June 10, 2005

The Long and Winding Road Part Three

It was daylight when we arrived in Israel and it would be an understatement to say that I was excited. When we walked off of the plane and entered the terminal I felt as if I was having an out of body experience. It was so surreal to finally be in a place that I had heard about my entire life.

I was the first person from my immediate family to go to Israel. When I think about the faith and trust my parents had in the camp it sometimes amazes me. I don’t mean to suggest that they ever would have sent me anywhere if they did not think that it was safe, but as a parent now I look at things differently.

When we entered the terminal and headed over to the baggage claim we learned that they had misplaced our luggage and were not sure when we would receive it. Because my dad is a planner I was spared this inconvenience. Prior to my departure he had purchased a backpack for me to take on the trip. It was large enough to hold a weeks worth of clothing/toiletries yet small enough to serve as a carry on item.

When I tell this story some people suspect that immediately upon my arrival I was overwhelmed with emotion and a spiritual connection to Judaism. It makes a nice story, but it is simply not true. Although I certainly was on a path in which I would reconnect with my belief in G-d and Judaism it didn’t happen that quickly.

I hadn’t gone on the trip to find G-d. I hadn’t gone because I needed to feel a connection to Judaism. Those were things that I thought about a little, but they were really secondary. I went because I was curious to see if Israel was everything that I had been told it was and because it was a good way to have a lot of independence from my parents.

It is kind of funny to me to think about how I saw things then and then compare it to my attitude/impressions during later trips to Israel. Maturity does funny things to a guy. ;)

There are a lot of stories that I could tell about what happened during the bus ride from Ben-Gurion to our base in Jerusalem, but I don’t want to get sidetracked (which is something that I do all too frequently) so I am going to jump ahead a little bit.

We began touring Jerusalem the very next day. Somewhere I have a copy of our itinerary. I’ll have to dig it out and see if it spurs any more memories. What I do remember for certain is that during that first day we were all very interested in hearing about camp and whether the fire had destroyed it. When we learned that it had not we were all very relieved and launched into silly jokes like “And the camp was not consumed.”

Our bus had dropped us off at Jaffa Gate and we wandered through the Armenian Quarter. Slowly we worked our way over to the Jewish quarter where we stopped to look at the remains of the Hurva Synagogue.

The arch of the Hurva is probably one of the more famous sites in the Old City.

The Hurva Synagogue, also known as Hurvat Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid, was the center of the Old Yishuv. It was destroyed by the Jordanian legion shortly before the fall of the Jewish Quarter in 1948. It's remains can be visited under the great arch, which was built after 1967 to commemorate the synagogue, in the main square of the neighborhood. Entrance from the stairs above the Ramban Synagogue or from HaYehudim St."

As I looked at the remains of the Hurva and listened to stories about it and the things that had happened to Jews and Jewish history in Jerusalem I grew a little angry and frustrated. I remember thinking about how we had fled a fire to come to a place where fires had been set to destroy Jewish Jerusalem.

It was the beginning of a life long love affair with Jerusalem and it was also another step in rebuilding the connection that had been severed.

Shortly thereafter we finished our time at the Hurva and made our way over to the Kotel.
I can’t remember what day it was or even what time, but I remember that the sky was blue and it was afternoonish.

When we arrived at the steps overlooking the plaza we stopped for a moment so that our madrichim could speak to us about something. I refer to as something because the Kotel was now in sight and I wasn't listening to anything anymore. I was too busy staring at the wall and too busy trying to figure out what it was that I was feeling.

We basically ran down the steps and sprinted to the Kotel. The plaza was relatively empty so you had your pick of places to stand. When we got within about 100 feet or so we stopped running and resumed walking. I have always been someone who can get lost in thought and this moment probably still ranks among the top ten.

As we continued to approach the wall I noticed that some of the guys and girls in the group had begun to cry and for a moment I wondered why I wasn't. In large part it was because I was too happy and feeling too content. I'd like to say that I immediately felt G-d's presence wrapped around me like a mother hugging her child, but that wouldn't be true. I was just happy.

So I slowly walked up to the wall and stared at it for a moment before I gingerly reached out and touched it. The stone was cool to my touch and smooth beneath my fingertips. I leaned forward and rested my head against it with my eyes closed and my mind wandering. I spoke to the rock and to the earth and to the sky and I spoke to G-d.

I said that I wasn't sure if I believed and that I wanted to and asked why I couldn't get a sign or some kind of signal that I could hold onto because I wanted to believe again. And in return there was silence. But I was not angry, disappointed or upset at the lack of response. I was ok. I don't know how else to say it, I was just ok with it.

There is more to say about this moment and things I could share, but I am not sure that I want to. Some of that is carved deep within and I don't know if I could tell you even if I wanted to and some of it is for me alone.

It is another link in the chain of events and activities that made me into a believer again and like so many of these stories it is not something that can be applied to anyone because it is a personal event.

I am sure that some people will find that to be less than satisfying, but I am ok with it and that is what matters here.

Perhaps I'll blog some more about this all a little bit later.

(Cross posted on Jewish Connection)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

ari here--
this is so cool reading all these stories about seminar, i cant wait to go, its somewhere around 18 days away. do you have any recommendations of things to bring or just general tips for the trip?

Stacey said...

What a beautiful memory.

shannon said...

Oh, Jack ... I'm right there with you at the wall. We went last October and I miss Israel so much it hurts. I blogged about my visit to the wall earlier this week.

We'll go back. I'd move there if I could.

Thanks for bringing back a great memory. :)

Jack's Shack said...

Hi folks,

Thanks for the comments. Ari, it is 20 years since my trip so I am going to limit my advice because much has changed. I went pre-intifada and was allowed to roam the OC including the shuk.

Anyway, I would advise you to open your mind and try to soak it all in. Learn about where you are at, make friends with the people on your trip and around you.

Take a ton of pictures and don't forget to include your friends in those pictures. Time will pass and you will enjoy looking at yourself and your friends as you used to be.

I am jealous. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Alice said...

You are also making me jealous. Keep up the good work. I'm really enjoying reading this.