The best engagement story ever

Waking up today was just plain miserable. I got about 4 hours of sleep and felt tired and gross. We quickly got ready and packed (again!) because today we would be going to Jerusalem. Rachel and I went down to breakfast and practically inhaled cereal while standing at a table because we are always, always late for breakfast. We made it onto the bus and I sat with Dan, who has seemed cool, but I hadn’t talked to him much yet. We talked about liking Israeli music and he showed me some cool bands and we chatted while watching the landscape (beachscape) of Tel Aviv out the window. We arrived at Yitzach Rabin Square. We sat on the steps and listened to Ami tell us breifly about Rabin’s assassination in 1995. I remembered this very well, but others did not so we had lots of time for questions, etc. After seeing the respect that Jews have for varying opinions, the assassination was a devastating blow to the country. Tali, the woman accompanying us from the Israeli government, was actually at the protest when everything went down, so she told us exactly what had happened. The soldiers also gave their memories, which seem to live on like September 11 does for Americans. We saw the memorial with graffiti “slicha” meaning “sorry” on the main wall. It was extremely powerful to see this after seeing only Israeli accomplishments over the past few days. Seeing this exposed the internal vulnerability of this country and of the Jewish people.

Graffiti at Rabin Square (Hebrew text, "slicha" = sorry)

After Rabin Square, we drove over to Jaffa, which is south of Tel Aviv and is the old port city from before Tel Aviv’s existence. We walked to the top of a hill overlooking the beaches…it was absolutely stunning and reminded me a lot of Miami. From there we walked over to the Wishing Bridge, which was just a small bridge also overlooking the beach. Along the railing were all of the zodiac signs – you were supposed to hold your hand to your sign, look out over the ocean and make a wish. I found my sign and made my wish that I hoped would soon come true 🙂

View of Tel Aviv

After that, we walked to the Arab market where we would have time for lunch and a little shopping. The thing I wanted most was fresh squeezed orange juice. We literally turned the corner and there was just a row of small stores selling exactly that – of course. I found a small place and managed to order a small glass of orange juice for 12 shekles in Hebrew. After that Rachel, Jackie, Megan, Mike, Brian and one of our soldiers stopped in a small place selling falafel and shwarma. I got the falafel, which was good, but not as good as yesterday. At one point we had a very funny moment when someone wanted to know how much a water cost. She asked our soldier in English, who asked a worker in Hebrew, who had to yell to another worker in Arabic. The whole chain went in reverse to pass along the answer. It was very, very cool. After lunch we went into the market and looked at all of the…crap. It looked like these people had cleared out their attics and dumped it into their stores. We started off slow with people harassing us nonstop. The theme seemed to be that they would start at one price, and by the time you walked out of their store, you were offered the item at half the initial price. I did manage to get my “secret santa” gift for Ean here: a kippa and hamsa. Guys are very hard to buy for.

After the trip to the market, we walked back to the bus to drive to Jerusalem, which was about an hour away. The drive was amazingly beautiful and in no time we were climbing the windy roads into the capital. I don’t think I had realized that Jerusalem is at such a high elevation. Our hotel, which has 3 names it seems (Moriah Gardens, Leonardo, and Sharaton) seems to be on the outskirts of the new city. We checked in and were pleasantly surprised by how nice the hotel was, just as Aviv had said. Of course, Rachel, Jackie and I are sharing a room. We had a lot of time to get ready, but that time seemed to slip away from us quickly because we bought internet and made some calls. I wanted to call Joan, Sheryl and my dad because I hadn’t talked to them at all and they had all wished me a happy birthday on facebook. We quickly tossed on a skirt and went downstairs and 3:45 to light shabbat candles. I was supposed to light 1, but I did another for Dave too because I miss him terribly. After that, we got back on the bus and drove 15 minutes to the kotel.

Walking into the old city did really feel like stepping back in time. We walked along the narrow streets on roads made of slippery white stone. Sometimes a car would pass, and it would just seem wrong. After a few minutes of walking through the Jewish quarter, we came upon an overlook to the kotel. We stood there as Ami spoke. While he was speaking there were soldiers singly loudly, walking to the kotel, and a constant stream of celebrators of shabbat heading towards the wall. After standing there for a few minutes, we moved on and then stopped at another overlook, this time much closer. This was the best view of the wall and words can not describe how it was for me to be there. The air was filled with songs, not talking, yet still had both this air of anticipation and of peace. We continued down the stairs and waited in line to go through metal detectors. We then came out on the plaza, which was very open and closed off from the area to pray, closer to the wall. We walked to the middle of the plaza and formed a circle around our rabbi while he spoke to us about the wall, the temple, and what we would be doing that night. He called for the men and women to separate and go to their respective areas of the wall. The men started moving to follow the rabbi. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Best engagement location ever. Western Wall Jerusalem, Israel

