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I have been sitting on my couch for much of the afternoon reliving my experience in Israel, looking at some pictures and trying to find another flight to go back.
I covered my hair while I was in Israel, in part because I wanted to protect my head from the sun, but also because I was in the Holy Land, I felt a bit compelled to cover my hair the same way I do when I go to Shul.
There is the concept in Jewish tradition that a married woman covers her hair, as a symbol of modesty. Hair is considered sensual, and a married saves all her sensuality for the eyes of her husband alone. I have grown to appreciate this concept. I have been wearing skirts that go below my knees and long sleeve shirts for quite some time.
I hadn’t taken the leap to covering my hair full time. Right now I feel a strong pull to do it. Part of me feels a bit like an imposter though. Since my husband isn’t Jewish, I know there are a few mitzvahs that I don’t have to do, like keeping the purity laws (going to the Mikvah every month). I don’t know if covering my hair would fall under that category as well.
I am so sad to be leaving. My husband and I took our son in the stroller for an evening walk last night. I am so grateful that he indulged me. I had been at the Kotel twice earlier in the day, and I guess I want to go another time. My experiences there have been more powerful and meaningful than last time. The moment I step onto the plaza floor I feel chills. I want to hold on to that feeling of connection for as long as possible. I want to figure out how to keep it.
I am sensing that part of the answer has to do with Shabbat. I took a class at Aish yesterday afternoon and as it turned out it was on Shabbat and not the topic on the schedule. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I tried to remain open to the messages that G-d is sending me. I just watched a video blog by Lori Palatnik, and again just so happens she spoke of connection and Shabbat.
I have been keeping Shabbat for a few years, lighting candles, making a special meal, kiddush and not driving or using electricity. I admit much of the driving force has been because Shabbat is one of the Ten Commandments, and over time I have learned to appreciate and even look forward to disconnecting. Maybe it is time to add another dimension, just not sure what…
The plan for Sunday was to go to the Dead Sea and Masada. I have been to both before, and I really wanted to go with my family this time. My son on the other hand has been less than eager to be in his car seat or stroller for extended periods of time, and I proposed not going. My husband was looking forward to floating in the Dead Sea, so we agreed he will take a bus tour there tomorrow, over Shabbat. I may get a bit overwhelmed being alone with an active toddler, I will do my best and this is definitely for the best so that everyone will have a positive experience. Shalom bayit, peace in the home includes compromise. My husband learned that the mezuzah is placed on an angle because the rabbis weren’t sure whether it should be placed horizontally or vertically, the compromise being at an angle. We are reminded then to include compromise to keep Shalom Bayit. Shabbat Shalom.
Today was shopping day for us. We headed to Machane Yehudah also known as the Shuk. It was busy as can be expected the day before a holiday.
I realized today that even though there are challenges with day to day living in Israel, I love being here. I feel the spiritual energy of the city and I end each day on a high. On the flip side, I’m not sure my husband feels the same way. I see him frustrated with the impatience of the drivers. He can’t believe the prices of some of the items here. He is a kind and generally patient person. He will hold doors open for people, let please pass first if there is a narrow spot. People are in a rush here, and walking with a stroller can be challenging in crowded spot. A friend told us today that you get tough after living here a while.
My husband also got to experience the soft side of Israelis. Last night a driver honked at us and my husband got out, told him we had no idea where we were going, the driver shook his hand and spent a few minutes giving my husband detailed directions. Our first night in Jerusalem, the parking machine wouldn’t accept our money so two people waiting in line helped us out, not that we asked, they just did it.
I hope for my husband, those positive experiences will outlast the annoyances of the day to day.
I discovered late last night that children under the age of ten are not allowed into Yad Vashem. I think this makes a lot of sense, so we decided to head to Ashdod where my parents live. We had a nice day at the beach.
During lunch, as I walked my very busy toddler around the restaurant, my husband asked my parents how they felt about my marrying a non Jewish man, as they did not seem observant as I am. They explained how they were worried, but they see how happy I am, how much he respects my religion and I think they are generally appreciative of being able to see their grandson. From what my husband told me about the conversation, they were quite concerned originally, but have come to accept our family as it is. I suspect a lot has to do with a grandchild, and quite honestly I am ok with that. I have spent a long time and much of child hood in family drama of one kind or another, some of which led to family distance, I am quite content for peace (as my son bangs a can on the hard floor lol).
Today was an amazing tour of the Old City with our own guide. One of the most amusing part of the day was at the Kotel, the Western Wall. While I was praying at the Wall, my husband got a quick tour of the men’s side of the Kotel. As they waited for me by the flag pole, my husband was approached by a Chabad rabbi, and asked about the last time he put on tefillin. My husband said, “never”, well, quite obviously to him anyway. The rabbi then asked, “but you’re Jewish, no.” Husband: “well, no.”
