Chronicles from Home

Part  7


November 18, 2003


Did I ever tell you how much I enjoy walking in Yerushalayim?

I wish my eyes were a digital camera, capturing everything around me to share with you.  I had been here before so many times in my life, as a child, a teenager or a grown up. As a visitor, I always failed to truly grasp what makes Israel unique.  Even now, as I barely have gotten used to answering "yes" when tourists ask if I'm an Israeli.  It will take 120 years for me to fully understand this country.  And certainly nobody can understand Israel without having been here, especially journalists who think they can know us simply from sitting behind a Tel Aviv office desk watching CNN International.

So, how can I describe the fleeting visions that have given me a glimpse into what Israelis are really all about?

Last week, for example, I decided to take a break for my Ulpan to enjoy the Holy City.  Just Her and me, the two of us together in a timeless encounter.  Every morning, after dropping the children at school, I went to the Kotel.  After my prayers, I walked back home, each day using a different path, enjoying the streets, the people, the crispy air and, above all, the unbelievable vitality emanating from every stone of the City of Gold.

How can I describe the joy of walking on Ramban Street, crossing on Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai or stopping on Ruth, going to shul on Yael?  Even going to the bakery has become a spiritual experience.

In our own neighborhood, we are surrounded by the 12 tribes in the form of street names.  (Is it necessary to say that our favorite street is Rehov Yehuda?).

Walking in Yerushalayim is like walking through our history.  The names of the streets are from our past, but the faces of the people are from our future. 

On my way to the Old City, I pass a lot of police cars.  Nothing unusual here.  Some of the policemen are on the side of their vehicles, wrapping themselves in their tallit for the mornings prayers.  Nothing unusual here, either.  Their prayers are the stones of the future Beit Hamikdash.

Walking in the streets of Mea Shearim, I pass men walking, engrossed in Torah discussions.  Nothing unusual here.  I see children carrying groceries bags heavier than themselves.  I notice beautiful young girls dressed in a modest way, hurrying along the sidewalks.  Nothing unusual here, either.  All of them are running, so as not to be late to see the accomplishment of the divine Promise.  Their actions are also the stones of the future Beit Hamikdash.  

Elsewhere I pass some soldiers -- girls young enough to be my daughters.  Nothing unusual here.  Some of the girls are carrying their weapons on their shoulders, and giggling at the same time comparing nail polish.  Nothing unusual here, either.  Their strength and energy, too, are the stones of the future Beit Hamikdash.

In front of my son's school there is a guard.  He is a nice, young kid, smiling to everyone.  He helps the moms up the steps with their strollers.  He helps the kids with their backpacks.  And he helps the emigrants with their Hebrew.  If he were wearing black pants and a hat instead of a guard's uniform, he would be the perfect yeshiva bachur.  But instead of carrying a siddur, he is carrying a weapon that I pray he will never have to use. He, as well, is a stone of the future Beit Hamikdash. 

I see children and old people.  I see strong youngsters and handicapped victims of countless terrorist attacks.  I see religious and seculars Jews.  I see Sephardim and Ashkenazim.  So different and so alike.  All of them.  Unique pieces of the Jewish puzzle.  Puzzling people indeed, we who refuse to despair and we who will never give up.

My reward for favorite words of wisdom belongs to a taxi driver who answered my question of "What's new?" by shrugging his shoulders and saying: "the same old, strikes, unemployment, Sharon, and terrorist alerts.  Nothing new, Baruch HaShem!"

This too will pass and we, as The Jewish people, will stay, piling up the stones of the Temple of G-d.

Sara Brownstein


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