Where to begin. So much has happened in the last few days! Between the bombing in Jerusalem, my weekend retreat, and all the learning I’m doing in class everyday, my mind is completely full. I’m loving (almost) every minute of it.
Once I said I didn’t have a spiritual bone
in my body and meant by that
I didn’t want to think of death,
as though any bone in us
could escape it. Maybe
I was afraid of what I couldn’t know
for certain, a thud like the slamming
of a coffin lid, as final and inexplicable
as that. What was the soul anyway,
I wondered, but a homonym for loneliness?
Now, in late middle age, or more, I like to imagine it,
the spirit, the soul bone, as though it were hidden
somewhere inside my body, white as a tooth
that falls from a child’s mouth, a dove,
the cloud it can fly through. Like bones,
it persists. Little knot of self, stubborn
as wildflowers in a Chilmark field in autumn,
the white ones they call boneset, for healing,
or the others, pearly everlasting.
The rabbis of the Midrash believed in the bone
and called it the luz, just like the Spanish word
for light, the size of a chickpea or an almond,
depending on which rabbi was telling the story,
found, they said, at the top of the spine or the base,
depending. No one’s ever seen it, of course,
but sometimes at night I imagine I can feel it,
shining its light through my body, the bone
luminous, glowing in the dark. Sometimes,
if you listen, you might even hear that light
deep inside me, humming its brave little song.
– Susan Wood
This past weekend was incredible. I went to Tzfat, the place I spent most of my time last time I was here, to celebrate Shabbat and then Purim. What a magical place. The whole time I was on the bus ride up there, I was just in disbelief. I couldn’t believe I was really going back. The place/people/feelings I had been yearning for! This place is what opened me up to so much. Before going on Livnot and being in Tzfat, I was so closed off to religion and spirituality. I was cynical and defensive. I had so many negative associations. It’s taken a lot of work to undo that conditioning, which I couldn’t have done without having the experience I had. I’ve developed so much of my spirituality since being here last. (Clearly – now I am voluntarily enrolled in a seminary!) To return, there in particular, felt so necessary. And a perfect way to spend my first Shabbat in Israel. The place that started it all. Returning to. So fitting.
Something is very gently,
pulling at me-a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven’t tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.
I made it! After almost two full days of being in transit. Whoa. There is a weird time-space phenomenon that happens in airports, I’ve noticed. Being able to completely lose track of the day/time/week. Its like being suspended in water. I love watching how people handle this. Some try to cling to whatever order they can, frantically checking their watches and phones. Getting work done. And some (like me) totally surrender to the situation and allow themselves to be moved by the current of what’s around them. I have to say, I am a huge fan of falling asleep in transit. Buses, planes, floors of airports. In what other kinds of public places is that ok!? So. Awesome.
Just to be clear, I have not gotten nearly enough sleep. I wish I was one of those people who could function on very little sleep, but I’m just not. I get so wacky, as many of you know. Someone said to me today, “Enjoy it! You’re probably seeing things that none of us can see right now.” Definitely true. I’m also feeling the strongest gravitational pull to just be horizontal. Ah sleep. I can’t wait.
So, here I am. The promised land. I had this overwhelming feeling of being right where I’m supposed to be when the plane landed this morning. What a good feeling. I had this flashback of being at the airport when I was leaving Israel after Livnot. I was so so sad. I felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind. I knew I would be back but I didn’t know when or how. The feeling of loss was crushing. Like meeting someone new and being forced to say goodbye too soon. But here I am. At last. Funny how life works, isn’t it?
Since I couldn’t finish this posting yesterday, I decided to come back to it after I slept (for 12 hours!). I am much more alive now. Now, for some actual news. When I arrived yesterday, I took the train to meet Shira in Modiin and she took me back to her house to shower (so necessary) and to feed me. There, I met another Livnot chevre who is currently coming to the end of traveling the world for a year. I love it how it is so normal to encounter people here who have just picked up and left their lives with no plans except to travel/soul search/find God. Makes me feel less crazy, for sure. After breakfast, the three of us got a ride to Jerusalem where I met up with Tehila, another one of my Livnot Bat Sheruts. Her family lives just outside the city in a beautiful neighborhood called Ramot. We caught up for a while before she urged me to take a nap and told me I’d see her at the wedding tomorrow (today). Let me backtrack for a second. It was SO incredible to see Shira and Tehila again. I was lucky to have seen Shira when she came to visit the states, but Tehila I haven’t seen since I was last here. Amazing. Sogreat to have friends who live across the globe who I feel this close to.
After napping, waking up for a few hours, and then sleeping through the night for 12 more hours, I woke up today ready to venture out. I definitely had a moment when I woke up thinking “WHAT am I doing here!?” Shira and Tehila are both at their yeshiva in classes all day and encouraged me to just go exploring. Makes sense. But still kind of crazy. I was only in Jerusalem for a few hours when I was last here and I was with an entire group. So different traveling alone! When I figured out which bus to take (and where to get off), I started wandering around the city. I don’t have a map, nor do I really speak any hebrew, but for some reason I decided it would be fine. Based on reading some signs and intuition, I decided to head toward the Old City. A good place to start, I thought. Connecting to so much of what brought me back here. I somehow managed to take a route that I had been on last time I was here (though not intentionally) and walked by two places I had eaten! I knew I didn’t need a map 🙂
For those of you who have been to Jerusalem, I’m sure you remember the richness of this city. So vibrant, full of history, and (unfortunately) so much conflict. It would be impossible to come here and not feel the intensity.
Speaking of intense, this is what everyone is talking about: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/thousands-turn-out-in-jerusalem-for-funerals-of-itamar-terror-victims-1.348895
Only a few hours after arriving, I was having a discussion with Shira about this terrible incident and about growing up living in fear and how a community processes trauma. Although I certainly have opinions about violence and military presence, I can’t even begin to understand what it must feel like living here. My goal is to talk to as many people as I can about their experiences, their views, and hopefully, instead of arriving at answers, I will develop better questions to be asking.
Tonight is Ebin’s wedding! Another Livnot chevre who I’ve remained close to. This is a big deal because not only is he getting married, but making aliyah (moving to Israel)! I am so excited that I’m able to be here for this occasion and celebrate with someone so deserving of love and happiness. I also can’t wait to see more of the people I know and love. And of course – to dance!
Tomorrow, I’m going to sit in on a day of classes and speak with the faculty/directors of Shirat Devorah (www.shiratdevorah.org) to figure out if I want to spend some time learning there. I can’t wait! Now I just need to figure out which bus to take again… When I spoke to the admissions woman on the phone today, not only did we realize we will both be at the same wedding tonight but she said “Welcome home, Jenna.” Where else do people say that when you’re visiting? (Stop worrying Dad, I’m not moving here.) It is impossible for me not to feel connected to this land and people though, no matter what my political beliefs are. On a pure human level and spiritual level, we all belong.
“I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”