Aliyah journal entries


Journal #1 – The flights

I would love to start with now, but I know if I don’t write it down I will forget. No one has anything they need, and I am sitting here typing up memories on my laptop. It sounds ridiculous, but it is just about the only functional thing I can do right now!

The drive to JFK from Cape Cod was stressful. We hit these small pockets of traffic along the way; none of them created a significant delay, but at the time we didn’t know which if any would. So we had to just breathe in and out emunah that we would get to the airport in time to not only make our flight, but to navigate 7 rowdy kids, three cars, emotional goodbyes, 9 suitcases, 8 carry-on suitcases and 8 backpacks (plus some pillow pets!).

We got to the airport in plenty of time. Thank G-d! We got into line at the airberlin country prepared to save a spot while figuring out how to get all that luggage over there. But the line was so short, that we had to step back out of it!

Hashem sent an angel to the ticket counter for me. She was patient, in a good mood, and kind. She rounded down the weight of all of the bags, in one case quite “creatively”. She also patiently waited while I did a little “redistributing” so it would all make it onto the plane. We did get charged for the 9th bag, but we were charged $70 instead of $150, and given the overages that they all let go, I am so grateful. My guardian angel also offered up the suggestion that she weigh and then gate check up to all eight of our carry on suitcases! We had to shlep them through security, but we had a very close gate, and once we sat the kids down (because you know they just sat peacefully and quietly at the gate, right?) my angel was there , too, tagging the bags. This meant that my first concern of dragging 16+ bags onto the plane was gone.

We also, I will add, made it through two flights, two security counters and customs with FIVE laptops!

Saying goodbye to Raanan in the airport was too drawn out, then too rushed as we got in the line for security later than we should. We lost it, he lost it – it was really hard to see the pain this move is causing him. Thank G-d he was with my mother in law to be there for him during this time.

The first flight was really wonderful. A lot of people were quite skeptical about our taking airberlin to Israel. You know that includes you! The service was friendly (that guardian angel quite American), the plane was lovely. The individual screens had an amazing array of choices for the kids, with games and movies and tv programs, and they didn’t need the boredom busters we had brought. They all slept – eventually. Not enough, but they slept. I on the other hand, did not. More on that later.

Yechiel was the most amazing. He was so excited, and would periodically exclaim “we are finally going to Israel!”. When he was told it was time to go to bed, he got into pj’s, put on the blinders they gave us, and started to snore. Barak and I had to keep him from rolling off the seats, and I was periodically both pillow and foot rest, but I am not complaining – I will take that over cranky, overtired kid any day!

The flight sort of ended too soon; meaning that I would have loved this leg to have been long enough for them to get some more sleep. We were late, which meant possibly missing our layover. My #1 concern again, was all of those carry-ons. They were gate checked! Did we have to go get them now and then bring them all to a different terminal to be rechecked for flight #2??? It took some time to clarify, but it turns out my guardian angel had checked them through to Tel Aviv.

The 2nd flight was waiting, but thank G-d not only for us. By now we were all plenty anxious to just be done. Sitting in the car for 6 hours, sitting at the gate, sitting on the plane; everyone wanted flight #2 to “fly” by – so of course it did the opposite.  But we didn’t sit in the airport and wait for a connecting flight at all, and this was a big bracha. Friends having us run late at arrival wasn’t a big bracha, but not having to manage kids during a layover was!

We still had amazing, friendly service. I should mention that the kosher food on both flights was pretty awful. There was madbucha and eggplant salad on the flights from Sunny & Joe’s, a brand I have bought in the US – that would have been really cool – if it hadn’t been frozen. I think the regular food on airberlin was pretty inedible too. Good thing Saba had loaded the kids up with tons and tons of nosh bags to take with us on the plane, and my mother in law made a delicious vegetable salad for Barak to eat on the first leg, along with the rice cakes my parents sent. But no one felt very full after 24 hours of travelling, that’s for sure.

The second flight was 4 hours, which was about 3 too long for all of us. There was one boring movie running in cont. loop, with no choices or indiv. Screens. The kids weren’t encouraged to go to sleep. So… out came the boredom busters and the brand new books Saba bought at Barnes and Noble. And the mp3 players I had pre-loaded individually for each kid before we left. Thank G-d. But there was a lot of anxiousness  and “are we there yets” going on. A lot.

The second flight had a group of 35 young Dutch adults going on an 11 day tour with their church group. This was great because they were not rudely noisy, but rowdy and social enough that the noise on the plane that may have been disturbing anyone was NOT primarily coming from my children.

