Worth the walk.

In my city there is a wall; a wall designed to support but now occupies way beyond the stones’ physical mass. The wall clutches the collective memory of my nation; absorbing the holiness of our efforts, the tears of strangers unperturbed by the public stage, the symbolism of our goal for unity and our unabashed love for God.

In the past few weeks, I just can’t help but pay attention to my wall. The streets on Yom Yerushalim flooded with what seems like the entire nation dancing in a mosh pit at a rock concert. Everywhere I pushed, blue and white flags and clothing colored my vision. Unable to dispose of my goofy smile in the glory of this liberation day, shivers, and watery eyes graced my steps to the Old City. The gun shots and yells from soldiers from the ramparts above screened in my mind as I imagined the stones’ sight 46 years ago when Jewish history was once again startled by God’s presence in our strength. Prophecies mirrored in the unleashing of modern day war, the soldiers couldn’t believe that they were liberating the city that we obsess over in our conversation with God three times a day. As the sun melts into the mountains, we fly in dancing circles at the Kotel, unable to fathom our luck in experiencing this freedom foreign to us for centuries.

A week later, my feet find themselves on the trek to my Kotel once more; although this time, the sun hasn’t begun to rise. Shavuot- my favorite holiday marks the anniversary of Hashem giving us the Torah and us presenting to him our loyalty and accomplishments in return. As Jews, we stay up all night to immerse ourselves in Torah learning and eat infinite amounts of dairy products. Our book sets up three pilgrimages to our house every year- one of them being Shavout. So here I stand this year in Jerusalem, for the first time able to make these journeys and not just commemorate holidays, but actually insert my actions into the tradition of my culture. After teaching my first Torah class, the adrenaline pulsating through my body motivates me up the “Aliyah b’regel.” I turn to the right and see a few couples walking toward us. Behind me, the group is no longer just of my school, but many more of my siblings. The crowds grow as we near the Old City, quickening our pace to reach the Kotel at the earliest time to pray. We breathe in the holiness of Hashem blessing our efforts and exhale praise for the magnificence of his handbook. From the rooftop of a yeshiva, I watch the heavens welcome us with colors of celebration and the rhythm of the tefillot echo through my frizzy curls.

And yet 26 hours later the same launching pad for our spirituality becomes tarnished with spiteful intolerance. For Rosh Chodesh, Women of the Wall, the protest group that recently won the right for women to wear prayer shawls and lead public Torah Reading services brought their revolutionary presence to instate their dominance on the women’s side of the wall. In reaction to their subjective offense, Charedi men spat and yelled, while a chair was thrown and mob mentality took over. The desecration of identify, throbbing of immaturity, and defilement of our nationhood was felt throughout the communities. I cringe with a stab of pain watching my fellow siblings fight with each other and refuse to acknowledge that maybe our family can allow an expansion of idea. Call me crazy but maybe a Jewish state created with Zionist sweat means that this country and her laws protect, enrich and give voice to all types of Jews. It’s equally ridiculous to me that WOW won’t accept Natan Sheransky’s plan for an egalitarian section and that the most religious of my people neglect the laws about loving and respecting your fellow Jew. My mind plays with the idea of what it means to represent our contract with Hashem and the wall I look up at holds more shadows of our turmoiled history than at first glance.

Looking out the porch window from Yeshai and Malka’s apartment in Har Zaitim and watching the sun dance upon the stage of where our house of godliness stood, I ask why sacrifice children’s safety and live in this Arab area? I catch the irony of the question in regards to our location because where that gold dome now sits was where this question was initially answered. “It’s all about inheritance, what we leave for the next generation. I’m leaving Yerushalim for my children.” The intensity of my celebration of Jerusalem will only keep her alive to an extent. She needs to be protected and cultivated, economically strong and spiritually revitalized. Walking to the Kotel this time captures an elevated tone of urgency in living for the the ideals we pass down to generations. The soldiers of the Six Day War only had something to liberate because we forced it to be the factor to liberate. The constant reexamination and repetition of love for God’s favorite city escorts the continuance of its existence and our determination to follow our word. Our Yerushalim bears the floodlight of attention for us, whether direction to pray too, historical connection, words in songs, political views, or spiritual focus. My thoughts bounce off the wall in front of me. And what a wall I am lucky to have. To listen to her observations is a gift I am blessed with and the burden of respecting her with love falls on us. The Kotel will always have attention; our choice is the topic of attention we assign to her.

About the Author
Talya Herring, originally from California, made Aliyah to a Moshav in the Negev for a year of her National Service at Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village for people with severe disabilities and then worked as a tour guide for her second year of National Service. Now as a law student, she writes her blog to connect her evolving thoughts with friends and family, inspire ideas of self-achievement, and celebrate pride in values.