Monthly Archives: March 2013

Oh, yeah, we live right by Har Habayis

It is surprisingly easy to get blasé about living in the Old City. Even in the shadow of the holiest place on earth, day-to-day routine takes over. Omnipresent tourists and what-should-be-surreal surroundings don’t prevent the Rova from becoming the neighborhood. Two-thousand-year-old column fragments are just another place to stop and tie your shoes. The local shtiebel, where you can easily grab a minyan, also happens to be the over-700-year-old Ramban synagogue.

So you have to keep your eyes open for chances to really take advantage of the location, and remind yourself where you are. Although I usually don’t do my davening at the Kosel, on Erev Pesach, I specifically went there for mincha. After mincha, I stood at the Wall and recited the Order of the korban Pesach (consisting primarily of the mishnayos that describe the procedure), a little overwhelmed at the thought that, if the Beis Hamikdash were standing, I would be only a short distance away, up on Har Habayis, with my korban.[1] Jewish cultural memory is very strong. We haven’t brought a korban Pesach in 2,000 years, but it feels like we stopped yesterday, and are ready to resume tomorrow.

Although our seder went well past midnight, I decided to drag myself out of bed for the vasikin minyan at the Churva synagogue. I enjoy davening there, but the reason I dragged myself out of bed after about 3 1/2 hours of sleep (services started at 4:54 a.m.) was the post-shacharisaliyah leregel.” There is a mitzvah in the Torah to go up to the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem on three holidays – PesachShavuosand Succos (the “shalosh regalim“). Today, when there is no Temple, the mitzvah is not operative, but the Zilbermans (who run Yitzi’s school and, effectively, the Churva) organize an outing in remembrance of the mitzvah on each of the regalim. After the vasikin minyan, a group of us gathered up and (with police escort) walked into the Muslim Quarter, to a shuk that ended in steps up to a huge double-door opening onto Har Habayis, facing where the Kadosh Hakedoshim (central, most holy part of the Beis Hamikdash) stood. The doors were closed, but a smaller door-within-a-door was open. At that time of the morning, the shuk was closed, making it an empty, dark tunnel. We walked into the shuk, continuing the on-and-off singing since we’d left the Churva. Striding along towards Har Habayis, singing “Ki Va Moed,” with literally a bright light at the end of the tunnel, was a spine-tingling taste of what we hope is soon to come.

The police let us approach in small groups, go up the steps, and peer through the door. All you could really see was a courtyard and the base of the Dome of the Rock, but it was amazing. As each group finished looking, they joined the rest in a huge circle of singing and dancing in the dark shuk. I made my way home and crawled into bed for a few hours more sleep before lunch.

Another lament about my blogging backlog

Here it is, almost the end of Pesach, and I still haven’t put up a post about Purim. I also have pics and thoughts about Pesach preparations.  But the first thing I would up writing was a post about some interesting Kosel & Har Habayis experiences, so I think I’ll put that up shortly rather than wait until I get the other stuff done. I thought being bein hazemanim would mean plenty of time for blogging, but other things (Pesach prep!) have gotten in the way. Also, blogging is a lot harder than I thought it would be, so it gets pushed down the list.


Today was a different kind of Rova day. When I discovered something had gone wrong with our transition to the government system (Betuach Leumi) paying for our health care I was not feeling a surge of enthusiasm for this country. The woman who had romantic notions of nobly making the ultimate sacrifice yesterday was now completely stressed and put out to have to sacrifice time, effort and pride to unravel the mess. Somehow dealing with forms and miscommunication doesn’t feel so romantic and noble.

So today I salute (and am in awe of) all the olim (immigrants to Israel) I know. These brave souls spend years being the greenhorns battling gaps in language, culture, and influence. They are not running from pogroms and the army like my ancestors did when they came to America. Instead they leave behind comfortable lives where they generally know what is going on to jump into a world where feeling foolish and incompetent is normal.

A Rova morning

Today was sort of the classic Rova morning, so I felt I had to share…

So, in the morning, while the older boys were in school, Mo and I were in our favorite makolet. I was not only shopping there, but was meeting a friend who had rented a car for the week and who had agreed to take my sheitel (wig) with hers to be styled for Passover.  Meanwhile, it’s even more than the usual balagan (chaos) in the makolet, as they’re working to flip it over to Passover products. The two aisles are full of boxes to be shelved which meant that Mo in his happy green stroller was often in the way.

I’m in line waiting to pay, behind a very large order, and a nervous looking man comes up who only needs a loaf of bread. He’s late to work, so we let him in. Then comes a little boy, maybe 5 years old, buying lachmania (the classic rolls that the kids here all eat) and that cheese/yogurt stuff that Israelis have for breakfast (they often drink it, I use a spoon). The cashier is a terse but kind Russian woman who never loses sight of this boy.  While juggling other customers, she makes sure he has his change, and his food, and is okay.

In the middle of all of this, a bar mitzvah passes by the open doorway. They are a regular, and loud (horns and drums), part of Mondays and Thursdays in the Rova. This is a big one, with a mix of more modern-looking types together with some long peyos (side-locks), all wearing cute matching Che-like t-shirts featuring an outline of the bar mitzvah boy. Other than me, no one in the makolet pays the passing procession any mind.

When I go outside, the little boy with the lachmania and cheese is there, looking anxious. I ask him if he needs help. He doesn’t want to talk to me, but eventually shakes his head. He’s too busy watching everyone go by. I am not the only one fascinated by the street scenes of the Rova.

I walk along towards the ATM, appreciating what a classic Rova day this is, and feeling happy to be here. Walking through Churva Square, with all of the disparate groups of Jews, I start thinking about the political situation and where I would fit if I lived here. A group of soldiers pass by, and I think about whether I would be willing to risk my life for this country. I’m startled that, in that moment, I think I would. A tear comes to my eye as I rumble along the stony square, feeling connected to everyone around me in a new way.

At the ATM on this sunny spring day (it was 80 degrees today!) I am still captivated by this feeling. It has been a dark dreary winter of colds and flus and little inspiration. I am so grateful and excited to feel inspired again. Then I realize:  Wait, I’m right here! I can go down to the Kotel right now and channel this feeling into a spiritual experience. I look at my watch – yes! – it isn’t chatzos yet, so I can still daven (pray) shacharis (the morning service). Oh no, but I don’t have a siddur (prayer book). I’ll find one at the Wall – problem solved! I aim Mordechai’s happy green stroller down the road, dodge the bar mitzvah, tourists, and other mommies and look for the shortcut stairs that Dan says all the locals use. I bump the stoller down one flight and suddenly I remember: I bought yogurt. And it is among the first of the warm days. I can’t let Dan’s yogurt spoil just so I can live out some romantic notion. My prayers will also be heard from my house two minutes away, and I will have done something nice for my husband.

Back up the steps, through the crowd and homeward bound. Of course, I could theoretically still daven shacharis, but now I’m home. The baby is not interested in letting me salvage what’s left of my high, and there’s lots to do.