One detail I forgot to mention is that on both flights we were the only large, religious family flying. This wasn’t really a bad thing; it meant were accommodated as something out of the ordinary, as opposed to something tolerated with looks as just one of the many. Even with the extra bags it made a difference.    I would fly the airline – and yes, through Dusseldorf – again in a heartbeat.

Getting off of the plane and out of the airport was actually very fast and a breeze. I was actually grateful for the lack of crowds, hoopla, speeches and welcomes that would have come from a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. I just wanted to get out of there. The ONLY difficult thing about the airport was that I was exhausted and starving, stressed and cranky. I was the only problem!  No chance to kiss the ground, I was just trying to corral children the entire time. They were so happy to be able to run and move! But it wasn’t the right place for it, and I had no patience left.

Our bags were off the belt by the time we got there, including all of those “carry ons” we never had to carry! We got the bags onto 65 luggage carts give or take, and made our way through customs. I can’t believe they didn’t stop us, although they probably didn’t want our kids climbing on them instead of everything else in the place. They nabbed some poor single traveler instead.

When we got out those doors we had two very dear, dear friends waiting for us. What an amazing feeling. Unfortunately they were waiting at opposite ends and I stood there not wanting to offend, not sure which way to go first. So I tried to go toward s the friend my kids don’t know, thinking my kids would run to the other friend. (But alas of course this did manage to offend, and didn’t work!)

We were greeted with huge hugs and FOOD and water – much much needed. But I was too overwhelmed and underslept to take in the reality of the situation and I couldn’t even figure out which way to move.  We were loaded into a van and a car, luggage loaded every which way without me – and whisked out of there with assurances to see our friends again soon.

Shira fell asleep in the cab. As I noshed on burekas and fresh delicious cucumbers, I slowly returned to a human being. I told Avi our cab driver our story (a full 40 minutes of only speaking Hebrew with two minor corrections, I have to add!) and he then treated me like royalty the rest of the way! He said he was really curious why all of the effort to make sure we had drivers arranged in advance and the other seemingly random friends waiting for us at the airport. He laughed at how it suddenly made sense.

We pulled up at “home” to Debbie and her two boys holding an Israeli flag and cheering. I can’t even write it without getting choked up. We went upstairs to an apartment so empty that one of my exhausted kids just started to cry.

But I didn’t see that. I saw the fridge set up, with milk, the welcome signs on the door – and then the note on the fridge that my NJ friends had pooled money and sent Debbie to stock the house. I am totally bowled over. What a surprise. Toilet paper, hand soap, detergent, paper goods, spices, pasta, bread – you name it! I still can’t believe it. It was like everyone had showed up in the apartment with hugs and love to show us their support from so far away. I will never forget it.

The HUGE efforts Debbie had made didn’t stop there, as at 9:00 at night all of the kids declared that they wanted to go to HER house! So off we went!

I had spent the past 4 days reading Laura Ben David’s book “Moving Up”, chronicling the first year of her aliyah. I met her at a NBN “tweetup” in NJ before leaving, and she left home so late at night to welcome me as well! Then she drove me to Debbie’s, where another twitter friend and family that has already helped us stopped by. New friends saying hello within hours of our arrival. My kids were literally off with their friends already in Debbie’s house, begging to stay. Debbie, in her usual sisterly way reminded me that it was probably a good idea for me to call my parents! She even dialed the US for me.

Then the exhaustion of no sleep for now two days set in and I declared that I HAD to go to sleep. I was unconscious before Barak had had a chance to do one single thing about putting kids to bed, but somehow he managed it all without me as I finally got some rest. Because everyone got a full night’s sleep – in pajamas and a real bed. What an amazing and humbling collective effort.



Journal #2 – Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Michal got up first, and I got up second. I spent the first 40 minutes alternating between “OMG we actually are here, we get to be here. We are here” and “OMG there is so much to do in order to simply be able to live how will I ever get it done? Where to begin? What are we going to do????”.

So I decided coffee should come first. Then trying to get some internet communication. First thing may be getting cell phone service! Then I found out the roaming charges are enormous and I will have to not use the internet. :  ( We just need to communicate with the outside world!

I bought a Harry Potter lego kit at Kmart on sale before we left – and today with nothing out and nothing to do the kids dove into it. I am so gratified.

We have fresh cold water, juice, milk, bagels, cream cheese and burekas to eat. Barak is also overwhelmed by the enormity of our tasks and the lack of little details and things we don’t have but can’t live without. Yet he is about to go daven outside on the balcony for the first time and can guarantee it will not be a tear-free experience.

