I have a friend named Ahava Emunah Lange.
She changed her name when she was diagnosed with cancer. The name she chose is Hebrew. It means Love and Faith.
It was a hot day, and there was a long line at the entrance for non-Muslims, and we got behind a couple speaking German. Behind us, a group of men in long purple robes spoke quietly in a language I couldn’t make out – but I liked the sound of it — like water going over tones on a river bank. From a distance, we could hear clarinets and singing:
“Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live!”
A joyful band of celebrants moved out on the the Western Wall plaza near where we were standing. Men and women dancing — some men wore yarmulkes, some women wore scarves over their heads despite the cloying heat, they danced, floating like light over the stones while a red-faced boychik on the brink of manhood stood in the center, looking both mortified and delighted.
“Ooh a bar mitzvah!” Ahava said and we watched the processional join hands in a circle around the boy while they sang.
Am Yisrael, am Yisrael, am Yisrael chai!
Her eyes lit up, and she swayed with the music and I did too.
I love faith when it’s pure and joyful and full of love, and THIS is pure and joyful and full of love.
My friend embodies that.
A few of the celebrants beckoned to the people in line, and one of the men in the purple robe behind us joined in. The German couple took pictures, while the circle widened, and the music swelled and everyone shuffle-danced from side to side, hands clasped, left foot right foot left foot right foot then toward the boy in the middle… “Am Yisrael am Yisrael am Yisrael chai”
One of the celebrants saw us dancing on the sidelines , beamed at us, and reached out and grabbed Ahava Emunah’s hand and pulled her in.
She didn’t hesitate even though dancing with strange men goes against her religious observance. Even still, she joined right in, dancing, swaying, one with the music. She reached for me, and I took her hand, and joined the circle.
Left, right, left, right, left, right and in toward the middle toward the Bar mitzvah boy. She was singing, and her face was glowing.
“Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel LIVE!” she sang along as she danced between me and the other man.
And I saw it, and how lucky I am that I’m there to see it, in the shadow of Temple Mount by the Western Wall plaza, the seat of yearning for our people. It’s one of those tiny miracles that happen in Jerusalem every second, but we miss it too often because we come laden with our own stuff that makes us heavy, when instead we could feel so light if we just let go and joined hands.
And I saw all of this because of my friend, Ahava Emunah, Love and Faith.
The song ended and the processional headed toward the Western Wall where the, red-faced kid with the Spiderman Yarmulke would read from the Torah and become a man in the eyes of Jewish law. Ahava was smiling and glowing as she wiped sweat from her brow.
“That was amazing!” she said. “Wasn’t that amazing? Didn’t you feel HaShem right there?”
I did – I do every time I think of it.
“Wait, aren’t you not supposed to hold hands with a strange man?” I asked.
She nodded, and smiled. “That’s true. But he was celebrating a Bar Mitzvah — and celebrating with other people is one of the greatest things we can do, even when it means we’re uncomfortable. Honoring his joy is a service to God and embarrassing him would be diminishing it, and that would be the opposite.”
I think about that line while the Temple Mount gates open and we ascend. I think about that line a lot – about that balance between honouring others and staying true to yourself, and how sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone is best path forward.
Ahava Emunah taught me that lesson and I teach it to my kids.
And now she’s really sick – battling Ovarian cancer with valor, with courage, and watching her fight with bravery and grace is humbling and inspiring to me and so many others who love her. I think of her every single day – of her radiant face, and her beautiful children, of her wonderful husband and all who love her and are struggling with her, I close my eyes, and I just hope….
Next week, there will be a 15 minute worldwide prayer circle on October 9, 2018 at 3 pm Israel time for this remarkable woman who has touched the lives of others across the globe. From the North, South, East and West, people from all over are going to come together in her honor and say prayers for her healing.
I hope you will join us — whether you Believe or don’t – it doesn’t matter. Just showing your love is enough right now and you can do that by being part of this.
Her family also needs help with her treatments, and you can also be of incredible service to them by clicking here and giving what you can.
I know we all have our struggles and we all carry so much pain – and it is a beautiful thing when we pull together as a community of concerned people to help one person who needs our love. That is wholeness. And that is holiness.
With real love and real faith, may we have more occasions to dance together — all of us, with Ahava Emunah right in the center.
Here is a link to the Facebook Group for the event to raise our voices in support and healing for Ahava Emunah bat Chava Ehta on Tuesday, Oct. 9th, 2018, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. At 3 PM Israel time.
And here is a link to a GoFundMe campaign. Please, give if you can.