Shabbat Shalom, Far from Home

We are now in Israel, specifically Jerusalem, and what an amazing city this is.

Many people, at least many Americans, associate Israel with Judaism. And while the majority of the Israelite population is Jewish (approximately 75%), you don’t need to be of the same faith to appreciate the surroundings. After all, Jesus has a very important history here. As does, Ishmael (the Islamic prophet and ancestor to Muhammed). There are many religious ties to this Holy Land, but the non-denominational, the uncommitted, even I say the agnostic, can appreciate these old walls and the meaning they have to many.

But today I don’t want to talk about the historical and the spiritual sites, I want to talk about the people. I’ve been here for less than 48 hours and here’s what I’ve learned about Israelite Jews (maybe this is too narrow a scope to capture your attention, but I ask you to hear me out anyhow):

  1. These people are incredibly respectful of the differences between us. That’s not to say that if they are attacked, they won’t defend. But it means that they aren’t aggressive by nature. Jews have been persecuted for centuries. Do you think they want to replicate being judged and condemned because of one’s faith? No. If anyone is tolerant of religious autonomy, it’s the Jews. I don’t think they get the respect and appreciation they deserve for their tolerance and acceptance of all religions. They simply wants theirs to be equally accepted, without persecution and without exception. Is that so unreasonable? (Answer is no.)
  2. Israelite Jews, no matter if you are devout, or Orthodox, or Jewish light, or conservative, or renewed, respect Shabbat, the dusk-to-dusk Friday-to-Saturday-night 24-hour time frame. That means that it’s time spent with family and/or friends, without work, cooking, cleaning, driving, technology, electricity, and anything else that separates one from being present in the moment. It may sound hard to implement, but in this town, it’s successfully embraced, supported, practiced, and most importantly, it’s understood. To be honest, I feel like if I had the boundaries and structure of a religious practice such as this in place, my kids and I would have a lot healthier relationship, at least as it relates to technology.
  3. There’s an active practice in the Jewish faith (at least in Israel) of cleansing or purifying one’s body. For women (which I happen to be) such a cleansing takes place after menstruating and/or after giving birth. This practice is performed before re-initiating intimate contact with one’s partner. In return, as I understand it, the men clean and ready the home in celebration for the pending physical reunion (yes read between all those lines.) While I love the idea of my husband cleaning our home while I’m taking some time for myself, what I really appreciate is the ritual to reconnect. It is a gentle reminder that as husband and wife, we are meant to be more than mere roommates. And that requires active investment of time and respect by both parties.

Perhaps I should credit my crush on this country and these people and practices because our tour guide (Shaia) has been the consummate embodiment of knowledge, humor, kindness, and grace. But I also have to give credit to the everyday, nameless people that I’ve bumped into at the coffee shop, tour stop, and ticketing stand. There’s a uniformity here. It’s love of land, love of people, and respect for all. It’s what I think America used to be, and yet so far from where we are.

With loving gratitudes, and eternal hope for all,

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