I chaperoned my first field trip last week. My daughter’s gan went to the Old City. When I heard about the trip, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming - my five year old’s class trip was to the Kotel! That was their field trip. They were not going apple picking, or to the zoo, like they would have in New Jersey; they were visiting the holiest place on earth. That is our lives now. Pretty unbelievable!
As a new, overwhelmed olah mom, I did not have the field trip days marked on my calendar, so I did not realize the trip was coming up. Actually, I did not even notice that any of their special activity days were taking place outside of the gan. When I saw a whatsapp reminder about the trip to the Kotel the next day, I was a bit unsure if I was able to understand the Hebrew text correctly. Were they actually going on a trip? And was it to the Kotel? What other information did I need? What would they need to bring on the trip? I was not even sure if I should send my child since I was so uncertain of the details. When my friend dropped off my daughter from school that day, I asked her if she knew anything about it. She said, yes, the gan was going to the Kotel tomorrow and that her husband was attending the trip as well.
When my daughter heard that parents were able to attend, she insisted that I come too. But, it was the night before the trip and I had not arranged with the teacher. I played phone tag with the ganenet all night, but was unable to connect with her. So, as I thought an Israeli would do, I packed myself and my baby up assuming that we would be going on the trip, and planned to confirm that it was OK with the gan when we got there in the morning. Our morning routine was rushed so that we could make sure to be at the gan in time for the trip. Since the buses can be unpredictable, we left very early and were still not sure we would make it before the departure time. BH we made it with time to spare.
When we arrived at the gan, I asked the ganenet if I could tag along on the trip, and she said yes. We discussed if it would be feasible with a stroller and one year old baby and we decided that it would be tricky but we would make it work. I was feeling super “go with the flow” Israeli, but then I saw what the phrase really meant: another mother was dropping off her daughter for the field trip and the ganenet asked causally ‘are you joining us today?’ Her response was ‘b’simcha.’ She grabbed some pretzels, a water bottle and a sweater from her car and was ready for a day trip to the Kotel. No bag packed or second thoughts, she was ready to go at the drop of a hat. Now that is something to aspire to!
Our first stop was to the tunnel tours by the Kotel. As we walked past the Kotel, my daughter explained to me that her davening goes right up to a special chair near Hashem. It was amazing to be taking this trip with her and seeing how excited she was about davening and being close to Hashem. The kids sang their adorable davening songs right near the kodesh hakedashim and then got a chance to stand next to the wall to ask Hashem for anything they wanted. We all were fascinated by the humongous stones they used in the time of the second beit hamikdash and marveled at how they could have possibly moved them into place. Next, we walked to a gan in the rova for aruchat eser. The kids were given sandwiches and vegetables and a chance to play in the outdoor space of the gan. Our final destination for this trip was the Temple Institute tour. There we saw samples of how the bigdei kehuna and kelim looked in the beit hamikdash. Again, I can not stress enough how unbelievable it was to have such a meaningful field trip with kids ages four and five.
As we walked around the old city, the kids were instructed to hold onto a long rope to keep everyone together. Honestly, it was a bit adventurous to bring so many small children through the crowded and windy streets of the Old City. Throughout our trip, tourists were stopping to watch and take pictures of the adorable children with their bigger-than-them backpacks. We even stopped to take a group photo in the rova and were photo-bombed by a Chinese tourist group. The truth is, it was a sight to be seen: around thirty cute four and five year old children going on a day trip through the streets of Yerushalayim. People from all over the world travel to see these amazing sights. We were those fortunate people that live close enough for it to be our regular lives and be able to take a gan trip to see it. I still can not believe that this is our reality!