The last few days have been so very full. Friday morning, the last tour of the Ulpan took us to
We emerged into very bright, hot sun. Again, a day to stay inside but we were outside in the heat. Unlike at Nahal Amud, though, there were lots of places to buy food and drink. Which gave me a chance to practice my “no lines” skills. This is hard for me. I am used to lines and waiting my turn. I forget that this attitude doesn’t exist in
Then onto the Kotel, the Western Wall. I did not expect much from it—when so much symbolism accumulated around something tangible, it’s tough for that object to live up to the reputation. But my feelings around the visit were more complicated than I expected. First of all, the Israeli Orthodox are simply obnoxious. Their sense of entitlement and ownership of the places is just rude. If the essence of Judaism is to treat each person as though he or she is made in the image of God, these people are no Jews—they miss the entire point of the mitzvot. A young mother with three children and a stroller stood behind me and kept bumping me with the stroller, even after I pointed out she was doing it. Then she pushed her way ahead of me. Had she even come close to acknowledging me as a person, I would have moved aside for her. But her rudeness just made me mad.
Second, the portioning of the wall—I had been told that the men’s and women’s sections were different, but I really wasn’t prepared for the reality of a space for women that is only about a quarter the size of that of the men; that has much fewer places for real prayer. I felt so deeply disenfranchised (if that word can be used in this context…). More on Orthodoxy later… However, there is the religion and there are the authorities and one thing that has been clear to me ever since I was informed by the Reform authorities that I couldn’t be a rabbi is that the two are different, that the authorities are not God and don’t even have a more direct line to God than I do. So here as well. I forced myself to go the wall and find a spot where I could simply touch it. That was very moving, much more than I expected. The stone was warm in the sun, almost alive like bread dough. Obviously, I don’t mean that it felt soft as bread dough, but somehow it felt alive in the same way. And the smoothness of the rock, polished with thousands of women’s hands, sweat, oil. The rock and the people, irrespective of the rules around the people—yes, that meant something.
From the wall, we went to get lunch, and I found a place to buy a map of the city so that I could with comfort get to the sherut station and find a way to get to Tel Aviv. We had a bit more wandering around the city and discussion by the guide, and then I said goodbye to the guide and the accompanying madrich and walked down to find the sherut. This was not a huge problem—while I wasn’t entirely sure which street to take, the minute I hesitated, someone asked if he could help and directed me to the right street. (This is apparently the flip side of the “no lines”—people notice if you need help and insist on helping. Not a bad thing, actually.) Ten minutes later I was on the sherut and had discussed where I was going with the driver, who complimented my Hebrew—lovely to hear.
All was kol b'seder until I noticed that there were several missed calls from an unknown number--no messages though. When the phone rang again, I answered to find my favorite madrich on the phone, wondering where I was. Now, I had signed a list saying I would not be returning to
We had a fine time catching up on the past. Shabbat dinner was at Colin’s brother’s house. His brother and sister-in-law are architects and potters, with a mother-in-law visiting and a daughter about Lior’s age. So there was all kind of cousinly shrieks and giggles, lots of family talk, and much teasing as well as serious conversation. Made me miss home and those family conversations around my table, while at the same time feeling so cared for and welcome. A wonderful night.
The next day we simply talked some more—somehow the day vanished with talking. I wasn’t terribly interested in going out in the heat and I think (I hope) they were relieved as well. Colin is working on global warming models, so that was very interesting to discuss. In addition, I think we covered community, education, jobs, and children. All good fun. Around five, I made it to the sherut station and two hours later was in my dorm room doing homework.
Bits and pieces: One of the readings in our book was a completely untranslatable poem by Yehuda Amichai on
Looks like I’ll be staying with a couple of people in
And finally, I was informed that a fifteen-year-old boy died of heat exhaustion yesterday at Nahal Amud.
Here’s the information from http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/123212:
(Menachem Shlomo Shapira, 15, a student at Bnei Brak’s Ponovezh yeshiva, died after fainting of dehydration and falling down a steep incline while hiking in Nahal Amud in the
What is there to say other that “zichrono livracha”?