Thank G-d my twins – who never sleep past 6 am – are still asleep at 8:15 Israel time.

We have one ambition today; to find a way to get to Misrad Hapanim in Jerusalem and get through ONE office. IF we can also sign up for a cell phone, that would make it an amazing day!


Journal #3 – Tuesday night, July 24th

Well, on day one we did NOT make it through Misrad Hapanim, and we didn’t succeed much at all of the other things we needed to do!

We didn’t make it out of Neve Daniel in time to get to Misrad Hapanim before they closed. We didn’t get a cell phone because it was so much cheaper to get one on line and just buy the sim card. We bought that, but we had to go twice, and we had to put it on a friend’s credit card because they will only take an Israeli card. So we have to transfer it out of her name once we get an Israeli credit card.

We didn’t succeed in opening a bank account – which means no Israeli credit card – because it too, was closed. We didn’t succeed in going to Bituach Leumi, because we don’t have a bank account.

We also went to get our Israeli licenses renewed… only to be told that they have been expired too long and we have to take a driving test just like every other oleh chadash. This means also getting an eye exam and a medical exam. I can’t get the medical exam because we AREN”T just like every other oleh chadash, and we have to go to Bituach Leumi to make a deposit before activating our health insurance. Which we couldn’t do because we don’t have a bank account….

I think you are starting to see how my day went.

We can’t borrow a car that is sitting and waiting for us because we don’t have Israeli licenses. Making it very difficult to get the bank account, and the bituach leumi, etc. Around and around it goes.

So… we did get a yummy ice coffee, and some money changed.  We did learn the bank hours, and we did borrow a cell phone for now, which really isn’t fair to our friend who owns it, but she could see how much we needed it.

We also spent so much time running around to these offices that the kids felt neglected and upset and were in terrible moods when we got home.

The whole day was extremely disheartening. I am optimistic that tomorrow will be better.


Journal #4 – Wednesday, July 25th

Today was better than yesterday. I am still very frustrated by a lot of things, but I did make progress. I started off my day by going to Misrad Hapanim, even though I KNEW it is closed on Wednesdays – in fact the people there told me so on Tuesday. Only when I went this morning by accident like an idiot because I forgot, they told me there would be afternoon hours today from 3-5!

I then went to Meches. This is the first and a very important step in our getting our lift sent to our house. I had to clarify with them the customs and taxes we are obligated to pay. They need to assess our status as “toshavim chozrim” and what benefits we have already received as olim vs. how long we were away from Israel.  It took a loooong time. The computer system just refused to find the record of our comings and goings from the country. “Yael” spent a great number of minutes sort of shaking her head at the screen. But at least she clearly wanted to help me and didn’t tell me to come back another day.

I schmoozed with her grandson Itay who was there and bored out of his mind. (He’s almost 8.) But I think it definitely helped my case. I did leave victorious! We were given the rights at least as far as meches is concerned of a new oleh… except a fridge. That’s a whole long story, but kind of silly since a refrigerator happens to be one of the only things I already own in Israel.

Then my dear friend drove me to the bank to open that account from the day before. There was NO ONE in line. But I was told I had to leave Sophie’s desk, go over to the automated machine to get a number and come back with it. Which I did. Sophie did open an account for me. She explained the fees I will have to pay for every single transaction I do. If I want to give them my money I get to pay a fee for that. She told me I couldn’t get a credit card for three months. Remember the cell phone guy yesterday needed and Israeli credit card? I had to do some negotiating – I felt very Israeli – and we now have a credit card too. It has a limit of 1000 shekels ($250!) for three months. I couldn’t care less. I can now get the dumb phone. On Monday. That’s when I will actually get the credit card. Maybe even some checks too!

Then I went out to lunch with the wonderful angel who has been driving me, lending us her phone, etc. She is sometimes known as “Sababa Queen”. That was extremely successful. I get all A’s at going out to lunch. Then I headed back to Misrad Hapanim. As I went up the stairs a woman was coming down and seemed to eye me. She came over surreptitiously and asked if I was going up to the main hall. When I said yes, she gave me her number. This is a big deal, since she presumably took a number a while ago and then gave up to go home and might save me lots and lots of waiting time.

I went upstairs. You have to go to the “line” (ha!) at information in order to make sure you go to the right part of Misrad Hapanim for what you need, and then they give you a number. They told me to go to the main hall to wait with the other people/cattle, but seemed to be shocked that I had a number. It was 161. The main hall was up to 101.

