My Jewish Family

My sisters from Itamar

 

 

As I was on my way to Yeshuv Itamar in the hills of Samaria, my bus stopped to let on a family.  Since leaving from the central  station in Jerusalem, the bus had already been full with mothers, children, and fathers excited to come home for Shabbat.  The woman coming on to the bus had 7 children. The bus had only 1 seat left.

 I had sat in the front so I could feel the force of the hills as I entered the Shomron, but had not expected the surprise I would receive from my position.  Onto my lap came a 2 year old girl, hair in pigtails, smiling at her other siblings who were similarly occupying the laps of 6 other strangers that had accepted the responsibility of “seating” for the remainder of the trip.  

As an au pair in Israel, babysitting became a team effort.  Mothers I came across in the park would instruct me on keeping the baby warm, feeding her enough. I was never at a loss for advice.  At first, I took it as an insult. Eventually, I took their advice with appreciation and knew they only had my charge’s best interests at heart.

Here in Boston, I spend many of my Shabbats with an Israeli family at their house. I am welcomed in as a family member, invited over during the week, and I have an open invitation for a bed if I ever get sick in Boston and don’t want to be alone.  I call them my “adopted family” and I don’t think they realize how much of a blessing it is to have found them here in a city far from my home. 

Whether it be in Yesha or  it be in a different city in the United States, I never feel uncomfortable going to a fellow Jewish families house for Shabbat. Always, I know I feel at home. How is it that I can feel so comfortable in a complete stranger’s house? That I know I will be taken in with open arms and treated like a family member?

The Jewish people is more than a nation. The Jewish people is a family, and if Israel is the physical embodiment of the Jewish soul, then it makes sense that I feel comfortable with a stranger’s baby on my lap, or walking in to a stranger’s home, because, in reality, these people are no strangers. They are my family.

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Shabbat at נופי נחמיה

The windows of the Synogogue at  נופי נחמיה look out onto the mountains of Samaria. From where I stand in the בית כנסת,  I can see the Jewish and Arab communities speckled across the landscape as I turn the pages of my Siddur and listen to the men on the other side in their tallit and woven Kippahs welcome in the Shabbat at נופי נחמיה, a ישוב (settlement) in the West Bank.

Friday night dinner is outside.  A table is set in the middle of the street in front of the caravan and together, along with Jewish people in the settlement, in Israel, and around the world, we welcome in Shabbat.  The greenish white lights of the Arab communities and the yellow lights from the Jewish households dot the outlines of the mountains surrounding the area.  Meir makes Kiddush and Ligal lays out a Shabbat meal made more sweet by the sounds of children singing the prayers they learned from watching their parents.

Shabbat dinner is followed by sleep and tefillah in the morning.  On my walk home from the synogogue, a man sitting at a table outside makes kiddush on wine and we all stop to listen. He finishes, we say Amen, and then continue toward the park in the middle of the ישוב.  Young girls with long dresses and their hair in pigtails and little boys with woven colorful kippahs sit in a circle and sing tefillin.  Afterwards, they all play together in the center of the ישוב while the parents sit in a circle and  chat.  This is real community.

As the sun sets on the ישוב, it also sets on Shabbat. I sit with Meir, Ligal, and their two children, Yoav and Omer, as we enjoy the last meal of Shabbat.  Meir makes Kiddish and Ligal lights the Havdalah candle as we all bid farewell to a weekend centered around community, family, and G-d.

The other day I visited the ים המלח (Dead Sea). I met a Jewish women from Belize who was planning on making Aliyah.  As we spoke, she told me that an easy life is not a good life, a life must be difficult to have meaning.  Here on נופי נחמיה, where every Shabbat is a demonstration of the hard work and connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel,  our  day of rest is one of special significance. Every Kiddush made, every Tefillah said in the בית כנסת, every Zemirot sung and every little boy running around with his Tallit and Kippah is an expression of hope for the continuation of the Jewish nation.  Life may be more difficult on נופי נחמיה, but it surely is not worse.  If anything at all, life may be difficult, but it also just might be much better.

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