He asked my husband about kids, and he told him about our one child. The rabbi then told my husband to raise our son to be just like him (i.e. my husband) and make sure he too marries a nice Jewish girl.
I do very much hope my son grows up to be like his dad, who is one of the most generous, kindest people I know. While I know some readers of this website may disagree, I do hope my son marries a Jewish girl. My husband understands that (also another thing that makes my husband amazing), not just as something that I want, but from the lectures he has taken with me.
Four years ago, my trip included lectures in the Aish building, still under renovation at the time. We all enjoyed the view of the Kotel plaza from the top of building and had our group pictures taken up there. It was truly special for me today to see the finished building, this time with my husband and son, wearing my JWRP pin and getting our photo taken together. Best Mother’s Day present ever. Baruch HaShem.
There was very little resting on this day of rest. My son did give me the gift of sleeping in until eight thirty this morning which was very nice.
We walked over to the Kotel, the Western Wall. When I was 12, I hadn’t felt much connection. Four years ago, I also didn’t feel much at the Kotel. Today, I couldn’t find my own words, so I used King David’s words from the Tehillim, the Psalms. I had read a few trying to keep the sick people in mind, the same people my son and I have been praying for. I read Psalm number 113, the one where it says G-d gives children to barren women. (My husband and I have been trying to conceive again). Then I leaned against the Wall and just let myself feel. I started to cry, and I can’t say I’m really sure why, but it did feel like I was crying in my Father’s arm. When I was done, I backed away from the Kotel (I have always liked the idea of walking backwards from the Wall, which I assume has to do with not turning our backs away from G-d), rejoined my husband and we walked to a friend’s for lunch.
It was a beautiful Shabbat meal and day over all, one full of connection and sunshine.
This was a busy day. We headed to Tsfat after a hearty breakfast buffet in typical Israeli hotel fashion.
I liked Tsfat. Its old buildings and artists are amazing. We were a bit lost and got directions from a hostel. I mentioned I wanted to see the Ari Synagogue. She told me there were two. The one by the cemetary has an amazing mikvah for men and my husband would love it. Her father apparently had an amazingly powerful experience when he dunked there. I smiled as she quite obviously did not realize that my husband isn’t Jewish. The thought of conversion had crossed my mind and I wondered if he would choose too dunk there for his powerful experience. It was a passing thought…
We made our way to the Ari Synagogue in the old city. The one with the chair that is described to bring luck to women trying to conceive. Four years ago i sat in that chair and one and a half years later i got pregnant. I sat in the chair this time praying for a second child. The first time I sat in the chair I did have a profound experience. Tears flowed naturally. Today I sat and waited for tears to flow but there were none this time. Maybe I was too tired. Maybe I wasn’t meant to have the same experience twice.
After walking around Tsfat we headed to Jerusalem. I asked my husband if he wanted to take a detour and drive through Nazareth. Much of what we will be seeing is about my religion, I wanted to give him a chance to see something connected to his religion. It was very anticlimactic. We probably didn’t drive in the right areas, so all we saw was the town of Nazareth and a lot of traffic.
I guess no real connection for either of us today. Not in the typical spiritual sense. I sensed it in other ways. We had food and other items in the car that would like get damage with the high temperatures in Israel. The weather in Tsfat was overcast with a cool wind. The car didn’t even get hot. A little reminder that G-d is paying attention.
Four years ago I had tried to make plans to see my parents when I came to Israel. I was scared. Our relationship had barely healed after many years of missed communications. The reunion didn’t happen and as I learned then from one of the trip organizers, it wasn’t the time to meet them. There wouldn’t be enough time, but truth be told, I wasn’t ready. I was just starting my spiritual journey and essentially starting to clarify the values I wanted to integrate into my life. I knew, begrudgingly, that Kibbud Av v’Em (honouring your parents) would be part of it, I was just unsure how after many years of not getting along.
I learned about the mitzvah of honouring parents and now I am learning to honour mine. After they all, they did give me life.
This time I was ready. Still scared, but ready. And
I saw they were ready too. They didn’t run to hug their grandson first. They ran to me. They cried, I admit I was too tired to cry (no sleep on the plane and insomnia all week) but I felt very close and loved in that moment. Then they hugged their grandson and son in law, and suddenly my family felt a little bigger.
Four years ago I travelled to Israel with 15 other women for the Jewish women’s renaissance project mission. I was scared of what would be waiting for me in Israel. I found a deep connection, a Hebrew middle name and amazing memories.
Today, I am travelling to Israel, this time with my husband and son. I will hugging my parents for the first time in 15 years. They will be hugging their grandson and their non Jewish son in law.
I am still scared. But a new scared. Last time seemed more about what I was leaving behind. This time I look forward.
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