Thursday, July 20, 2006

During This War That Has No Name

I want to relate two divergent incidents that happened to us in Jerusalem in the last 24 hours, during this war that has no name.

My husband and I were walking on Emek Refaim, a street in the German Colony in Jerusalem. Emek Refaim is filled with restaurants and gets a lot of foot traffic. We came upon a hand-painted sign on a white sheet, hanging on a wall directly on Emek Refaim. In Hebrew, the sign read, “Our brothers in the North, we are with you.”


This was the first sign of its kind we had seen in Jerusalem and, moved by the sentiment of support for the Israelis who live in the area of the county that is being pounded by Hezbollah rockets, I stepped into the street to take a picture of the sign.

A non-religious Israeli couple walked by and the man said to us, in a disparaging Hebrew, “You’re from there, but we are here.”

Did he think I was gawking at Israel’s most current pain? That it was all just some kind of sideshow, some local color, to an ignorant American tourist? I consoled myself by saying, “He doesn’t know anything about me.” He doesn’t know the extent to which I am also connected to this country. On some level, I can understand his reproach. It happens that he guessed at least partially right. I’m not yet living in Israel. But that doesn’t mean that I am not wholly with Am Yisrael as we face this most recent wake-up call. And his approach is not exactly going to win support for Israel.

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies.

The second incident occurred this afternoon as we were driving back into Jerusalem from a cemetery in Beit Shemesh. At an intersection near the entrance to the city, a young religious woman, maybe 17 or 18, more of a girl really, came to our car window and handed me a small piece of paper and a piece of candy.

The Hebrew note, clearly homemade, photocopied, roughly cut and decorated by a small child, began: “Dear Precious Jew”. It included the text of Chapter 121 in Sefer Tehillim and an announcement of a prayer rally at the Kotel, to beseech Hashem to have mercy on the Jewish people and to bring peace to the region.

She just handed me the note and the candy through the open car window and said, in simple Hebrew, “You should have a good day.”

I was greatly moved by her simple act of faith in the power of Jewish prayer. An attempt by an ordinary Jew to make a difference, a spiritually magnificent part of this holy people of which I am privileged to be a part.

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