Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Final Week

Can anyone tell me where I put the past eight months? They seem to have vanished without my being aware of it.

By this time next week, I'll have landed in Toronto and will be waiting to board my flight to Chicago, where my doting parental units will be awaiting me with happy faces, open arms, and (if they really love me) a cup of real coffee.

I'm not ready to leave Israel. I'm really, really happy here. I love being at Yad L'Kashish every morning. I love walking to work in the mornings. I love being able to say "I live in Yerushalayim". I love buying a kilo of strawberries for 4 shekels in the shuk. I love that almost every clothing store sells knee-length skirts and shirts with sleeves that still look cute and stylish.

Do I really have to leave? Why doesn't everyone else just make aliyah and move here, too?

So begins my final week. Tonight I go to Tel Aviv to celebrate Eli's birthday (yes, and mine, too) and to spend my final shabbat with Avi and his beautiful, talented girlfriend Lianna. I've finished up at Yad L'Kashish, but will stop by Monday morning with my camera to say my farewells and take a few pictures. The rest of my time will be spent packing, walking around Yerushalayim, and soaking up as much as I can before I go to the airport Wednesday evening.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chevron Meaz U'LeTamid

There were two places at the top of my Places I Must Visit Before I Leave list: Ein Gedi and Chevron. I've now been to both. I went on an organized tiyyul to Ein Gedi during the first week of April. It was beautiful, but my trip to Chevron outstrips its blogging importance.

I went to Chevron this past Sunday with my buddy Avi. I've always wanted to visit Maarat HaMachpela, the Cave of the Machpela, where Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov and Leah are buried. I also learned (after I left, so I didn't get to see it) that Esav's head is also there. I don't know where the rest of him is. Chevron is undoubtedly the most publicized land purchase in the history of the written word. Open any copy of the Old Testament and there it is- a record of exactly how much Avraham Avinu paid in order to buy this cave and the land around it in order to bury his beloved wife.

Chevron is a highly controversial part of Israel. There are those who insist that we leave it for good, despite the fact that Jews have pretty much always lived there. In fact, for 700 years, Jews were forbidden to even enter Maarat HaMachpela. They were only permitted to go as high as the 7th step leading up to the entrance. Even that was too much leeway for them, according to their friendly Arab neighbors, who attacked them simply for standing where they were legally allowed to stand.

Chevron today is, in a word, depressing. The Jewish area is like a ghost town, with graffiti scrawled on metal shutters. Soldiers are everywhere. It's the only place in Israel that I've been to that feels and looks like a war zone. The atmosphere is one of death and destruction, focused on a bloody history of being oppressed by the surrounding Arabs. Yes, I said oppressed.

What else would you call it when, in 1929, the Grand Mufti gave a call for the Jews of Chevron to be slaughtered for the sole reason that they were Jews? 66 were killed and 67 were wounded in the massacre. The rest were forced to leave Chevron by the British Mandate. There's a tiny museum in Chevron devoted to the 1929 massacre. There are pictures of some of the survivors: a 7-year-old girl with her skull bashed in, a young man whose hand had been chopped off with an axe, a toddler who was the sole survivor of his family. And who were these Jews who lived in Chevron back then? They were yeshiva students and their families. Scholars. Rabbis. Dedicated Jews who wished to live close to their ancestors.

There are also pictures of how the Arabs treated the Jewish area after the Jews were kicked out. They put cows in synagogues. They burned books and Torahs. They destroyed anything and everything that held value to the Jews who had lived there. It wasn't enough to slaughter us. It wasn't enough to kick us out. They also had figuratively and literally shit on anything that had been ours.

The Jews who have returned to Chevron still live in danger. Perhaps you remember reading about Shalhevet Techiya Pass back in 2001. She was the 10-month-old infant who was murdered when an Arab sniper took careful aim and shot her in the head. What crime had she committed? Breathing? Did she cry too loudly at night? Or was her only crime being born Jewish? There's a memorial to her in Chevron. I wish every idiot out there who claims that the Jews are oppressing the Palestinians would go stand before that wall. Oppression is not being able to take your baby for a walk in her stroller without having to worry that she'll be killed by a sniper. Oppression is being mutilated with an axe for learning in a yeshiva. Oppression is being raped simply because you're a Jewish female. The army had to maintain such a high presence in Chevron in order to make sure that the Jews who live there aren't treated the way that the previous generation had been treated.

