Never Enough Yerushalayim

There was a Friday in March, not long ago. At long last, I was where I have always wanted to be, and never reached until recently: Eretz Israel, specifically Yerushalayim. We were there with our Chabad community, for nearly two weeks. Each day magnified my desire to be there, at last sated. But at the same time, I needed more. It was a drive and a craving, an autonomic want. There was rightness, an exactitude of perfection in the air, the ground beneath me – and so many types of terrain, the verdant and the dry, the multitudes of green, the tans and sienna and sepia. The salty soil, yielding the vibrantly delicious vegetables and fruits, miles better than anything, even the French Laundry bound produce in the States.

And then, of course, the golden stones.

In Israel, the colors are brighter. I felt a sensory heightening, each and every sense, at the highest volume, an expansion of texture and touch. While no mind-altering gummies were consumed on this trip, I was high indeed: high on Hashem, on our Homeland.

Every minute there, I wanted to stay an hour more, again and again on perpetual repeat. I wanted to stay there forever.

Neshama is the Hebrew word for soul. For the first time in my life, I understood that I did not belong where I have lived for 57 years. My neshama’s home was Israel. Finally, the key found its doorknob.

Finally: home. My birthright. My intended.

We were there at a crucial time of government crisis. There are political complexities in Israel, as always, and probably more so than ever. We saw the rallies and demonstrations. I have my own opinions, but I am not here to discuss them. Each blue and white flag, in no matter what context, gave me joy.

The night before we arrived in Tel Aviv, a Thursday, a terrorist attack happened two blocks from our Air BnB. Three young men were shot on Dizengoff; one did not recover. We saw the footage of the shooting, of the outside diners dropping to the floor, plates flying, of a restaurant we walked by many times. The juice and smoothie kiosk we found, and loved, stood directly across the street. Without intending to do so, we followed the steps of the terrorist and his innocent victims. We arrived Friday afternoon and walked by the restaurant. People were eating and drinking, talking, living, and glowing in the sun.

I now understand why the wedding invitation, with its Greek flag, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding made the characters erupt in pride. I get it. The Israeli flag is ours. It is miraculous. It is everything. It is us.

We are one people, cut from the same cloth. The fabric has different colors, textures, patterns, fibers. All the same, we are one textile.

We may judge one another, too much and shamefully so, and I, like everyone else, am guilty of same. But we must remember: We are one family.

Am Yisrael Chai.

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About Me

“Grace to be born / And live as variously as possible.” Frank O’Hara


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