Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jerusalem I Will Not Forget You

Last week, I received a phone call from an old friend.  She had planned to visit us in Israel, and now, with the violent upswing, she was wondering if she would be crazy for coming.  "Will I be able to do anything?"she asked. I answered that I cannot vouch for peaceful streets everywhere, at this time, but I can attest to the fact that violence does not stop us from living here.  We continue to move on, perhaps at a slightly anxious pace, but we go to work, to school, and to the market-- and we continue to thrive on the fact that today, we are OK.

So, after my conversation with my friend, she informed me that she will definitely be coming to Israel.  I made plans to pick her up at the airport at 6:00am, and bring her back to my home to relax while I went to work for a while.  I told her that when I would return, we would figure out what she could do for the rest of the day--depending upon the current news reports.

When I returned, I had a plan...we would go to the beach.  What terrorist would choose a beach that is near an IDF base? It seemed like a foolproof plan.  No terrorists, just fun near the sea and sand.

Ah, but my friend had different plans.  She said "I really just want to go to Jerusalem--to the Wailing Wall." The "Wailing Wall?" I thought.  There were four violent attacks in tandem the day before in could we go THERE?  But, I collected my thoughts and said "Let's check the news, and see if it is safe, if it appears safe, then we will go." Sure enough, reports were released that the police and IDF were heavily guarding the Western Wall, and Old City. It appeared to be safe.  No, we were not going to the beach, we were going to the Kotel (Western Wall).

Throughout the ride, I told myself that we were going to pray, and that somehow, prayer trumps all else.  We would pray, and "What could be wrong with that?" I kept asking myself as I made chit-chat with my friend along the way.  Sure, my anxiety levels were through the roof, and I was in shock that my friend did not grill me about the cement barricades on either side of 443 as we travelled in peace towards Jerusalem.  I figured the less she knew, the better.  Was I crazy?  Was I putting ourselves in harms way?  I tried for my thoughts to not go that way.

We made it to the Old City in record time.  No one was going there.  The parking lot was empty.  As we made our way towards the Jaffa gate, we noticed tons of policemen and IDF soldiers manning the area.  There were not many tourists, but an occasional smattering of young girls coming back from afternoon prayers at the Wailing Wall.  All smiling, and chatting, as if it was a normal day.

Then, as we walked down St. James street, my friend slowed down, and said "Oh...this is amazing, I cannot believe I am here...the stones...the history!" For, it was my friend's first time visiting Israel, and her first time ever walking down towards the Old City, and the Western Wall.  It was all so new for her...and so old and familiar to me.  I was hoping for some of her new "rookie" fervor to rub off on me.  I feel somewhat jaded, experienced, and bruised by war and violence.   But, then I became mindful of the moment, just as my friend was.  I just began to breathe in the fact that I was there...walking towards the holiest prayer site I know.  And, despite the hatred, violence and pain, I was not fearing for my life at that moment.  For, I felt a Higher Power present.

As we entered the Western Wall plaza, the eerie quiet was an invitation for us to pray.  I then opened myself to the fact that prayers for my family, and for the Nation of Israel were why I had decided to go to the Western Wall.  And as I looked up at the amazing wall, with my awe-struck friend in tow, I knew that this is the place I had to be.

We prayed for a long time. Silently, we said our own individual prayers, and heard others praying nearby...religious, non-religious, families, and individuals; some praying in Hebrew, others in other languages. Yet, we were all doing the same exact thing-- praying.  Crying. Hoping for a miracle to stop the violence.  My anxiety dissipated.  G-d was there, there was no reason to be in fear of the unknown.  As I touched the wall, I was entirely conscious of the fact that הכותל בידינו (the Wall is in our hands).  No violence, war, terror or other misfortunes will ever let us think otherwise, הכותל בידינו לעולם! (The Wailing Wall is in our hands forever!).

Now I am back home...reflecting.....wondering was I crazy for going there? No, I did the right thing. I needed to remind myself of what is so important, and what it is we are fighting for. Jerusalem I will not forget you.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Half Time

    Yesterday we observed the Tisha BÁv fast in memory of the destruction of the ancient Holy Temple.  It is a very somber day, one of self-reflection, of abstinence, and of repent. As I prayed, and fasted, I began to reflect upon the timing of the fast.
     This year, the fast was pushed off a day, because the 9th day of Av actually was on Shabbat, the Sabbath day.  According to Jewish law, this fast was therefore pushed off a day, so we could properly observe the Sabbath, and the fast in their own merit, and at their own proper times.
      The timing of this mourning period during the Gregorian calendar this year is quite unique.  It is exactly a month since the last days of the school year.  Exactly a month ago we began summer vacation. (Yes, I can hardly believe it myself!)
      As my mind began to wander through my list of summer to-do's-that-were-not-done in July, I stopped myself and said "What have I done, and what can I still do this month?" And, once I spun it in this light, it all made sense.  I have spent time with family visiting from abroad.  I have stopped to do fun arts and crafts projects with the kids.  I have baked cookies, cakes and other concoctions with the kids.  I have just taken a few minutes of each day for myself to stop, think, and reflect about my day.
      So, as we began this new part of summer, I decided to take a nature walk in our neighborhood with my youngest daughter.  She in her jammies, me in my sneakers and workout clothing.  I skipped running to the gym, and just enjoyed spending a few precious minutes of walking and enjoying my daughter's company. Soon, we began to listen to the various sounds around us.  We found birds chirping in a palm tree, cicadas singing in a tree trunk, we heard crickets singing a song, children laughing, neighbors eating dinner, and everyone enjoying a peaceful summer eve.
     It was a perfect way to enjoy the new month ahead.  A perfect way to stop, reflect, and look forward to another month of family, good times, and summer bliss.  And, I only realized this as I held onto my daughter's hand, and watched her delight at the simple pleasures of summer.This was a Half-Time show that rocked my world more than any concert could do.  I am looking forward to the second half of the season!