been a part of the masses that form down at the Wall itself, so this time I wanted to be able to take in the experience without having to worry about crowds. It was one of the most incredible scenes I've ever witnessed. It was an absolute sea of white and black and crowded to the point that it was impossible to tell that there were even mechitza, the wall separating men and women, in the back plaza.
The feelings and emotions that I felt standing up on the roof at 5:30 in the morning and seeing tens of thousands of people shoulder to shoulder are tough to capture with words. One of the most commonly recited phrases to younger Jews, especially those who are very involved in their Jewish communities, is that Judaism is slowly fading into oblivion due to assimilation. Whether or not that is true, standing up on the roof and seeing so many Jews unified in prayer and purpose proved to me that Judaism is by no means a dying religion.
In that moment, I felt a part of Israel, a part of Judaism, and I felt a part of something so much bigger than myself. Thousands of people, celebrating the same thing, saying the same words, in some cases wearing the same kind of clothing... it was magnificent.
Shavuot in Jerusalem is one of those 'you had to be there' things, hard to explain, something that once experienced will never fade from memory. The best part is that every year, this happens again. If you haven’t yet had the experience, you still have a chance to go next Shavuot!
David Solkowitz was an intern for Israel Forever. A Jewish Studies and Journalism major at Indiana University, David is a dedicated and passionate student when it comes to Israel. In his free time, David enjoys writing about his experiences, travels and connection to the Jewish homeland.