“A cold rain fell all day Friday here in Jerusalem, yet we turned the dreariness of the day into a metaphor for the pains of the past and tomorrow’s dreams,” reports Dr. Peter Tarlow from Israel.
Often I neglect to mention why I am here and so please permit a slight literary sidebar. A colleague from Houston and I lead a group of Latino leaders each year to Israel. This bicultural visit is not meant to be tourism per se, but rather interactive cultural dialogue with modern and ancient Israel serving as our backdrop. Our center, called “The Center for Latino-Jewish Relations”, seeks ways for both Jews and Latinos to go beyond mere dialogue and create mutual respect and caring. The trip is apolitical and is meant to nourish both body and soul. As such, the City of King David serves as a perfect location to explore cultures and create bonds of friendship and mutual respect
Israel is the perfect place. It is a center of history and a place of great food. Fruits and nuts and vegetables are so good that they are more than mere delights to the palate but transform the biological act of eating into a theological celebration of the senses. As such, walking through the Machandh Yehudah market on a rainy Friday afternoon, as the market begins to close for the Jewish Sabbath is a journey into Jewish culinary history. It serves as a reminder that truly good food not only fills the stomach but also interacts with the soul.
Friday was a day dedicated to the history of the millennia and of the decades. Beginning at the Israel museum’s Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea scrolls, and then moving onto to Yad VaShem, Israel’s national center for the preservation of the Holocaust one begins to understand the depth of Jewish history. At first these are mere relics of the past, facts of history. Then all changes. Upon entering the dark “hall of the children”, where a million and a quarter murdered children are symbolically represented, turns the horrors of yesterday into the pain of humanity. The children are represented by flashing lights against the darkness of eternal night, and as the lights flicker we hear their names and countries of origin. Their names remind us of new lives snuffed out merely for the crime of being born. It is a moment that brings the strongest of us to tears.
Yet despite the cruelties of the past, life somehow continues. After lunch in the market our Latino friends visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and bought rosary beads to be blessed.
And then the shopping ceased and the peace of the Sabbath settled over the city washing away the pains of yesterdays with the tranquility of the soul and the common humanity shared by both groups. As we shared a Sabbath dinner with an Israeli family that ironically immigrated to Israel from Texas, we came to understand our common ties and the fact that in the face of past evils we must seek ways to dedicate our lives for blessings
Friday nourished both body and soul both are necessary and both are a part of the human story.
Shabbat Shalom from a city that nourishes both body and soul.
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