I am so happy that you are having the experience you are having. I am concerned about the religious aspect of your journey. You are wrapping thefilin and spending a lot of time at the Kotel. They try to lure you in and make you feel guilty that you have not experienced your Jewish Heritage…Don’t come home wanting to grow paice…It is called Blait Shuva and means a reform Jew goes to Israel with not much religious grounding and comes home Hasidic.
Concerned in America
Thank you for your e-mail and for taking the time to read my blog. I thought most people just looked at the pictures and only my parents actually read what I wrote. I understand where you are coming from and had heard stories like this before my trip. In fact, it’s a small part of why I passed on Birthright. Please know that although I am Jewish, and always will be, I also consider myself to be interfaith. My wife and I celebrate Christmas in our home every year and love it. We were married by a Buddhist Chaplain, and the Tibetian Singing Bowl used in our wedding is a cherished possession. Although obviously less so because I’m not Hindu, I was also deeply moved by the various Hindu temples I visited and prayed at while traveling across India…and I love the meditation at the end of a good Yoga class. I am very interested in the Kotel though.
Last night, after allowing sufficient time to recover from our trip to Yad Vashem, Jamie and I went out for our ‘last supper’ in Jerusalem. First, we went shopping on Mamila; a higher end, tourist oriented pedestrian street lined with retail where we felt right at home. Jamie picked out a beautiful Chamsa necklace and we got a Tchocke [trinket] for the house. Then we walked around near Jaffa street window shopping restaurants until we landed for a fantastic dinner at Cavalier. We dined on crab ravioli, home made pasta with shellfish and then lamb–take that Kosher laws! After dinner, Jamie said “Do you want go to the Wall tomorrow morning before we leave?” I was amazed how she read my mind. I was hoping to experience the early morning prayers and enjoy a quiet walk home through the old city before hitting the road to the Dead Sea.
Jetlag had me up at about 3AM, so I had plenty of time to pack, write, read and play a little video game on my iPhone. I got to the wall around 6ish and was again greeted by a different experience. This time I was like a an illiterate child at the World Series of Orthodox Judaism. I was definitely the only person who couldn’t speak or read Hebrew. I wandered around, hanging on the periphery of different services, just watching.
A man pulled me aside and showed me where to follow in the book. After a few minutes he began to make conversation:
Where you from?
What your name?
A few minutes later, he takes out a paper and pencil:
Chad, what’s your father’s name?
Are you married? What’s her name?
Her fathers name.
You have any children.
How long you married?
[He is shocked to hear this and looks at my quizzically]
My wish for you is that you have many children! Here is what I will do. I will place this blessing for you in the wall. I have people who pray around the clock and they will pray for this. You will have many children.
Wow, I thought, Jamie would love this guy! Me, I was a little worried. It wasn’t so much the ‘children’ but the ‘many.’
Then he hit me up for a donation. I had been getting hit up left and right since the moment I walked in. I have a fierce ban on giving to panhandlers. I hate begging. I’ve never begged for a handout, except to my parents and not beyond a certain age and that’s different. Otherwise, we should be self supporting. I gave him a ten shekel coin:
No, paper money.
That’s all I have.
Please, I have two families to feed.
What are you a polygamist? [I didn’t say that, but thought it really loud]
I eventually wound up standing by the cave entrance watching another ceremony wrap up. I thought I saw a group drinking wine. Ha – morning drinkers!
I wound up in conversation with a nice man from the states who was very interested to learn about my trip. He introduced me to his Rabbi and they were both surprised that this was only my first trip to Israel. They were mystified that I was not affiliated with a Chabad back home and knew nothing of the Torah.
I sat with them for a few moments and had a nice chat and then Rabbi started his lesson. One man started talking about how homosexuality was wrong and how it says so in the Torah. I almost lost it. Homosexuality is not wrong. I politely excused myself and they stopped their lesson to wish me well on my way. The Rabbi held my hand for a moment as we shook and asked:
What do you want? What do you want out of this life?
I do not know.
Then I pray you find it. That is my blessing to you. May you find what you seek.
He smiled at me and shook my hand warmly, and gave me a half hug.
With the sun starting to peek over the Kotel, I said goodbye then headed up to Jewish Quarter Road for a warm-from-the-oven-bagel. Israeli bagels are different from New York, but are also migh-t-fine. Okay, I ate pastry too, and brought back some for Jamie. We would soon load our bags in the car and leave town.
I enjoyed my time in Jerusalem very much. It left a mark on me that will last a lifetime. Perhaps it changed me, but it will not make me much more religious or effect the way I cut my hair.