After COVID kept me away from Israel for two-and-a-half years, the feeling of finally having the opportunity to return has been wonderful.
So many places with fond memories have been revisited —
Netanya, the beach town of my childhood. Today, it’s referred to as “Israel’s Riviera.” Yet I can still remember the simple beach town it once was. One thing that hasn’t changed is that unmistakable beach scent that overpowers your senses, as you get closer and closer. That mysterious hint of beach air, a combination of humidity and saltiness with a touch of sand that seems to inject itself all around you.
Apollonia National Park, replete with Crusader castles and 13th-century fortresses. Like Netanya, it offers a breathtaking sunset.
Herzliya Marina, with its hundreds of sailing vessels crammed at harbor, the foreground to more gorgeous sunsets that peak and light up the background from behind, with streaks of glowing gold.
Caesaria too. The Mediterranean coastline of Israel is simply magical. Seashore upon seashore demarcates Israel’s land. Like Apollonia, Caesaria has ancient harbor ruins and ports from the Roman province, which intermingle with Ceasaria’s modern day restoration into the magnificent place that it is.
The culinary scene too is vibrant. Roasted garlic and chestnut-filled purses and elegant tuna steak salads are just two random examples of delicacies you can enjoy by popping into one of the many cafes — a huge variety of kosher dining.
There are the endless hours in the used bookshops, with old treasured books or sacred Jewish texts waiting to be discovered.
These days, visiting Israel really fills you up with all the substantive, educational, spiritual, joyful and even tasty pleasures and opportunities it has to offer.
Never mind the quality of people this place nurtures and grows.
You feel full and grateful. To be home. To be back.
The brokenness sometimes juts out just as unexpectedly.
On an evening walk among the paths, orchards and history of Yemin Moshe — a place I return to again and again, the strong, seemingly everlasting ancient walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem appear before you in their panoramic majesty — before I know it, I am nearing the Montefiore Windmill. So high, so strong, so luminescent. Her turbines adorning it close to its pointed height, looking ready to whirl.
Right beside is an open space, the wind and breeze of the jasmine- and rosemary-scented Jerusalem nights, blowing on the wind.
It’s where, when I lived here in Jerusalem, I would come to hear the melancholy cadence of Lamentations on Tisha b’Av. Right across from the chomot, the illuminated walls before me, as if telling us the story of this city when we mourn her glorious past.
Suddenly it hit me sharply — we are in the Jewish calendar time of the Three Weeks.
That time of year when we re-think about how we can repair and rebuild the broken Jerusalem of yesterday, be it a physical or spiritual rebuilding, which ultimately are the same, intertwined. Rebuilding whatever Jerusalem in our lives needs rebuilding.
Our generation is so blessed to have Israel be there for us.
Be it an impromptu trip to the Wailing Wall Kotel at midnight, a setting sun at the onset of Shabbat that feels like no other place, a stimulating and thoughtful Torah class of a quality not found outside the land, or a delectable kosher meal you can just casually enjoy without going to any extra lengths to find.
The month of Av is upon us. Tisha b’Av will be visiting us once again. Lamentations will soon be chanted.
Be it at the Montefiore Windmill with the actual physical tangible chomot before our eyes, or in our mind’s eye wherever in the world we might be, hearing Lamentations’ melancholy message and melody.
Thank G-d for Israel. Thank G-d we merited to be in this generation when Israel is such a natural part of our lives, to the point that a two-and-a-half-year absence feels like an interminable absence. To the point where Israel’s joys and beauty are a natural part of our experience.
Yet, an unexpected turn and her history is inescapable. Our place and purpose within that history stares us in the face.
It is the Three Weeks, and now it is even the intensified Nine Days leading to the 9th of Av, which are upon us.
As blessed as we are to be here in Jerusalem, be it as residents or as visitors, there is still so much left to repair and rebuild in this glorious, sacred, multi-layered eternal city of Jerusalem.
How fortunate we are to have been granted the opportunity to re-infuse Jerusalem with sanctity, kindness and G-dliness.
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