Photo by Jenna Rose Alpern

Sometimes, I am struck by moments of clear and pure gratitude for the place in which we live.

Where women gather, encircle each other to support each one’s learning, growing, mothering, being. Instead of wedding and baby showers, we rain down blessings and shared wisdom before moments of transformation.

Where among my sons first heard sounds are chassidic melodies and the words of ancient prayers offered up on high as he joins a legacy, a family, of spiritual warriors and scholarly soldiers.

Where it is difficult to leave the house and remain anonymous and alone for even a supposed stranger will strike up a conversation, share unsolicited advice and even ask to hold my baby.

Where our weekends consist of sitting around abundantly delicious tables with each other, speaking about everything from mysticism to policy, inviting in strangers and family alike, sharing all that we have, which always miraculously is just enough.

Where we share and hold both joy and mourning so fully, often simultaneously. Our songs and dance come from places of emptiness and yearning just as much as jubilance.

Where our prayers hold more meaning when said together, stemming from a deeply ingrained message, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Where our shared aching for our first homes across oceans blends with our awe of returning to a much older, yet less immediately familiar home.

Where I fumble and blush through Hebrew interactions, stumble through the disorientedness of feeling foreign and then look around me realize we are all coming back here from somewhere.

Where the weight of responsibility, the threat of missiles and the burden of the unknown leads to an inexplicable feeling of safety felt no where else in the world.

Nothing is accidental or meaningless. Our commitment to being must be reinstated daily, sometimes hourly. Conscious community keeps us going.

We share in living – from birth to death – together. Those of us with family far away are adopted by and responsible for each other.

We are seen, held accountable, challenged to go further, providing a safety net when we inevitably fall and a celebration when we reach new heights.

Nothing is simple or rational, few things are comfortable, yet a deeper, invisible, magnetized pull keeps us all here.

A glimpse of the biblical landscape from atop a tall city building leaves me immediately speechless and present. The soft breeze I feel sweeping over us from the nearby desert whispers a timeless secret. To live and cry and birth and die and dance through the tears of yearning and mourning together is why we’re here.

I am a witness, a sister, a daughter, a neighbor, a humble mother to the holy next generation of the children of Israel.

I am because we all are, both near and far.

The fullest expression of what I can be, even in those moments where all of this escapes me.

Jerusalem, 1844 Photographer: Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey

Jerusalem, 1844
Photographer: Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey