by Meredith Lerner
Jerusalem of the West
At the start of what felt like either an endless day or the shortest day ever, the group of SOSers met at Dulles awkwardly clinging to friends from their past. Once we got on the plane and escaped our neurotic parents, things seemed much calmer and the excitement began to kick in, as well as the socializing. Us kids were able to bond over the interesting airline food and the contrasting, wonderful mandel bread courtesy of the Rebbetzin.
Despite the food the flight was uneventful and eerily on time. What added to the suspicion that the trip was starting off on too good a foot was that our luggage was waiting for us the second we got to the baggage claim area.
Now, ready to enjoy Spain we set off to the hotel to rest and wash up. Eventually we headed out to Toledo, also known as the Jerusalem of the West. We clearly saw this connection when on the panoramic tour we saw the view of the city showered with shades of brown and ancient buildings. Throughout the tour we visited two buildings that were synagogues before Isabella and Ferdinand started passing anti-semitic laws which led to the inquisition. We saw synagogues that later became churches, and are now museums. As we looked at the beautiful buildings and views of the city we learned of the Jews’ past in Toledo which was at times triumphant, tragic, and heroic.
As the day went on the heat began to get to us, but like an answered prayer it began to rain and the temperature was dramatically lowered. Without our ponchos or umbrellas (sorry moms and dads– who’d have thought it?) we cheerily made our way to look at places where it is thought that Conversos secretly practiced Judaism beneath their homes.
After a nap on the ride back to Madrid we were well rested enough to enjoy dinner and each others’ company at a kosher restaurant that felt like dinner at a family friend’s house. As far as first days go, we certainly lucked out in more ways than one, and we can only look forward to whatever adventures come our way next.