Snapshot: Jerusalem Friday Afternoon Friends and I have a welcome break after three days of non-stop meetings. We grab some lunch, sit in wonderment at the ability of Israelis to be running into shelters one minute and dancing in the streets the next. On the way back to our hotel to prepare for Shabbat we pause to take a “selfie.” Looking back now it is clear that our selfie silliness was, in large part, comic relief from the serious tone of our many meetings and the stress of waiting for the next Red Alert. I am reminded that it is our connection to one another that, more than anything, brings holiness into our lives. Snapshot: The Roof of the Mamila Hotel I head up to the roof of the hotel to film a Shabbat greeting I will send back to my congregation along with some updates on all we have seen and experienced. The day is clear. The weather is warm. Jerusalem, the City of Gold, glimmers in the sunlight. And then… And then we notice dark smoke rising from the distance. We had not heard a Red Alert. We had we not seen Iron Dome go into action as we had the previous day. We are unclear what is going on but there clearly IS something going on… Snapshot: Welcoming Shabbat with Nava Tehila We welcome Shabbat at Nava Tehila. Sitting outside the sun is still shining. The ancient words of Yedid Nefesh are set to a modern, meditative chant. It sounds like this… Yedid Nefesh. The voices surrounding me prompt me to close my eyes. I listen. I am swept away. I suddenly “hear” the internal quiet that is the promise of Shabbat. I think to myself, “I didn’t realize just how much I needed this.” I am grateful. A young mother approaches the center of the circle created by the musicians and the community. She is holding a newborn and accompanied by a woman who appears to be her sister. I think to myself, “How amazingly sweet that, in the midst of all of this we are able to share in the naming of a new Jewish life” The rabbi addresses the woman in soft-spoken Hebrew. The child is a miracle… As Shabbat approaches we have the privilege to welcome new life… I well up with tears at the beauty of the moment. The rabbi continues. The father of the child is not present. No, as his child is being named he is outside Gaza. One of the thousands of Israeli citizens-soldiers who have been called up to serve the Jewish State… to protect the homeland in which this child will be raised. I feel punched in the stomach as the reality of unfolding events reenters my consciousness. “This” I realize, “Is life in Israel.” The importance of peace… of security… of quiet… has never felt more real. The child is named. There is more singing. The peace of Shabbat once again finds its way into my heart and my soul. Snapshot: Shabbat Dinner and Song in Jerusalem
My friends and I are welcomed into the home of a rabbinic colleague who has retired to Israel. We welcome Shabbat with Kiddush and Challah. We fill our glasses. We say LeChayyim. WE eat. We drink. We share stories. We drink some more. We sing. We eat some more. We laugh. We MAKE Shabbat and all is good in the world. We leave our colleague’s home and begin our quiet walk back to our hotel. Snapshot: Just outside the Railway Station We pass the charred remains of three cars just outside the train station. The acrid smell of melted plastic surrounds the destroyed vehicles and envelops them in an air of chaos and disorder. “Molotov cocktail” says one of my companions. The realization hits me harder than I could possibly expect. It was these cars burning as Shabbat approached that I saw from the roof of my hotel. It was these cars that had fallen victim to the anger and violence of the day. It was three three cars that stand as a symbol of what Israelis live with day in and day out. For while the peace of Shabbat arrives each week it is a peace that is, sadly, all too often punctuated with the challenge and violence of the day.” Snapshot: I Walk Back to the Hotel with a Heart Weighted Down By Eyes That Now See Far Too Clearly the Challenges We Face.