Jerusalem Rain

January 21, 2010

Greetings all!

Background to getting caught in a soaking rain in the Jerusalem forest (magical!) and Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum (stunning, powerful,devastating….)

This is the winter rainy season here in Jerusalem and all of Israel. The winter season officially begins at the end of sukkot ( as soon as we no longer dwell in open air sukkahs, dwellings, I’m wondering, may be the sukkot is the destroyed second temple,  each household becoming a temple).   From Pesach, (Passover,) until the end of Sukkot (called Shemini Atzeret), Jews have been praying everyday  for dew, not rain, because sukkot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals, when Jews from all over the world came to the  temple in Jerusalem on pilgrimage ( in the time of the temple first built by Davd’s son Solomon, destroyed and rebuilt between 1000 or so b.c.e.- 70 c.e.). The change from dew to rain was allowing sufficient time for Pilgrim visitors to Jerusalem to get home before the rains;
Here in Israel I am experiencing the cycles of Jewish prayer and life from inside the seasons.Today I heard a beautiful Torah – walking on the Land is like walking on a Torah scroll. You wouldn’t throw cigarette butts or trash on a torah scroll so……..

Back to my story–

Friends here have told me that usually the rains are just finishing by now ( sukkot was back in September or October, right after Yom Kpippur)  and the almond trees would soon be  bursting open soon for Tu b’shevat- the New Year celebration of the trees in the month of sh’vat, which started a few days ago.
(Last night I walked under the crescent moon hanging over the Old City, out the Jaffa gate, to Yemin Moshe ( , then down mysterious stairways and alleyways lined with red, pink, yellow bougainvillea, roses, trumpet flowers, geraniums, impatiens and, yes, flowering almond trees, to  join a group that meet weekly for Torah=based  imagery work. (I met Tirzah,  the leader of this group,  in a coffee shop in the Jewish shuk earlier in the day… don’t ask…) Her teacher was Colette Aboulker-Muscat, lineage-carrier of mystical Sepharadi Jewish tradition, the teacher of dear Eve Ilsen, Colette, whom I had wanted to study with in Israel many years earlier when Eve told me about her- in fact,I believe that the first time the impulse went through my mind- its time to go to Israel- was when I heard about Colette. Then Collette died and I remember thinking, I missed something. And waiting five more years to come, only to meet her lineage carrier in a coffee shop in the shuk.)  (the shuk:
This week’s theme in the imagery session was Tu b’shevat, experiencing ourselves in vaious forms and images of  the enrgy of trees,  to connect with the trees and the coming of the New Year for the trees. One of four New Years in Judaism.)

ok- this is really sounding like a crash course in Judaism, which is what I”m in. In between bringing NVC into the West Bank and  practicing with the Thich Nhat Hanh sangha and exploring everything else (more on that in the next email!)

The rain:
Before this week, I’d been in Israel three weeks and  experienced, literally, about two minutes of a drizzle.  For days, since the fast for rain last Thursday, eveyone’s been saying, the rain is coming, the weather is going to turn. I decided to spend as much time outside as possible in  preparation for the deluge. Sunday,I went on a 4 or 5 hour guided tour through the Old City, including to the Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Church o f the Holy Sepulchre,lunch in a great Arab  falafel restaurant ( where a large family was celebrating a bat mitzvah), David’s Tomb, the room of the Last Supper,  Then, for me the peak,  to the Temple Mount. This is the top of the second temple, said to be where Abraham climbed up to sacrifice Isaac- Mt. Moriah…said to be the creation of the world, said to be where Mohammed ascended to heaven, directly across the valley from where Jesus is said to have ascended………..

And, most powerfully for me today,as I climbed the worn pilgrim’s stairs, the site of the Holy of Holies, where the Hebrew priests entered and made sacrifices.  (Generic info fyi: The Holy of Holies is a term in the Hebrew Bible which referred to the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem which could be entered only by the High Priest on Yom Kippur. )–

The weather was sunny and in the ’80’s.  Hot!
Fears of drought have been climbing. There is a drought tax on water use. The government is accelerating desalination (I read that they decided to do this rather than import water from Turkey- phew!)
The Chief Rabbi called for a fast Thursday for rain. Flyers were posted all over the Jewish Quarter of the Old English and Hebrew, to fast for rain
I spent that THursday  at  a Rosh Chodesh (New Moon ) gathering with Orthodox Jewish women on the  beautiful CArlbach moshav  ( teachings and fields of red poppies ( a protected flower here) , roses, lantana, bird of paradise, flowering trees……., and did we women fast? What do you think- women, gathering, multi generational, 30 plus of us… ok, a highlight was the home made goat cheese)

Anyway, Monday evening, …..rain!!!!! From my window over the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, lightening over the Mount of Olives  and East Jerusalem,   , hearing the drops of rain on the cobbled streets of the Old City.The rain now sounding like a chorus of bamboo wind chimes. Thunder is louder now, lightening coming in bolts. The air is so fragrant.  Magic!!!

*   Poster from Chief Rabbi:

In a letter written on official stationery of the State of Israel, Amar explained to the public that most of the winter season has passed without the “rains of blessing”, and with Israel’s water flow “limited and coming with great suffering,” after several years of below average rainfall. “The Kinneret is almost totally dry,” he lamented.

Rabbi Amar promised the public that a solution can be found in the collective and individual actions of the Jews of Israel. “It is our obligation in this situation to look inward and to actualize [good] deeds, to draw near to G-d with all our hearts, and to pour out our pleas to Him with a broken and forlorn heart.”

Rabbi Amar called on all those who care about the continued presence and success of Jews in the Land of Israel to fast and pray on Thursday, the 28th day of Tevet. Those who have difficulty fasting, he says, should fast at least half the day. He also encouraged Jews to congregate in synagogues to say Selichot (penitence) prayers and Psalms.

If the Jews do these things, Rabbi Amar says, “the great G-d will not reject, He will hear His poor ones, He will see His impoverished ones and hear our prayers, and will fulfill our requests with kindness and mercy, return His winds and waters will flow… with mercy on our nation and on the inheritance of our fathers.”

Tomorrow I am going to write about  my trip to  Bethany also known as Lazzaria- where Lazarus came from. This is now a Palestinian town on the other side of the separation wall. I’m excited to go there for many reasons. My meeting with people to set up NVC trainings for Palestinians. Second, something that I love from theTorah is the vision of an enlightened society- people who are identified as “lepers” are to be given safe haven outside the City- from some readings I’ve done ere, it looks like Bethany may have been the site of a Biblical era leper city.

Next email about thie amazing day in EL Zarria,LAzzaria, Bethany- at least three names- with photos of me on camel and at Palestinian wedding……….

Shabbat shalom to everyone,

love, Roberta


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