Cityscape image of Jerusalem, Israel with Dome of the Rock at sunset.

I Belong In Jerusalem

House swap. From Europe to Chabad street.

The Rova.

I’m dreaming.

Sublime love washes me clean of all the petty envies and mundane pursuits.

Sweet, sweet connection to Him, to all of them, these people, my people.

Everyone who passes me, greets me, smiles, sneers, who blocks my path, or even knocks me over.

The ones who help me take my buggy up the steps, the ones who don’t seem to see me or the buggy, just the steps and their own needs, their own humanity, their own destination.

I love you.

Stripped of the panic I feel in Europe, free of the constraints of routine,

I roam the cobbled pathways peppered with bakeries, souvenirs, tourists, beggars and the authentic dwellers of the Jewish quarter.

I wander, in a state of pure serenity.

My pains are enhanced by its purest Truths, no longer sheathed in great lies of a secular Diaspora. My lacks, my flaws, my blessings are raw and so real.

It hurts more, but then it hurts so much less.

Because everywhere here holds deep meaning, a deep sense of belonging.

It is in itself a deep, infinite path stretching way ahead of me, generations behind me, marking me as insignificant and vital.

To this place, this process, this day, this breath, and the next…

Serenity in,

Serenity out.

And then I’m walking, walking anywhere, everywhere it’s all the same.

It’s love, love, love.

I wish I could lie across the earth, palms down, open, and swim along the ground, to touch more of it, feel more of it, smell it, taste it, be in it, but not beneath it, imprinting its memory forever upon the entirety of my being.

And the entirety of my being upon it.

I want to be it and it to be me, but then in essence, it is already so…

We, all of us, even you who passed me on the steps and ignored the buggy or didn’t see it,

share this destiny; one that all the earth looks in awe upon.

And curious, or envious, they deny our rights, they challenge our blood-ties, our GD.

They see.

Those that come, they see its truths exploding in green fields and honest farmers, in baby-faced soldiers and sidelocked cherubic boys, giggling girls in matching bows, and kisses and kisses and kisses for babies and mothers and fathers and lovers and even a humble, unadorned and much beloved, cherished, priceless wall…

It is a conundrum but really, it all begins to make sense.

The Promised Land…

The Chosen People.

So they’ll hate us, but they’ll believe.

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If they didn’t, they’d just leave us alone, like they do the swollen-bellied African babies on television;  the ones who really deserve the attention and rage of the world.

Also, for them, I approach the soft, warm wall beneath the two doves nestled in her scraggly nook, and I pray.

I don’t cry. I’m too much at peace.

I look up and realize that though I have waited too long to come face-to-face with this sublime and silky, perfectly cream colored wall of my dreams, I prefer the seats back there by the siddurim, where the newcomers enter in quiet awe and the departing visitors back up, wearily, spent by their emotions.

I, on the other hand, surprise myself.

I am neither weary nor emotional.

I am most literally pure joy.

I am the wind and the scraggly nest of the doves. I am my children’s boisterous laughter and almost inappropriate excitement. I’m my husband’s sincere reflection and prayer.

I am my teenagers’ cautious, newborn adoration of a place they’ve been raised to love, sight-unseen until now.

I am the guilty rumbling of hungry stomachs, eager to pretend they need not food, when all nourishment in this sacred spot is spiritual.

I am the thick slabs of wonder in the space between bodies and the grief rising with the heat like steam off the earthen floors.

I am the black shawl of the new cult-like movement across this land, and I’m the gun in the arms of a bare headed chayal.

I’m the ice in the ice coffee and the chick pea in the hummus upstairs, just beyond the replica of the menorah, waiting so soulfully, so dignified for the Chanukat Habayit we are all already invited to…

Its presence so obvious, so insignificant, of COURSE the golden menorah sits here, it’s just a matter of days, weeks, hours, it’s now.. are we already there?

Did I miss the Shofar’s blast while I searched for my wandering toddler across the Kotel Plaza? Surely, as I found him and exhaled away a mother’s worst fear, the shofar burst the bubble of every Diaspora!

I feel myself in everything and I feel everything within myself.

The menorah comforts me as I walk up, up, dropping shekels in pushkas that will grow too old too quickly as I become a resident of the Rova temporarily, as I accustom myself to buying the cappuccinos and popping down to see the wall, but never feel the need to lay my hand upon her warm worn stones…

I appreciate her even more now that I can visit her night and day, Shabbat and reveling in the absolutely diverse and resplendent experience each distinct moment offers up as a feast to my starving spirit…

It does not lessen my total adoration, my awe, my gratitude that I indeed am standing here, that I am the one who lucked out to swap houses with one of the residents of Chabad Street while they wander hopelessly in my Galus-town in Europe…

I am certain the Mashiach will not allow me to leave her, my old city, my Jewish quarter, my people, my loves, my foundation stone…

How could he?! Am I not shining like the brightest star illuminating the entire Earth?

If I wore my heart on my sleeve, I’d blind the world, with all this glorious enrapture, I’m sure of it.

I walk and walk and plunk the coins into waiting cans and too-empty, too-dry, too-dark palms, and I feel momentarily wretched, selfish, self-obsessed.

Of course the luxury of dreamy redemption and delicious prose and the skip in my step can be attributed to the ice-cold bottled water, the lush danish I had for breakfast, the emails I sent to friends, the new kippot I bought for my boys, the stuffed sefer Torah for my nephews. This inspiration was sponsored by El Al and Cofix and Baby Gap and a five star education in an excellent school, tuition paid in full by living, loving, overprotective parents.

Thud. My love soared higher but my guts contracted, my happiness checked, I stuffed it into a box labeled ‘Nishmat’.

I must remember this is blessed and unusual.

We too, toed poverty and beat back despair along with all Klal Yisrael, but right now,  climbing these stairs, the kotel is behind us, the golden menorah in its case on our right, shelter and air conditioning, are minutes away, around the corner from the rebuilt Churvah, where barefoot, but well fed children play in the central square. Today we are in a parallel universe to these blackened, begging women, and their crass cries or their silent chastising or dignified solemnity…

And my serenity dips to guilt, then ignorance, then swells to more mature love, and finally adapts itself into a subdued and graceful joy for the opportunity to stand here, to witness it, to meet them, to memorize their faces, their plights, to pray for them, for this place, for all of it and all of them and all of us and the covered up, shawled women and fiercely faithful, green clad protectors, bearded swayers, Keepers of the Book, the ones above the ground, the ones beneath, and African babies desperate for clean drinking water. Hashem have Mercy on Your Creations…

I walk up the rest of the steps to the place we call Home For Now, less Broadway musical and more Reflective Jewess, I drop more notes and less coins, offer water and warm blessings of my own, I pass the rebuilt Churvah, and the beautiful barefoot, but well fed children playing in the central square.

And I dream of a Banquet and a Kumzitz and a Feast. I dream of sisters and brothers and a golden Menorah. I dream of poverty banished and all this love shared and divided and let loose among a people so stunningly diverse but bound in soft, worn, cream colored chains of history and promises of Geulah.

And then I’m walking, walking anywhere, everywhere it’s all the same.

It’s love, love, love.