I just returned from a very special trip with my 12 year old daughter to Israel. For those of you with more then one child, you know it's highly unusual to spend so much time with one child. We did some touring, visiting holy sites, workshops and just relaxing in Jerusalem. We bumped into many friends and made a whole lot more friends as well. We got to meet some of my mother's new family, which was really nice, and I introduced Chava to quite a few great aunts, uncles, and cousins too. Israel is a unique experience. It seems like there are equal amounts of tourists and Israelis. You see the same people over and over again. The tourists are all so excited to be there and share their experiences with other tourists. The locals are different. They have made great sacrifice to live in our homeland. They have lost friends and family, yet they have not lost hope or the ability to love. They are my heroes, and I pray daily for their safety and well being.
There were a few things that took me by surprise. First of all, I don't love food as much as I used to. It doesn't bring me comfort and I can eat at the same place every day and not care. It's just food. This is good and bad news. Good because if it doesn't matter, then eating healthy should not be hard. Bad because I think it's important to have things that bring us comfort, and whether it's a chocolate or a friend, when something brings you comfort you should hold on to it for dear life. Jerusalem is a comfort to me. I can sit by the Kotel all day. I don't have to say anything, yet being there comforts me. G-D is silent, my husband is silent, and I can sit here silently too. Maybe if I sit long enough I will be able to hear something.
While going to pray at Kever Rochel (grave of our matriarch Rachel) and the cave of the doubles in Chevron, where the rest of our Matriarchs, Patriarchs and Adam and Chava are buried, I found myself dry. Nothing like the last time I was there with Yitzi at the beginning of his sickness. It's not that I don't care as much, or don't believe as much, and I can't be sure what it is but of course I have my theories. We have to survive, and in order to do that, we have to find ways to be ok with our lives. It's hard to live in the past or in a hopeful future, when we are very much in the present. It takes a whole lot of energy to be here. There is a conscious effort to not spend a whole lot of time remembering how good it was and how good it will hopefully be again. It would be too easy to get lost there and be shocked all over again once our eyes are open. So we find ways to be ok and this becomes our normal. We look for the good within our situation and try to focus on that. There is also a possibility that praying for the same thing for the last 3 1/2 years, looses some of its intensity. Yet we daven every day for Moshiach and believe he will come each and every day. So this theory is not as strong as the first one. Whatever the case may be, there were two times when we could not hold back our emotions. We went through the Arab quarter and came to some steps where we could see Har Habayit, the Temple Mount. Only Muslims are allowed there and there are cops making sure of that. My soul has never been so angry before. The longing to be at the holiest site and the fact that we cannot go, was so unbearable. I just stared and cried. To be so close and so far. To be staring at exile in the face while watching those who have no business there, free to come and go as they please. It was a very new sensation for me, and in the days before the 9th of AV, an appropriate one.
The second time was when we went to visit the grave of Chaya Spalter. She is buried on Mt. Olives and has the most magnificent view. There is nothing natural about praying at the grave of a child, and not just any child, our very special friend and neighbor.
My daughter has been telling me every day for the last seven months that she needs to go to Israel. When I asked her where she needs to go there, she told me only two places. The Kotel (western wall) and to visit Chaya Spalter. I asked her what she wanted to say and she told me its private, but that she said what she needed to.
Even though we have figured out a way to survive in our lives, it's good to have reminders that this is not an acceptable way to live. It can and will be so much better. We need to remember daily that as free as we are, we cannot walk up a few steps in our own land. We are still burying children and many others far too early, and that is unacceptable. This world is surviving, but compared to what it could be, we are barely living. I suppose I'm glad for the reminders. This is not nearly enough, we need so much more.