I waited for over an hour. I had a sefer to learn from, but wished I had lugged my laptop all around town. When I finally got called, I was told that I should never have been sent to that line (I actually checked twice) and that I needed to go speak to someone else altogether.  That didn’t take much waiting but only because it was now 4:45 – and their hours are until 5 on Wednesday.

Molly told me under no uncertain terms that she would not help me. Add 5 kids to my teudat zehut in her last 15 minutes? I must be crazy. But you see, I can’t get my children medical coverage until they have a teudat zehut number. I explained my whole life story to her as quickly as I could in 3 minutes. She looked at my documents. She shook her head.

Molly told me to come back first thing in the morning (because yeah, that’s so easy) with all my documents and my leftover passport photos and she will renew my passport, my husband’s passport, change our addresses in both of our teudat zehuts, add my kids and get them Israeli passports all at once. Only she wants a) proof of my new residency in Gush Etzion from the municipality and b) passport photos of all of my kids. I pointed out that at 5:00 pm I can’t be expected to procure the proof of residency from a municipality and be back first thing in the morning. Can I bring my lease, I asked? No! Of course not she told me. I told her that poor little Johnny and his siblings won’t be able to go to the doctor – so she told me to bring the lease. Turns out I don’t really have the photos she needs – the US size ones won’t work. She is probably going to tell me in the morning that we can’t do any passports at all. But I don’t actually care, I just wanted to get our stupid teudat zehuts taken care of already.

And now I have a bank account – with a number and everything – so I should be able to go to Bituach Leumi to get the medical coverage started. And then go get checked so a doctor can sign off. So that I can then go and take a driving lesson, then a test, then get my license.

We COULD rent a car with our US license at any time and put ourselves out of this misery. But it is quite expensive and I have an empty house I have to fill.

Still, my day was quite productive. I took a cab from Misrad Hapanim to “Tzomet Gilo” which is where the beginning of the entrance to Gush Etzion is. I successfully hitchhiked a ride home to Neve Daniel and was able to walk home and find my way. That felt good. The walking shoes I bought in the US and brought here don’t fit very well and have to be replaced. That did not feel good.

My boys got to go to the mall, to a game room and then to play in a baseball game that was going on without them as part of a camp. They complained bitterly when they got home that the kids aren’t very good. They have been playing for the past few summers in an intense training camp program exclusively about baseball. I have a feeling this is only the initial disappointment about the level of baseball here. They don’t know how lucky they are that there is baseball at all. And if the kids were much better than they are at baseball, I am quite sure that would have brought far more tears and frustration.

Barak found that there is one window sill – and only one sill and only one half of it – that will get us an internet connection from a neighbor. We take turns using it. It is in Michal’s room and simply ridiculous. But it did allow me to finally do more and better crying uncle this evening.


Journal #5 – Saturday, July 28th

The last time I was able to write was Wednesday night, and it is already Sat. night. This is probably a good sign.

Thursday morning I finally got out of the house at an earlier hour, but not by much.

I got a little email access on the window sill Wednesday, since Barak was out working at a neighbor’s house. (For internet access).

I wrote to a very dear friend in Efrat who is raising nine kids – on her own. I basically sent her a message that said “We are here,  I don’t know how long I can be on line. We have no phone. We need help.”

She wrote back that she was coming to scoop up all of  the my kids – and Barak – the next morning at 8:30 am to go hang out at her house. It would take her two trips in her car, and she was at our house at 8:30 am, even though I wasn’t awake. The kids had a day of internet, food, toys, friends… and a hamster, apparently, but it was a big improvement over hanging around at home while I was off in Jerusalem. She also gave me a lift into the city!

“Molly” in Misrad Hapanim was waiting for me. The first thing she did was send me back downstairs to get a whole bunch of copies made. That took forever, but then she sat with me for almost 90 minutes straight and did EVERYTHING. It really did take her a long time, and I told her how much I understood her reluctance to start in 15 minutes before closing. As I wrote before, she did all that she said she would! Barak couldn’t get a new passport because he didn’t have photos. We tried to print from the computer , but didn’t succeed. I was able to get mine on the way in.

So I left Misrad Hapanim feeling quite victorious. Next stop was to change some money – which I did at a great negotiated rate, still on my “feeling Israeli” high.  My angel with the car was going to pick me up and take me to another part of Jerusalem for trip #3 to Rami Levy over the cell phone.  But she wasn’t quite ready, so I got to sit in a Jerusalem café in the Mamilla (outdoor) Mall, bask in some internet access and have a fabulous ice coffee.

