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.

Learning from Tremps

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After a weekend on the Yishuv, I had several options to get back to Jerusalem.  I could climb on a bus and join fifty other people and their kids, sad to leave the hills and Shabbat behind.  I could see if the family I had stayed with was heading into the city and join them. Or I could take a tremp.

I remember when a good friend of mine first taught me the rules.  Don’t talk on the phone. Don’t play music. Get out when you get to your stop.   To be on the safe side, all of my tremps were drivers coming out of the Yishuv I had just spent the weekend on.  They were usually either women or families.  

I loved coming back to Jerusalem in a tremp.  It was a peek into another person’s world. The music they listened to, the conversations I could have if they started speaking to me.   The connections I made all over the Shomron as I was driven through the mountains under the stars and toward my destination.

Now that I am in Chutz La Aretz and away from my home, I don’t take tremps anymore.  Not only is it dangerous, but it is also out of the question. No one driving out of my neighborhood will offer me a ride if I am heading elsewhere.  That is not in their mentality. They have their cars, they’re comfortable. I can get there myself.  

When did the American mentality become so me me me and less we we we?  Judaism teaches that we are all one, part of the greater whole of existence.  Perhaps that is why strangers were so willing to give me rides back to Jerusalem on those Saturday nights.  If we are here to connect, then surely we should have no problems offering rides to, if not strangers, at least acquaintances and friends who are in need of transport.  We were not put on this earth to acquire, but to give.  Perhaps America could take some cues from people who pick up strangers in cars.  You have 5 seats built in for a reason.