What is your lifetime wish? To race a Ferrari at Le Mans? To walk on a glacier in Greenland? To sail the Amazon River?
Those are all great wishes. But we think that 101 year old Ms. Romay Davis from Montgomery, Alabama had the best wish of all – and it even came true.
Romay’s wish of a lifetime was to visit Jerusalem. To walk the ancient alleyways of the city, to visit the holy places and to meet the people. But how do you visit Jerusalem when you live in Alabama, it’s the middle of a pandemic, flights are being cancelled, airports are closed and countries are on lockdown? You visit virtually, of course. And that is what forever young- at -heart Romay did – with the help of the AARP, Holy City VR and the Tower of David Museum.
It all started when the Tower of David Museum was contacted by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) who partner with Wish of a Lifetime to honor seniors by giving them the chance to realize their dreams. That’s when we first learned about Romay.
Romay Davis has always loved to travel. Her endeavors have brought her from South America to New York City to Egypt. While in Egypt, she recalled the tour guide referring to the land “over there” – Israel. Israel is a place that Romay always wanted to visit with her mother, but never had the chance before she passed away. Now, the dream of visiting still stands – but getting to Israel isn’t as simple as it used to be. To honor her mother, recognize the culture of the Jewish communities who have always shown Romay kindness and support, and to embrace its melting pot and confluence of history, Romay’s wish was to visit Israel. Thanks to Virtual Reality and to celebrate her ongoing curiosity and desire to learn, she did!
You're never too young to learn something new! That would definitely be one of Romay's mottos - as well as "I"ve still got stuff to do"! Romay is not your ordinary 101 year old. She was was honored last year when she turned 100 by the grocery chain, Winn Dixie in Montgomery, - not as a loyal customer - but beloved as part of their team where at 100 years of age, she was still working 5 days a week stocking the shelves. But this was just the latest in a long line of career moves - from veteran of WWII, to model, to fashion designer - and at the very young age of 70, she received her Black Belt in Taekwondo and throughout all the years she has been a community advocate.
So when this amazing woman said she dreamed of seeing Jerusalem – we did all that we could to make it happen. Since actual travel was impossible we turned to the wonders of VR – Virtual Reality. Through an experience created and produced by Blimey and Holy City VR and a product of the Tower of David Innovation Lab, Romay could visit Jerusalem, without leaving home.
Supplied with an Oculus Quest 2 Headset sent straight to Montgomery, Alabama, Romay visited the holiest sites of Jerusalem in an immersive experience that was practically real. The experience took her to the holiest sites in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall as if she was actually there. She saw sites and ceremonies that are rarely witnessed by outsiders. The Holy City, created by an inter-faith team of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim innovators, celebrates the rich cultural diversity of Jerusalem offering a new medium for experiencing sights remotely, and offering an incredible opportunity to people confined to their homes.
Romay was amazed and told us “I wanted to stay. I didn’t want it to quit. And seeing the people, I wanted to touch them .. they were walking so fast and were so close. It is the capture of reality, that’s what it is. It makes you think you are participating. I enjoyed it like you have never enjoyed anything in your life. I’ve never seen anything like it … because it gives you a sensation. I thought I was there. Several times I attempted to touch the people ….”
On hand to greet Romay Davis at the outset of her virtual visit was Israel Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-HaCohen: who said, “ I am honored Romay had Jerusalem on her wish list, and happy we could show her some of the Holy Land’s central sights. Like Romay, many people yearn to visit Israel. I invite them to come and fulfill their dream as soon as the skies open and tourism resumes.”
When asked what was the secret of her long life, Romay said, “I just like people!” Well Romay – we love you and we hope that for your 102nd birthday, you will visit us in person, here in Jerusalem!
And for all of you who want to see Jerusalem, virtually, just as Romay did – here is a link where you can also see this unforgettable experience.