Talpiot meant another UN-fruitful trip to Rami Levy, but getting some more much needed household items at Israel’s equivalent to a home center store, and back to Efrat to round up the kids before Barak had a meeting.

Most of the kids didn’t want to leave, and Abby was remarkably willing to have them still around. So Ruthie took me by car to a “makolet”, which is a grocery store the size of a bodega, basically, and then home. The person behind me in line was Nadia Matar – a local hero and inspiration to me. Look her up; it’s worth it.

It had become clear to me by Wednesday that my kids couldn’t really take anymore of my being gone all day, every day. I had told them no “siddurim” (errands/getting things done) for Friday. And it was great!

I had sent equally pathetic urgent email calls for help on two other counts. One was to get someone here to help me with the very, very, very dirty floors from the construction dust and grime, preferably before Shabbat.

A neighbor and I hope new friend GAVE UP her Friday help to have Malika come to me. She did a great job on the floors – it was a 3 hour job, and that was JUST the floors – and we all felt better. Not only were the floors clean, but it meant we had to move stuff around and clean up our things so she could do it. It also inspired me to clean the countertops. The difference was amazing.

Gabriel Danzig has known Barak for a really, really long time. Like Abby, he didn’t receive a “we are here can’t wait to see you” email, but rather a “hi, we are home, help!” email. And help he did. He called our borrowed phone to brainstorm on just what he could do. He actually said he could use his car indefinitely (!)… but although it is a 9 seater and would be amazing, it is alas, stick shift. I just don’t think I can pull it off. I asked about an outing… “What about a visit to the library? Would your kids like that at all?” I had to explain my kids.

So Friday morning they all went off to the library in Efrat to get a family membership (you pay for it here) and to take out a bunch of books. Michal thought the family limit of 25 at one time paltry, but at least there was pre-shabbat & Tisha B’av reading material in the house. Barak spent the morning getting important work done, and I spent it finally working on the house a bit. Moving beds, washing some underwear in our washing machine, and putting things away.

Then we both fell asleep!!! Gabriel dropped the kids off with a bag of rolls and a ton of books and left without a word. I woke up confused, but VERY happy.

We took a walk – my first – around a part of Neve Daniel, because Michal was invited to come and make a new friend. Debbie Kodish had made the shidduch and thought they would get along beautifully, and she was so, so right. It helped that I really love Meira’s parents, Amos and Ellen. It isn’t such an easy thing to call a stranger and suggest she come with her daughter to meet you. Erev Shabbat, when you are trying to get ready. But they did, and sent me along with a plate of oatmeal cookies to take with, just for good measure. The “no sugar” part of our reputation did not make it to Neve Daniel before we arrived, believe me!

Michal stayed and I went on to spend some time at the park with Shira and Yechiel. They have had the hardest time, since the younger kids aren’t as proactive about new kids.  By four o’clock the boys had joined us at the park as well, with their friends, and by 4:30 there were no oatmeal cookies left.

As I sat in this park overlooking the most incredibly beautiful hills of Judea, I tried to remember the last time I didn’t cook a single thing for Shabbat. I don’t remember that ever happening, even when I had the babies, although I am sure it did. But I felt like I could really relax and know that others were taking care of us, and just BE with my kids, who have missed that so much since we have arrived.

Journal #6 – Sunday, July 29th – Tisha B’av

It is Sunday morning, and Tisha B’av. Half of my family is off at shul. Two of my kids are still asleep, even though it is 9:00 am. We haven’t been getting them to bed on time (more like 10-11:00) but they have been waking up delightfully late, and I have been enjoying it! We have to cut that out soon and get on a normal schedule so they can function at camp.

Everyone has olim camp next week except Yechiel, and I signed him up for a day camp. If I can arrange a car of some kind by then it will be amazing, because they will all have something to do for two weeks and I will have a few hours to work on the house, etc.

Shabbat was amazing. I had put the Shabbat clothes in a separate pile as I found them, so I was able to outfit them all. We went to shul and Barak not only got called up to the Torah, but everyone in the Kahal sang to him as a welcome. The playground is next to the shul, with the window of the women’s section looking out on to it. There seemed to have been 600 kids out there, and my little ones blended right in.

People were warm and friendly, and the davening was done at about 10:30! Barak was invited to stay and learn a bit with the Rabbi and a group of men, which I know he enjoyed. I found myself crying during the davening. It wasn’t anything particularly strange or remarkable, it was the familiarity. This is how it was always supposed to be. This was what I had imagined for myself when I got married 13 years ago, and I could finally taste it. I was so happy by the normalcy of it all.

