Friday, February 20, 2015

Dancing in the Snow...

It's after midnight here in Israel. I've just finished preparing the challah dough for Shabbat. I'll leave it to rise overnight and then in the morning I'll shape it and bake it. I made a lot this week, more than normal. Partly because we are sharing it with friends and partly because I have a feeling in the morning there will be people unable to get challah because of the storm.

Israel is being hit with a powerful winter storm - in the area where I live, it never snows...and yet, we had a few flakes and my husband returned with my car covered with snow simply because he was in a neighborhood that is slightly higher.

Jerusalem is already a white wonderland; south of Jerusalem in the hills of Hebron, the snow is amassing quickly. About to go to sleep, I went to check the news and saw a link to the live feed broadcast around the clock and around the world of the any given time, pretty much 24 hours a day, you'll find people there.

And as the camera went live, I could see and hear what is happening there now. The camera has flakes of snow that interfere with the view and still it is all so clear - this is our holy place - the Western Wall, the last remaining wall, a retaining wall of the outer Temple Mount walls...

What I heard was men singing...what I saw was man dancing. Can you imagine? It's FREEZING out there - literally! It's snowing...but really...and they are dancing!

I can't imagine that these men have any idea they are on camera. They simply feel the joy of the snow, of it being Thursday night and knowing the Sabbath is coming.

There is the joy of living in this land and being close enough to go to this holy place...any time!

And, it is the beginning of the month of Adar - a joyous month filled with laughter, singing,!

This thing that they did tonight, this dance I was so lucky to catch - it is what I've been writing about. For all that you think we live in fear, we don't. For all you think terror lurks behind each tree, it doesn't. We sing and we the snow!

I was given a glimpse...and then the snow began to cover the camera lens, and the men dispersed to go home just as others arrived to say their evening prayers. This will continue through the night, through the snow, through the days and nights and months and years. 
“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.”

        ― William W. Purkey
Heaven on earth...yes, that's where I live...


Anonymous said...

Dear Paula, Thank you so much for writing this. Halfway across the world I sit here and try to explain 'rationally' to myself why I'm crying yet smiling a huge smile when I read your words and see these photos; why I keep coming back to your blog which so often leaves me with a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face.

The truth is that your writing inspires me, your conviction inspires me and in a way it feels like I know you, in the way you get to know a character in a book or story and grow to care for them and learn from them. You are a teacher to me and somehow you feel a little like a surrogate mother too, with regards to what I learn from you about dealing with life, having faith and doing what is right. You speak of 'adopting' people into your family and into your heart and through what you share on your blog I too feel a little like I am part of that family.

Faith in Hashem is part of my body, my bones and my being, yet I'm not surrounded by people who believe. When as a teenager I went looking for the meaning of life and a closer connection to God, I first looked at Christianity as it is the dominant religion where I live. I found that I disagreed with their beliefs and couldn't find truth or answers with them. I see Jesus of Nazareth as a courageous Jew fighting to free his people, obviously he failed so he couldn't have been Messiah and as far as being the son of God - that's Greek thinking that has nothing to do with truth or Judaism or what Jesus would have believed himself. Exploring Christian thinking helped me understand my own beliefs and so I looked to Judaism for guidance. Then, I did not understand that converting to Judaism was possible as the books I looked to (as a 12/13 yr-old) told me one had to be born to a Jewish mother to be a Jew. So I went back to the Christians and actually felt guilty because I could not make myself believe their stories. Crisis of faith ensued and then through the library and books I came to Islam. So I tried out Islam (at least it's monotheism, I figured) and stuck with it for 2-3 years but after 9/11 I realised that too many Muslims *did* believe the violent passages in the Koran and the hadith to be true and instead of rising above war and hatred they embraced it as truth. If they lived today, radical Muslims would happily kill the (Tanakh-) prophets they say they revere and love, because those prophets would self-identify as Jews and not as Muslims.

So I once again explored Judaism as an adult - even if I couldn't be a Jew, I could learn from the Bible and from Jewish teachings and at least find answers and find meaning in life. Today I understand that my beliefs are not so strange and that others share my thinking and that if one were to give me a label I would 'be' a Bnei Noach. When I think of "My People" I think of God's people, the Jewish people. When I think about who I am, I feel Jewish, even though I am not. While I can't explain it in a rational way other than to say that I simply know it in my bones or deep inside my heart, there is a yearning inside of me to 'rejoin' my people, even though this body was never Jewish to begin with and joining would mean converting, not returning. I read once that people who feel like that may have been at Mt. Sinai for the giving of the Commandments and may have simply reincarnated into a non-Jewish body. It is a very comforting thought and one that, for me at least, feels possible. I believe God has a plan for all of us and while I yearn to return home to my people (who are not this body's people at all), I feel that I am here for a reason - here in Europe instead of in Israel, here as a non-Jew instead of a Jew. God guided me to learn about Christianity and then about Islam - I lived those religions to get to know them - and then God showed me what home looks and feels like.

Anonymous said...

I read your post, saw the photos of dancing men in the snow and I cried my eyes out. Screaming through my mind are the words "This is home, this is where I belong, this is where I need to be" and yet I sit here far from Israel and Jerusalem and I try to be patient and to understand why God put me here instead of there, why God taught me about Christianity and Islam before showing me what home truly means and where home truly is. God gave me this understanding/ knowledge and I need to use it and so I do my best to write, to combat growing anti-Semitism, to promote Jewish and Noahide values, to spread tolerance and love and understanding and hope my words help, somehow. Be a light unto the nations, that is what I try to be in my own insufficient way.

I am sorry for writing this to you and even more sorry to write it as Anonymous but these are words I have never shared with anyone but God. These are words that could get me noticed by the wrong people, especially after Brussels and Paris and Copenhagen - I don't want to be threatened by madmen or be more afraid to speak (even though I do) than I already am. Islam is on the rise in Europe and anti-Semitism is here and gaining ground, even though all born in Europe who are my age or older grew up as children or grandchildren of those who lived through World War Two. We grew up with Anne Frank's diary and learnt about the Holocaust at school and all our lives and I honestly (naively?) once believed that we all agreed that Never Again actually meant Never Ever Again. These days I simply pray to God that He will bring Messiah soon. Israel is a reality again since '48 and the Jewish people are coming home - you are an example of that and those leaving Europe for Israel today are examples of that.

As my heart yearns to come home too, to make aliyah and live in the land of my people and my dreams, my brain knows that nefesh b'nefesh and such organisations do not cater to me / are not for me. Come home, you write, and I want to come, want to follow the call of my heart. Come home, you write, and I want to tell you why I stay, even though I yearn to come. Come home you write and I hope with all my heart that those less stubborn than I am will listen. Thank you for helping me see home, thank you for your writing and your words and for sharing your life and your faith with those willing to read and to listen. Thank you for giving me a window into what home is really like and why it is important to fight for that home. Thank you for being a mother and a teacher to me too, if only online and through a blog. Thank you.

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