Three moments from my wanderings in Israel:
Shabbat afternoon in Netanya. I’m at a lovely lunch with a group made up primarily of long-time olim who went through an absorption center together decades ago. They consider each other family. Thanks to my weekend host, the conversation turned to my writing. One of the women shared this story:
A relative passed away nearly a year ago. A man. Simple, loved, respected. The family could not settle on a quote to use as an epitaph. The time was running out. The headstone needed to be ordered. Less than a week prior to that Shabbat, with the deadline looming, she found my prayer “For the Patriarch.” She sent the closing lines, the chatimah, to the family. Within hours, they decided to use these words on his stone: “Blessed are You, G-d of our fathers, who provides just and righteous men in every generation.” Words from my prayer in honor of a beloved father. In stone. Amazing. And I got the added blessing of hearing the story.
Sunday in Be’er Sheva. I’m with the head of communications for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. We were talking about the challenge of writing a one-line message for their Rosh Hashana card. She was looking for a line to reflect the Zionism of both the founders of the university and the current leadership. I said that she could modify and use a line from my new prayer, written here in Israel, called “A Song that Holds My Heart.” The idea: change the refrain “Sing a song of hope, the song of hope, the song that holds my heart” ever-so-slightly to “Sing the song of hope, a song of Zion, the song that holds my heart.” She threw the idea in the hopper, but it didn’t make the cut for BGU. It was nice to have the line considered. Now I’m thinking about whether or not to make that change to my piece. Which line do you prefer?
Monday night, Jerusalem. Having gone in wrong way, I landed at a bus stop an hour from my destination. I met Abebe, a 21-year-old Ethiopian yeshiva student. We talked. When he found out I was going to The Kotel he decided to come with. We walked through the Old City together at night, davened ma’ariv at The Wall and he insisted on buying dinner, schwarma with chips. As the evening ended, I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. He asked me to bless him. I did. In truth, we were blessed by each other. Here’s my prayer for the strangers that we meet on the journey called “On the Road.”
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