I've always believed that Chevron must remain a part of the State of Israel. After being in Chevron, that conviction is even stronger. If Israel "disengages" from Chevron, I'm willing to bet that soon cows will once again be shitting in synagogues, that Torahs will be burned and destroyed, and that any Jews who wishes to be close to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka or Leah will find themselves staring at the shiny edge of an axe. Or maybe they don't use axes anymore. Maybe sniper bullets are the new "in".

Thursday, April 20, 2006

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Post-Pesach Thoughts

I can't believe that Pesach is already over. It really just sped by. I felt almost guilty eating bread today, as though my brain hadn't yet caught up with the idea that Pesach was over and that I wasn't doing something naughty.

Last year, at seder in Chicago, saying 'L'Shana Haba B'Yerushalayim" gave me a special thrill, because I already knew at that point that I was going to be spending Pesach the next year in Israel, and most likely in Yerushalayim. This year, I was here, in Israel (ok, Bet Shemesh instead of Uerushalayim, but it's close), and my thoughts were completely different.

Last year, I was focused on the idea of physically being in Israel. I, Cara, was going to be in the Holy Land next year. How cool is that? How exciting, how amazing, how thrilling...and so on and so forth. That special thrill that I felt was completely and 100% selfish. It was solely about me being in Israel the following year.

This year, on the other hand, it finally dawned on me why we say this one line on Pesach and at the end of the Yomim Noraim. Yes, I should have realized this long ago, but even I can be dense sometimes.

It's not about physically being here, as wonderful as it is. We're not asking that every Jew comes to spend Pesach here, in the kosher hotels in a 2 week vacation. We're not even asking that every Jew pick up and move to Israel. We're asking for Moshiach (whatever that word might mean to you). We're asking that next year finally be the time when we, as a nation, are where we're supposed to be, on the spiritual level. Maybe that's why we say it out loud, usually in unison. It's not about me. It's not about any one of us. It's about all of us, truly being free in the land promised to us.

L'Shana Haba B'Yerushalayim! Next Year in Jerusalem!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Travel Plans

The last couple of weeks have felt like a flurry of travel planning.

* I booked my return to the States for May 4th. I'm not happy about the idea of leaving Israel, though I am, of course, looking forward to seeing my family and friends.
* I booked a trip to Pittsburgh for May 7th-9th for the unveiling of Liz's headstone. Tonight I lit a yahrzeit candle for her. I'm having a very difficult time coming to terms with the fact that it's now been a whole year. So difficult that I don't even know if I can blog about it just yet.
* I need to book a trip to NYC for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, for Moose's wedding. This is turning oout to be surprisingly complicated, as my best friend in NY will actually be living in DC for the summer and therefore will not have a place for me to stay. I also have to book a hotel room for the night of the wedding, and will probably have to get my own room, since I have no idea who else will be going. I don't want to go to NY for shabbat, because airline tickets cost much less if I fly Sunday-Wednesday instead of Thursday/Friday-Sunday.

So help me think: Who do I know in NYC that wouldn't mind letting me crash at their place Monday night and possibly Tuesday night? I know that I know tons of people in NY, especially WashU people, so why can't I think of who they are night now?

And those of you going to Moose's wedding, would you mind shooting me an email and telling me what hotel you're staying at on Sunday night?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Super Happy Happy! Joy Joy!

While there is much going on here in my world, my blogging time ghas been somewhat limited. Updates will be coming soon. But first, an important (albeit slightly belated) announcement:

Mazel tov to the world's greatest, most splendiferous Big Brother on his engagement to the world's greatest, most splendiferous future Big Sister (hereby dubbed "Big Sister")!

I can honestly say that I could not possibly be happier or more excited. I must also add that Big Brother pulled off what may have been the slickest proposal in the history of proposals. He also had the good sense to propose to a girl with a great wardrobe who happens to be the same clothing and shoe size as me. Her great taste also reassures me that I do not need to worry about the bridesmaid's dress that I'll be wearing.