Thursday, October 7, 2004

The Second Time

Musings #74
October 5, 2004
The 20th of Tishrei

The Second Time

I didn’t know what to expect from the second march to Jerusalem, in memory of our neighbor, Avihu Keinan. The first is in that elite category of “Greatest Life Experiences.” The steps we took echo in my soul.

Last year I didn’t really plan on marching. Yes, I strongly identified with it, but I didn’t want to be a full day on the road in the strong Israeli sun. With some vague idea of “meeting up with it, if…” I dressed and prepared myself for an afternoon in Jerusalem sans walking shoes and with a shopping bag suburbanly hanging on my arm. Three hours after my intrepid neighbors started their trek, I left my house. Minutes later a neighbor pulled up by me: “Do you want a ride to join the march? I want to check up on my kids; they’re walking by themselves.”

I took her offer as a message from G-d. She is the friend who pulled me up after the terrorist drove over my foot. Ten minutes later we found the marchers continuing south from Ofra, and I joined. It took a couple of kilometers to find my rhythm, and I, then, began to enjoy the physical sensation of possessing our Land. I readily admit that I rode a few times, but most of the distance was by foot, and the entire experience was indescribably thrilling.

This year I really planned. Dressed in a long heavy cotton skirt, a long-sleeved, high-necked blouse, topped with a Givati-purple* commemorative t-shirt and a very wide-brimmed hat, slathered with sun screen, shod in proper walking shoes, back-up sturdy sandals and clean socks, water, fruit and yogurt in my bag and a camera in my pocketbook—I was prepared! This time I walked from Shiloh to Ofra, the only difficulty being a lack of toilet facilities inhibiting drinking, so when someone offered a shuttle to the Ofra gas station and back, I got in the van.

My “grand plan” was to get to Ofra by foot and then rejoin the march in Jerusalem. I was the oldest female walking, so whatever I accomplished put me “first place” in my category. My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were about to drive to Jerusalem as we got to Ofra, so I accompanied them to Pisgat Ze’ev, the first Jerusalem neighborhood on the route. Then, in my marching costume, I entered the Pisgat Ze’ev Shopping Mall and ate a proper restaurant lunch of spinach quiche and salad. Via the cellphone, I was able to know when and where to meet up with the group. Due to army pressure, the walking part was shortened, and they arrived in Pisgat Ze’ev by bus. I hadn’t really missed much. So far it was nothing special of a day, though lunch was good. You know what they say about “second times.”

I must admit that I rode on the highway from Pisgat Ze’ev to French Hill, since I don’t like breathing the pollution from the cars. There we were gathered and told of the final route. We were to walk straight to the Old City, to Sha’ar Shechem, the Damaskas Gate, and then straight through the Arab-filled market to the Kotel.

Armed with Israeli and Shiloh flags we sang as we marched. Then suddenly, it seemed, we were at Sha’ar Shechem, a place most Israelis avoid, even those who feel very comfortable walking to the kotel; there are more welcoming routes. Instead of going straight in, the men and boys began to sing and dance, praising G-d, “v’shavu banim l’gvulam, and your sons have returned to their furthest borders.” Tears of joy. I felt transported to the day in 1967 when I saw the tv newscast of the Israeli paratroopers crying and praying at the kotel.

The singing continued as we marched, proud and strong, through the crowded market to the kotel. We felt safe, at home. The Arabs opened up paths for us, just like when Nachshon stepped into the Red Sea, and the sea opened up for him and Bnai Yisrael.

The second time was even better than the first.

Batya Medad, Shiloh

*The different branches of the Israeli Army are recognized by the colors of their berets. For instance: the paratroopers are a dark red, the tank corps, black, and Givati is a deep, strong purple.

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