Those of you who don't know about Worms, it is a quaint town that at one time had a large Jewish population. One dating back to 1023. And if that's not amazing in its own right, it's also the place where Rashi lived and learned for a few years before moving to France. When we finally got to the small Jewish square that houses the shul, the oldest mikve in Eastern Europe and the house where Rashi lived (called Rashi Haus).
The man who runs the museum (which according to him gets a minimum of 300 visitors every day) was extremely excited to tell us facts about Rashi and the shul. So excited that he was like a little boy, bouncing up and down on his heels waving his hands around animatedly.
The shul is used twice a month for Shabbat and every chag. And although I would NOT want to get within five feet of that kosher mikve, there was still water in it. The shul had once been destroyed (way before the Holocaust) but had been rebuilt using authentically old stones that mimicked the original interior and there is one original stone covered with plexiglass still located in the study room adjacent to the shul - a study room that Rashi himself studied in. The funny occurrence was when we were leaving and he followed us out, wishing us well and then told us that he was the local "Shabbos Goy". And he said it with such pride.
How times have changed.
We also walked in the pouring rain to one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe and visited the grave of the Maharil, whose direct descendent, Liv Sperber, was with our group in Poland.
The second ironic thing that happened was when we were going through security before boarding El Al. The security measures that Germany takes in the airport are nuts. You have to remove nearly everything except the basic clothes on your back and then they give everyone a personal body search. They x-ray everything AND open up your carry-on. The woman who was looking at the x-ray of Yitzi's bag stopped it, called a supervisor over and pointed to the screen. We knew nothing was in there but we were curious as to what she suspected was in his bag. The supervisor opened his bag and poked around in the area of the suspected item. Right there was Yitzi's velvet bag of Tefillin.
The supervisor smiled at us, nodded knowingly and said, "Oh, it's ok" in his broken English. The woman obviously didn't understand or know what this peculiar item was and he quickly explained it to her and then turned to us. "It's fine, sir, you can go ahead. Have a good flight."
Again, how times have changed....
And still, I can't explain how comforting it was to step onto the El Al plane, and be greeted in Hebrew by my fellow countrymen. While times may have changed, we can't ever forget about the fact that history has the unfortunate tendency of repeating itself and I, for one, was relieved to step off that plane and place my feet on Israeli soil...
The inside of the shul in Worms, built in 1023...
A view from the outside of the shul