Sunday, July 29, 2007
Just Jetted in from Jerusalem, and...
Jet lag has me dizzy with dreamy head-bobbing, as we arrived home from Jerusalem just a couple of hours ago. It was thirty hours, door-to-door, from the Jerusalem Plaza Hotel immediately after Shabbat, on a bus to Ben Gurion airport, through three hours' pre-boarding checks, then ten hours in my first hermetically sealed tube across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Three grueling hours fighting hoards at various Delta Airlines lineups (remind me never to fly them out of JFK again!) and then, after an extra hour on the tarmac, another six to Seattle-Tacoma airport; another ninety minutes to retrieve our luggage before the half-hour drive home. The effect of such night and day travel is that I am still in Jerusalem; I nod into semi consciousness in which I'm in the hotel, with other tourists, viewing sites or riding on a bus. I am certainly not home yet.
Ten days in Israel was so filled with non-stop sight-seeing, family, strangers, friends, and events that I never even had a chance to buy any souvenirs. I never had the luxury of poking into my favorite shops on Emek Rafaim, or even choosing what to do with a particular hour.
And yet, this was perhaps the richest of my six visits to the Holy Land, for it was punctuated by extremes. Emotionally, there was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows--the depths of not just personal but national sadness on the mourning day of Tisha b'Av, followed two days later by the ecstasy of my nephew's wedding, gathering together seldom-joined family in the context of community and Jewish celebration. Tears of unbearable despair at Yad V'Shem holocaust museum (despite having been there before), where my hypersensitivity to such indescribable horror forced me to pull away from the narrative of our rabbi-guide. And tears of pride, as a 20-year-old hero who saved his Israel Defense Force platoon from a hand-grenade that landed in their midst by instantly pitching it back at the enemy, was feted with another tossed item--candy--at his "uff-ruf," his pre-nuptial honor in synagogue.
Contrasts in connecting: we traveled with a group of 200 people--a tour bonded in conservative values and love of Israel--within which were many long-time close friends and neighbors as well as strangers. The group united in auditoriums to hear famous speakers (to be discussed in a future post) then disbursed for personal comments. There were intimate moments alone with my husband, and the treasured completion within my often-scattered family, and the last ride to the airport when, boarding the bus, I recognized few of the faces, though we'd shared the week.
Opposing locations: We experienced the nadir of the Dead Sea, devoid of life and below sea level, with hardened beaches of salt-turned-stone, and the mountainous vistas of Israel's northern border, gazing into Lebanon from Kibbutz Misgav Am onto Arab houses flying the hostile Hizbollah flag. Crowded Tiberius, alive with the squeals of Arab and Jewish children, large families on holiday. And the thick. scorching air on Masada, where a Jewish community under Roman siege chose death over captivity or torture in defeat.
We confronted extremes in time, arriving on an El Al double-decker jet in bustling, modern Tel Aviv, and later scuffling through the dusty ruins of Shiloh, site of the Jews' tabernacle for 397 years, prior to their Temple in Jerusalem. My daughter downloaded lectures on Tisha b'Av on her laptop, within view of the walls of the Old City. We rode in air-conditioned buses to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves near a mysterious ancient village.
I'm at ease with the laptop. Not so easily, the sacrifices. I can even read a bit of the Qumran scrolls' Hebrew, but I can't fathom traversing that oven-country on foot. I grasp passion for religion, but not antisemitism to the degree a nation could conspire to eliminate a scattered people. Conflict is palpable in Jerusalem, which makes living tense and intense.
There were many messages and lessons in this journey--but in my present hazy consciousness the most salient is that in the scheme of achievement and the span of humanity, I am insignificant. I'm astounded and humbled by what humans have accomplished (Herod's mammoth stones supporting the Temple Mount! Exotic fruits flourishing in drained swamps!) , and yet disheartened by peoples' mutual cruelties. I see how little one person means in the sweep of events, and yet, on Har Hertzl, potentially how much.
Aarrggh, it's just too overwhelming. I think I better take a nap. This jet lag must be getting to me...