It is Sunday and my last day in Israel for now. I have spent the morning wandering around the old port of Jaffa breathing in the Mediterranean sea air and catching up with old friends in Tel Aviv. Yesterday I spent Shabbat in Jerusalem, the place in the world where you can most taste and feel Shabbat with your whole body. I have had an extraordinary, wonderful and, as always, complex time here. I feel so deeply grateful for the opportunities I have had here. I feel far away from the aftermath of the Boulder floods and am very thankful that I was able to have this precious time away from it all.
I successfully completed a 309-mile bike ride from Jerusalem to Eilat for Hazon and the Arava Institute to support a more sustainable and peaceful Middle East. The crew of this ride are alumni of the Arava Institute, a student body that includes Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis. It is such a treat to get to know these young people, to hear their stories and their commitment to listening to each other and, above all, their sense of hope.
Last Friday I spent the day in Ramallah in the Palestinian-controlled area of the West Bank, listening to Palestinian politicians and activists describing their experiences; their hopes and fears and their dreams. I was there with a group through Encounter, which has opened up the possibility for Jews to see areas and meet people that they would normally not be able to. Ramallah is so close to Jerusalem and this is my first visit here. Real people with real stories that we need to hear, however painful it may be. This short trip has brought many uncomfortable questions back to the surface for me.
On Thursday, I went early to the Old City in Jerusalem and after prayed at the Western Wall and meandered through the streets of the Jewish quarter, the Arab shuk and then spent time with an artist in the Armenian quarter. I was so struck by the complexity of this place and I wrote a poem after my prayers at the wall, which I am including below.
I love being here and I feel so at home, nourished physically and spiritually, and yet there is always such a delicate and fragile reminder of how desperately important it is for us, wherever we are, to embrace the complexity, to hear the narratives of those we too easily define as “other.”
Jerusalem is the city that dreams of peace, even amidst shattered hopes. May she never stop dreaming.
Black and White Jerusalem
It’s easy to be fooled by the black and white of this place.
The silky white heritage kippot of the tourists; the dusty, tired black hats of the pious ones
The broken white Jerusalem stone; the shiny black of the soldiers’ guns
The milk white innocence of children on their way to school; the broken black inside the hearts of the displaced
The hanging white threads dangling from all corners; the secret black boxes binding heads and hearts
The long wise white beards of old men; the wiry, sharp black hair of the young dreamers
The restless white in nervous eyes of those who live in fear; the empty black holes waiting to be filled with prayers
The hopeful white that they will be heard and answered; the terrifying black that our cries fall on a wall of deaf ears
There is no black and white here; just an impossible chorus of an infinity of complex narratives competing for attention.