Yom Yerushalayim  2024

A people. A tiny people with a tiny land—singing and dancing despite the war—or because of the war.  Claiming, reclaiming, proclaiming our right to this small spot.

Had I not married a man who understood the significance—who studied in Yeshiva from kindergarten through college. A man who taught history and Jewish history in a Jewish High School. Had I not fallen in love with this man and Israel—both, pretty much at first sight—Had I not inhaled the fragrance of Israel, the sound,  the light, the life—I might not have felt the pride I feel today.

I understand that the hatred from others comes from outside.  The love is from within and Israel is the only place on earth that loves us back.

Israeli Dresses

I bought three of them last August—in a little shop just off Ben Yehuda Street. An end of season sale.
The dresses: one light blue, one dark blue, one yellow. All are meant for summer—soft and sprinkled with flowers in muted shades of lavender and green.  These are carefree dresses to be worn in sunlight. I hung them in the back of my closet and waited for spring.
And then came the seventh of October and the agonizing storm clouds overhanging Israel ever since.
June has arrived and with it, azure skies and gentle breezes.
Today I wear the yellow dress, but there seems to be no sunlight in the world. And I wonder, will there ever be again?

Will I be able to find the bathroom?

In the middle of the night. I am in my late seventies. Bathrooms are important in the middle of the night. What if it is dark in the tent? Assuming I will be sleeping in the tent.  My husband’s cousin said he slept in air-conditioned barracks with the men, but his wife was assigned to a non-air-conditioned tent with the women. I don’t really mind the heat. It’s the bathroom that worries me. What if I can’t find it in the dark? Is that why the packing list says we should bring flashlights? I am so easily lost. Maybe there is only one tent?  Probably not though. Probably there are a few tents, and I won’t know which one is mine. And how will I know which bed is mine in the middle of the night? If I use the flashlight, I will wake someone for sure. If I don’t use the flashlight, I will trip and fall or knock over someone’s suitcase. Where will we put our suitcases? At the foot of our beds the way illustrations appear in children’s stories about sterile dormitories in orphanages where mean matrons wear large keys hung on ropes around their waists?

I do want to do this. It was my idea to do this. And the work, I am sure won’t be difficult—unless I am required to read and understand directions in Hebrew—but someone should be able to translate if that becomes necessary.

All of this—the heat, the tent, the bright sunlight, the dust, the regulations and the work—all of it will be worth the $190 per person we have paid for the privilege of volunteering with Sar-El. It is the least we can do for the brave soldiers and for Israel. It is only the whereabouts of the bathroom that worries me. How ridiculous to fret about this in the midst of a war.

I am nervous—

First time I have felt this way about going to Israel.

I will feel better when we are there—feet on the ground.  It’s been nearly a year since our last trip.  So much has changed. Such ongoing agony and trauma.  If I cannot hug all of the Israelis, can I simply kiss the ground when we land?

There is, I think, the kind of trepidation one feels when entering a hospital room.  Will the ailing one survive?  I scroll through Instagram each morning to see what has happened, what will happen.  I am aware that it would be best if I did not do this.  But how can I pause—how can anyone pause when we can hear the people crying?

I foresee our entering the walkway that leads to the old building in which our apartment sits in wait for us. There will be the tree in bloom outside the window. The birds will sing. The feral cats will stroll the winding paths. Neighborhood children will laugh and shout. The upstairs couple will speak to one another in French.  The downstairs neighbor will greet us in Hebrew accented with Russian.

We will stop at the Makolet to buy some water, a dozen eggs, some fruit and cookies.  In the morning we’ll have strong espresso and pastry in the tiny shop at the corner.

We will be home—more home than the place where we live in New Jersey. More home in spite of the terrifying months that have dragged on and on and carried our hearts and fears and tears to the place where we know we belong.

I am glad to be going there.  No matter what.  There—better than here.  There in the same way that a parent wants to be near an injured child, or a sick child weeping for the mother.  Either way—whether we are the children or the parents, we have been torn by the distance.

And now—we are going home.


Article by Author/s
Anna Gotlieb
Anna Gotlieb is the author of four books: Between the Lines, In Other Words, Full Circle. and Pinkey’s. She spends a few minutes each day collecting her thoughts. Sometimes she shares them with others.

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