We had lunch with a family we have never met, but it didn’t feel that way. Ami Levine works for Nefesh B’Nefesh, and they have six kids— all girls. We had such a nice time and such amazing food! It was incredibly relaxing.

Amy Shuter and her triplets were also there. She and I have met virtually through blogging but never in person before. She is also the one whose internet we are able to get from our window sill, as well as the wonderful angel that gave up cleaning help on a Friday so my floors could get clean. I was glad to finally meet her and to get a chance to say thank you.

At some point or points after dessert my children disappeared. They had all left to go see friends! Except for Shira who made friends with Reut, the daughter closest to her age, and with the many English books they had in their house. Of the 6 different mincha minyans to choose from, Barak and Ami went at 2, and we then went home.

I fell asleep. I didn’t see my kids. At all.  I woke up and checked out the stairs being built right outside my door that lead up to the top of Neve Daniel. They aren’t done and they aren’t yet safe, but when they are we are going to have an amazing little asset behind us, believe me.  I climbed up to check it out nevertheless, and found my husband and little ones back at the same park we had enjoyed before Shabbat. Unlike four o’clock on Friday afternoon, the park was teeming with parents and children. Everyone was so friendly and wanted to meet us that I couldn’t really stay in one place. And the kids didn’t need me at all. They did need their SHOES, but we will work on that one.

We had been invited to share third meal on Shabbat with Rabbi Jesse and Tara Horn. For those of you that don’t know, Jesse Horn grew up in Twin Rivers. His mother was the very beloved principal at my children’s school and therefore eventually was also my boss, but always my friend. It is a “coincidence” that Jesse and Tara wound up in the same place (as did his sister and brother in law), and a larger one that they wound up good friends with Debbie and Kenny Kodish, and on the same block.  (If you believe in coincidences.)

The third meal this particular Shabbat was a bigger deal than most because it was the meal before todays’ fast for Tisha B’av. There was much discussion back and forth about whether it was okay for us to come to their house. Since this is the beginning of our time of great sorrow, it isn’t in the spirit of entering Tisha B’av to get together with friends. This was considered a special case by all of us, since it wasn’t old friends getting together socially, it was the Horns providing us with food as a Chesed since we don’t yet have any way to make it for ourselves. The fact that they are wonderful people whose company was easy to enjoy was a different matter.

Michal was late to the meal, having had trouble finding us after spending the entire afternoon with her new friend Meira. The boys were late too, off playing ball with a gang of boys!  We ate outside, and after eating so, so much delicious food Jesse began to sing seudat shlishit songs. And I, once again, began to cry and cry. It was all so normal, and so beautiful. Their porch also overlooks the same glorious hills. It was Shabbat afternoon the way I had it frozen in my memory and in my soul. I couldn’t help being so overcome with happiness. This is all as we prepare for the saddest day in our Jewish calendar, and as we are supposed to feel the sorrow of Shabbat leaving us. It is so hard for me to feel sad.

…. And that is my challenge for today. The Jewish people all around the world are focusing all of their energy on the loss of the Beit Hamikdash. I used to tell me students that when one arrives at the kotel it can be a wonderfully spiritual and uplifting moment. But at the same time we aren’t supposed to be satisfied with the little supporting wall of the basement of the Holy Temple that is today’s kotel. We need to want the whole thing, and to want it with our whole being.

So today we fast, and don’t wear leather, or read or do anything enjoyable. We mourn the loss of our Temple, our closer connection to our creator, and our unity as a people. We are supposed to feel deprived, and want so much more.

Tisha B’av has never been a hard holiday for me to relate to. In fact, it has often been a challenge for me to remember to relate to the loss on a national level and not a personal one .Yearning for Jerusalem has been a daily exercise for 12 years, so tapping into that once a year wasn’t a problem. Knowing that my homesickness wasn’t enough, and instead focusing on the loss of the Beit Hamikdash was my problem.

Now I have trouble not feeling happy and grateful! I am supposed to wish for more, yearn for more, but I am still trying to get used to this feeling of immense gratitude and satisfaction. It doesn’t feel like yearning. The Israel I have is a HUGE gift, and I feel so great about being here. But the work does have to be done, and it isn’t “Yerushalayim Habenuya”. We do still need to fast and daven and cry. It is my challenge today…. But it is such a wonderful problem to have.