A Visit to the Kotel under the Terror Wave

A Visit to the Kotel under the Terror Wave

Last night, I went to pray at the Kotel which was packed with celebrating families in their holiday best. I imagined the women’s section breathing a collective sigh of relief to have pre-Pesach behind us. Even the border control soldiers by the entrance to the Temple Mount, where there had been violent rioting by Palestinians on Friday resulting in over 300 arrests, were smiling wide as they shared experiences from seder night with family. Ahh, Passover!

But when I woke up this morning, I saw the top headline, and shivered. Several Israeli buses to the Kotel had been targets of a heavy barrage of stones early this morning. Numerous passengers had been lightly injured and hospitalized, including a 13-year-old girl. In addition, 4 Jews walking to the Kotel, wrapped in tallitot, had been kicked and badly beaten by Palestinians, who are angered by the increasing numbers of Jews who have been going up to the Temple Mount.

Living in Israel is always intense, but this Passover, overlapping with Ramadan as well as Easter, is turning out to be especially so.

Which reminds me of an experience I had during my first visit to Israel while a junior in college. While here, I spent several weekends with some distant secular relatives in Ramat HaSharon. On Friday nights my relatives would take me to see movies or to the mall, and on Shabbat mornings we would go to the beach. These relatives were lovely to me, and super welcoming. Their younger son even gave up his bedroom every time I came so I could have a room of my own.

But then, after a few months in Israel, I was looking for a place to live and ended up at Neve Yerushalayim. After a few days at Neve, I went to spend what would turn out to be my final weekend with my relatives. That Friday night the mother of the family, Ziva, confronted me, “Jenny, you are so naive, you have no idea what you are getting yourself in to! Soon you won’t eat in our house! Soon you won’t be able to drive with us to the mall on Shabbat!”

And, as you can imagine, Ziva was correct.

A few months later, I returned home to the United States to begin my final semester of college as an observant Jew, and I expected to be met with the same kind of horror with which Ziva had greeted my decision, as well as another panicked family friend, also a secular Israeli, who had called my grandmother to alert her that, “Jenny has joined a cult!”

But back at college, my friends’ responses to my newfound observance ranged from “OK” to “Cool.”

It was disorienting. Like moving from a planet with gravity to a planet with none. Like I had painted my face blue, and instead of asking me why, people just looked away, not even bothering to shrug.

In Israel, people wage war over religion and national identity. Between Jews and Arabs and amongst ourselves as well. I yearn to live in a peaceful Israel. Where my kids won’t have to serve in the Army because we have no enemies to protect ourselves from.

But at the same time, I want to live in a place where people are passionate about religion and history and G-d. And care deeply about where we come from and where we’re going. And about what G-d wants from us, from me, right now.


  1. Beautifully expressed!

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