What happened next was the best moment of my life. Even writing this on Monday night, my stomach still has butterflies as I type. I turned around and for a moment I honestly do not remember a thing. I only remember confusion in trying to wrap my head around what I was seeing. Finally, as my vision came into focus, I saw Dave, dressed in a suit, standing there smiling. I threw my arms around him and instantly started crying. I could not believe it! He led me a few yards away from the circle of women and we hugged and kissed for what seemed like ever. All the while though, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was so short of breath that I was literally shaking. I don’t know how I managed to calm down, but it was very difficult. I couldn’t say how much time had passed. After being about to breathe, I started asking questions of why? how? why arent you in LA? He didn’t say too much except that of course he wouldn’t miss my birthday. We stood there staring into each others eyes and then he started to talk. He looked at the wall and said of course he wouldn’t miss this birthday, that it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life for me…and that it was a beginning for us. That is when I had a clue what was happening. He didn’t say anything after that – we just stared at each other and he looked very nervous, as if he wanted me to say something then. I said “does that mean what I think it means”. At that moment he looked around very nervously, with a little smile, and began to move towards the floor. Until the very last minute I had doubt in my mind that what I was seeing was actually what was happening. But there it was – a box removed from his sock and him in front of me kneeling on the white, stone ground. “Chandra Murphy, will you marry me?”. I hear the collective sound of shock followed by “awww” from the 30 girls on my trip who are standing behind me. I quickly thought of the main complaint that all men seem to have, and that is that women don’t say yes, they just get happy, and don’t bother to answer the question at hand, and that is very stressful for the guy. So of course, I scream “YES, yes yes yes.” I’m staring at the ring, first in the box and then on my finger. It is beautiful and sparkling like nothing I’ve ever seen. In short, its breathtaking. People are yelling “mazel tov!” – there is crying everywhere and there is singing. I am in shock. I can’t let him go. We are engaged! In Jerusalem…at the Kotel!!!

My group went down to pray at the wall and I stayed behind, holding Dave, as random people came up to congratulate us. I asked questions about how he had managed to pull this entire thing off. Turns out he had been planning since July. And he had never been in LA, of course, but rather had left New York for Israel on Tuesday. I never wanted to let him go, but I had to go down to the wall – afterall, it was shabbat and that was why we were here. He couldn’t come with me of course. I went down to the area for praying by the wall and stepped into another world. This was not easy because I was still a little fuzzy on navigating the world I had come from either. There were groups of women facing the wall and singing – dozens of them. It was absolutely beautiful. I found my group and all the girls hugged me and wished me mazel tov. They formed a circle around me and started signing and dancing as I stood there, barely able to keep from crying. I had never experienced the joy that I just had in the past 30 minutes.

All of the girls and I left the praying area of the wall and returned to the plaza area. I rejoined Dave and we walked to meet the men. There was retelling of the story, lots of hugs, more singing, and a general celebratory feeling. I was still in shock. I could not stop holding Dave and smiling. We began to leave the area surrounding the wall and begin our hour walk back to the hotel. It was very difficult for me to breathe and even to keep up with the group. Lots of fellow group members came up to us to hear our story, how long we had been together, etc. I was still in a daze, starting back and forth between Dave and the huge diamond ring on my finger.

Back at the hotel, Dave was able to join us for shabbat dinner. The dinner was great and we sat with the rabbi and his wife, and a few of the IDF soldiers. It was probably the best tasting meal of the trip so far – this brisket thing, potatoes, salad, rice. After the dinner there was supposed to be a activity called “ask the rabbi”, which is just as it sounds. We asked Ami if we could skip the activity so that we could call family and friends and tell them the good news. Of course this was ok. We returned to the room and made dozens upon dozens of phone calls. We intended for them to be quick, because skype wasn’t working so we were using our cell phones, but I’m pretty sure we dropped $300 on phone calls that night (donations for the bill accepted!). It seemed more than worth it though. We were up until nearly 2 making calls and then eventually talking about the the future, which is something that Dave hasn’t wanted to do up until this point. Thank g-d we both seem to be on the same page, because its too late now!! We fell asleep next to each other, I think as happy as we’ve ever been, in Jerusalem, Israel.

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