Have you ever been in a terrible place in your head, such an awful frame of mind, that all you wanted to do was reach out and hurt someone as much as you were hurting? Or, at the same moment, just cry for all the injustice, all of the unbelievable comments that are directed at you?
All day, I ingested the news about yet another terror attack, this one more insidious and taken up a notch; they used guns instead of ‘just’ a knife, and worse, as I understand, they dressed up as religious Jews. All day my brain was spinning, incoherent- between anger at what they did, anger at the world who is NOT posting Je Suis Tel Aviv/Israel (sometimes it does seem like part of a different country, or at least some of the residents and their Mayor seem to think it is), disgust at comments from OUR side (see said mayor) about how basically, we are at fault… you read all these things, or at least I did, and found it was hard to know where to start unravelling all the mixed-up feelings. Don’t forget worry about the victims still fighting for their lives, and sadness for those who were murdered as they sat at a cafe on a lovely June evening.
Part of the awfulness is that this took place just before a holiday, THE holiday where we became a people. So I had to do something. Thankfully, there was something I could do. First, I found out that a group is helping with soldiers who, instead of being able to go home to their families for the holiday, now have to spend it at a base and on patrol, and joined their efforts. Next — I went on a tour of the Old City, OUR Jerusalem. I was apprehensive about going, and made sure to kiss everyone goodbye. I both treasure and dislike this feeling, of how fleeting life can be; we are not guaranteed that if we go out to celebrate our birthday, we will even make it through dinner. I started out being nervous, on high alert. I comforted myself that I had my pepper spray, but then came the thought that it is quite ineffective against a spray of gunfire. There were so many people just walking around as if nothing had happened! But then that was comforting –there we all were, walking around and not hiding in our houses.
Our group met in Mamilla Mall, a modern place with a backdrop of the ancient Yaffo Gate. I have been there so often that at first it was not such a big deal, but as we walked and the tour guide spoke about the significance of the city, I truly felt how I was walking over ancient stones, placed there by our people before we were forced out of our homeland.
Our first stop was Migdal David, which was closed due to a wedding there. It is impressive to see, and even more to compare the ancient with the new and see that somehow, we manage to keep and honor the old but still live in the modern world. The guide pointed out that this holiday is specially connected to King David, a man who started life as a shepherd, a job which prepared him to be the shepherd of a nation. And even more so, although he was born with (supposedly) a tendency to bloodshed, he held it in and only used it when it was necessary for his people. I believe that his people still carry this trait to this day, and use our power when necessary, for protection.
Next, we stopped on the rooftop where all the quarters meet, where we heard how there were periods when Jews lived in the Muslim quarter which was all they could do at the time. It makes me sad that we can’t all just live together, but despite what the world says, *we* aren’t the ones murdering *them* on a daily basis, and saying we are justified. If that was the case, why is one of their murdering terrorists being cared for in OUR hospital, instead of being left to bleed as they have done when one of our people is hurt? (Note case of Arab ambulance standing by and doing nothing to help after a terrorist took apart a family-and yet, no condemnation from the world about that.)
Then we saw the remains of the ancient walls which guarded the City of David, noting how much Jerusalem has grown since then. After that we had a special treat. We were able to get a short visit inside the Churva Synagogue, where we clearly saw proof of the resilience of our people. Last time I went inside there was many years ago, before the rebuilding. There is no comparison between the shell of the building that was left and what is there now. It was a great zechut (an honor) to be able to see the beautiful house of prayer rebuilt, and hear about how we have rebuilt it a few times, this time after we were told in 1948 that the Jewish Quarter had been destroyed so completely, we wouldn’t be able to rebuild for thousands of years. Well, it took only 19 years from that proclamation to get it back, and a few more to rebuild- and here we are again.
Our last stop as a group was Kever David, my first visit. The entrance is lined with his tehillim, and I said some in name of those on our list, especially those injured last night. There is something so very powerful about saying his words and being there, in the city that he helped to build. The words themselves, still so relevant that it is as if King David knew then what we would be going through now: Psalms 20: ‘May Hashem answer you on the day of distress…May He dispatch your help from the Sanctuary, and support you from Zion..’ and 13: ‘How long, Hashem, will You forget me?…How long will You hide Your face from me?…my heart is melancholy even by day; how long will my enemy triumph over me?’ And yet, he finishes this one by saying, ‘…I trust in Your kindness…I will sing to Hashem’ as David knew that Hashem was with him, even when it seemed He wasn’t.
Some of the tour had to leave, but a few of us went on to the kotel. We walked down the outside walls, still amazed by the sight of Jerusalem. There was David’s City, so many times smaller than what we have today. We grow, and the walls don’t hold us back. But they do hold within them the most precious part of us, the Wall that we have been visiting for so many thousands of years. It is our holiest site, the direction we face no matter where we are in the world. We took a few minutes to pray for those in our nation who need it. I also prayed for happiness, not sadness, health and not sickness, peace and not war for us all. It was a privilege to be oleh regel, and go up to pray just before the day where we would have all been together as a nation in the times where we had a Temple on the Temple Mount.
The overall feeling I got from the tour was the reminder that we have an ancient attachment to the land, that we have been here, we have a right to be here, and that we have a right to protect ourselves.
On our way out, the wedding music was still floating out the windows of Migdal David, telling us that we are still here, and that life does go on, with our help. This tiyul was the answer to my questions today, and the antidote for an unwanted pre-holiday depression. When we find the strength to pray even when we feel broken, sad and angry, when we look for the positive and not the negative, and when we remember that although there is room to let others live, we know the answer to who we are — we are a culture, a religion, a nation. We are the Jewish People.