Jacqueline Burnley
The Last Levite Chinese Brush Artist Baalat Teshuva

Midnight Blue, The Days We Prayed Outside

I gained a lot of richness from,
This year’s outdoor davening, in the open air.
For once, women, who stay home, could actually hear,
Something, maybe a remnant of voices,
A melody, a theme, a poem, weeping noises,
From a time, long-ago and gone,
On the balconies, they could sit
Or behind the half-closed blinds, Or through a tiny slit,
This year, little children could just walk right through,
Annoy folk, make noises, and stare, at a scene they will remember too,
For a long time, one which is so natural, authentic, real, and wide,
As they grow up and hum the tune “The days we prayed outside.”

I remember once as the sun was setting by the Dead seashore,
At mincha, my cousin Jo jumped from his beaten old car,
And others stopped their journey to join in,
With precious silent prayers, standing next to our kin.
To watch the orange- sky turn pink and see the furious heat below,
I thought,
Is this how to pray? In the open, on the way, in the field in which we sow?
This year anyone in flip -flops, who had not booked a place,
Paid for a seat, or who had never been invited, could take up space,
Usually, not welcomed, and mostly ignored, perhaps a faint grin,
Could stroll right past, or step right up, or just sit and fit right in,
And maybe listen to the voices and the supplications of the initiated holy few
In the hierarchy of holiness that exists, which keeps him outside, out of view.
A young person in bare feet could walk past,
With his bicycle in tow, Is the “The Yom Kippur Fast?”
He drifts towards the prayers in The Dizengoff square,
And be allowed to join the angels, just for once, spiraling, up there!
As the children of Israel davened and prayed,
In white tallisim and heads covered, their outlines swayed,
They looked up to the firmament at Neila, it was midnight blue,
No questions asked, no guilt, no commitment required from you,
No hostile questions, no tests to pass, nothing to prove or show,
Just a place for a few moments, when Heaven and Earth unite and glow,
One step, One word, One love, One life, how fast the hourglass flies,
We, at last, have done something good, and gracious in His eyes.

When I walk around my city, in this very special town,
I see pray books draped on, tables next to chairs spread all around.
All things we need, to pray with, our garage in the park or under the trees,
People in masks are trying hard to keep apart, to avoid spreading the disease.
We do not know what started this or why it came or for how long,
Each of us has to make some sense of it, then try to sing our song.
I know what makes me happy, walking about with music in my ears,
I remember a different time when young people had no fears.
All the news was true, we thought,
And all the police were fair,
All the boys and girls wanted just to dance
With ribbons and flowers in their hair.
Every job was there to take, a choice of many or few
If you worked hard and tried your best, your boss was proud of you.

The edge has turned and we must endure
An entirely different world,
Where well-fed girls, try to starve themselves,
To transform, and spread their dark veils unfurled.
Each person thinks he rules the earth
With his view of life’s medication,
But of course, no one wants to listen to
another person’s frail -fragile fabrication.
My special needs grandson Chemmi,
Has had his dream come true,
To be part of the outdoor minyan,
At maariv, when the sky is midnight blue.
I hear Daniel sings the praises,
Out loud in a soft sweet tone,
He has now become a leader,
Music is his second home.

About the Author
I was born in London, England. My father was a Holocaust survivor, he fought for the British forces and was a strictly disciplined soldier of the highest intelligence using his many languages to his advantage in the War. He met and married my mother during the war in a whirlwind of ten days of romance, which we laughed and cried about for the next 50 years. I studied Art and English, qualified as a teacher, and used my skills to work all my life. My husband loved Israel and came as a lone soldier in the 1970s. We married and had two children. I became a Baal Teshuva and have been a long, interesting, transformative journey. I made aliyah by myself, in 2007 and against all odds cut ties with my country of birth, left my career, friends and family, to be near my family here, and to be blessed to be together with my grandchildren growing up In Israel.
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