Continued from Part V
While the rest of my group is exploring the Old City of Jerusalem, I've taken the "optional activity" to optionally leave the tour and fulfill an eight year old promise.
The last time I was here was three days after my little brother left. He spent a year in Israel, studying at a university and living on a moshav, which is a village in Israel that contains some communal characteristics, such as a business on the moshav's property.
One of the families on the moshav adopted my brother as one of their own. So, naturally, when I came to Israel, they called me on my cellphone (yes, everyone in Israel has a cellpohone, even tourists), and invited me into their home.
I instantly clicked with everyone. In true Jewish fashion, they stuffed me like a goose and made me feel at home, which was doubly wonderful because on a trip where I didn't have a person I connected with, I found solace with my new Israeli family.
Above all though, was the instantaneous connection I made with G___, one of the sons in the family. He and I were both around the same age and gelled in a way that makes the barriers of oceans surpassable and the barriers of brotherhood extend beyond blood.
I enjoyed teaching the only girl of the family, N____, English, which she immediately told me she was learning when she found out I was from the States. This twelve year-old girl was so sweet and inquisitive; she stole my heart with her absolute adorability.
And her little brother, Y___, with whom I share a Hebrew name, became my adopted baby brother. We went to Cessaria together and he stood between the ancient columns, mocking Sampson who stood there centuries before, in a way only a little boy could do.
And S_____, who also was around my age, was a young man with his whole life ahead of him, on the presapice of doing something great, something I know I would see in time.
Their parents, my new Ema and Abba, took me in as though I was born in their house, spent hours talking with me, even without a fluent knowledge of English, proving the love of family has no language barrier.
But I could never spend Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, with them. My program was centered around Shabbat and the idea of leaving it for any reason was unheard of.
So now, eight years later I was able to fulfill my promise that next time, I would spend Shabbat with them.
And what a Shabbat it was. Once again, Ema and Abba stuffed me like a goose with all types of Israeli goodness. We sat outside, within earshot of the artillary being fired in Gaza, and discussed Israeli and American politics, our Jewish identities and our national differences.
G____ was so different and so identical to how I remember him. He and I continued the many discussions we had about everything the closest of brothers discuss as though they had never stopped. We were simply, truly, totally happy to be talking to each other one-on-one, without instant messaging or telephones between us.
S____ had fulfillled the greatness I knew was in him. He was now the father of a beautiful boy, A____. While I admit I'm partial, A___ happens to be one of the smartest and cutest kids I've ever met. And to see S____ with him, to be in the presence of the sheer, unadulturated, unqualified love that this father eminated to everyone around him was simply breathtaking.
N___, the little girl I taught some English, was a little girl no longer. She had become a beautiful woman. And it took no stretch of the imagination to know that she had stolen the hearts of many men since when she stole mine eight years before.
So too, little Y___ was now a young man. He plated his guitar and exuded talent. We spent hours with my iPod, listening to American music that hadn't made its way to Israel and, with each new discovery, Y___ would say, "Oh! You have to burn a CD of that for me!"
Shabbat is a family holiday in every sense. The holiday is designed to set a time aside for people to spend time with their families and develop the relationships that last forever. When I was younger, my family had Shabbat dinner together and there was no getting out of it. No matter what the reason, for those one or two hours, no one could leave the Shabbat table.
And eventually, no one wanted to leave. It was a time we spent with family, talking to one another about just about everything. And now that my family is in many different parts of the country, we still call each other right before Shabbat to wish each other, "Good Shabbos."
So this Shabbat was both special and familiar. I traveled halfway around the globe to find the same thing I had at home, my family. Nothing could have been more worthwhile.
I found myself looking for any and every opportunity to spend time with them.
While I have pictures from my visit with my Israeli family, I've decided not to post them. Some things just aren't meant to be shared. Hopefully, you'll enjoy these shots of Jerusalem from Mount Scopus instead. And yes, I know the date stamps are a little off...