My Journey Through Israel’s Resilience

This may not be my first trip to Israel, but in so many ways, it feels like a new experience . Many back home have asked me how it feels this time. Well , it feels like visiting a shiva house – we pray, eat, laugh, share, remember, comfort and support each other, and are happy to reunite with family members we haven’t seen in a long time. The sadness and loss are ever-present, but we choose to have hope and faith and embrace life.

After a beautiful Shabbat in Jerusalem I went to the Kotel. As I squeezed into a spot and attempted to drown out the sounds of others praying and singing, I noticed a young woman beside me, weeping . Her anguish was overwhelming, and I silently offered a prayer for her. In that instant, my individual prayers and worries felt trivial in comparison. Being beside her, I felt compelled to pray only for her. Her tears and cries seemed to reflect the ongoing tragedies and sorrows that unfold here daily.

All my thoughts and prayers were focused on the young woman standing beside me. Although I will never see her face, the memory of her cries and tears will linger within me.

The young woman’s tears could stem from a myriad of reasons, given the extensive and ongoing list of tragedies and losses. Right now the reasons for tears are plentiful, and the burden is heavy , heart-wrenching .

Is she weeping for the lives lost on October 7th?

The brutally slain, the abducted, the injured, the displaced?

Is she shedding tears for the countless fresh graves awaiting occupants at Har Herzl?

Is she mourning for the mother I saw last week sitting quietly beside her son’s grave?

Is she lamenting for Gidon’s widow and her now six fatherless children?

Is she weeping for those tasked with the solemn responsibility of collecting body parts, who have witnessed such horrific murder scenes that the light in their eyes has been forever extinguished?

Her tears become my own, just as Israel’s pain, cries, and challenges have become shared by jews all around the world .

In this new Israeli reality, we witness fathers on Shabbat wearing their talith , cradling a child in one arm and a rifle in the other. Displaced families can be seen living in hotels throughout the country with games and toys scattered in hotel lobbies. Puppies play, babies are strolled around, and men are playing games of chess late into the night. Overnight, strangers have transformed into Saba’s and Savta’s for many children.

Is she weeping for this altered landscape?

As our guide, Itzik, noted, we are refugees within our own borders, imbuing the famous words we sing in Hatikva:
‎לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ
“To be a free people in our land”
with new significance.

Is she shedding tears for the lone soldiers we spent Shabbat with from Brooklyn or New Zealand who recently returned from Gaza after 98 days. Feeling grateful yet sorrowful for leaving comrades behind and forever carrying the memory of those who will never return home?

Is she crying out for all the soldiers like Ynon who were injured and left permanently incapacitated?

Is she mourning for the elders who feel shattered, witnessing the ongoing bloodshed in our nation?

Is she lamenting for the commander who will bury another one of his soldiers tomorrow ?

Is she grieving for those families that have received the dreaded knock on the door?

And yet despite all this there is a magical sense of hope and solidarity. Through the tears and the heartache, there is a shared understanding that we must carry on, rebuild, and find moments of joy and laughter amidst the sorrow.

The list is extensive, and words fail to capture the depth of this collective sorrow and the magnitude of the challenges facing Israel. The sense of loss, grief, and the heavy burden carried by so many is palpable, but so is the spirit of hope, solidarity, and the will to continue despite the pain.

I came here on a solidarity mission to bring comfort, to connect with others, to offer a hand, share a meal together, to lend an ear, to gaze upon you and allow our hearts and souls to connect. Isreal , I watch you, I heed your words, I feel your grief. I see you all want to appear strong but I notice the tears in your eyes, I detect the strain in your voice, and I witness the anguish in your gaze.

I am convinced that our promise for salvation lies in our unity as a nation . May comfort, strength, courage, and resilience continue to emerge from these dark days .

Noam, a young man we volunteered with summed it up best when he shared his feelings of sadness as we said our goodbyes. He felt a piece of himself would be leaving with us when we returned to our home. “It’s incredible! All of a sudden, Jews popped up all over. I guess This Is Us.”

About the Author
Laurence Essiminy is a mother of 4 living in Montreal. She studied Education at McGill University. She is affiliated to Congregation Nahar Shalom of Hampstead.