Children play in Jerusalem water fountain on hot day
Children play in Jerusalem water fountain on hot dayYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

“When I was down beside the sea

A wooden spade they gave to me

To dig the sandy shore.

My holes we're empty like a cup,

In every hole the sea came up

Till it could come no more"

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

A memory. Of days gone by. As in a dream.

A dream in which an oasis was carved out of time. An island of peace and joy, an island of sanctity, set apart from daily life in which joy and grief are inevitably intermingled. The worldly life in which sadness is but a prelude to happiness, which is again a prelude to the unknown. Life, which, in its motion forwards, must pass through both the uplifting and the difficult periods in time.

As the nature of our fate as a nation, in which we withstand disaster after disaster, and yet have the courage, the fortitude, the hope and faith to go forward.

Friday night in Jerusalem.

A reverent hush was upon the streets. One could almost feel the holiness of the Sabbath settling upon Jerusalem.

A rosy hue of setting sun mingled with the glistening of lights in windows of homes as we passed by.

The street lights were flickering on, peace embracing the city.

My sister and I were on our way towards the House of Love and Prayer.

Towards the House which had become our second home during this year of university in Israel.

We would soon arrive

And enter a world apart. A world of prayer and song. A world of peace and friendship, tranquility and joy.

Maybe Shlomo is in Israel, and he will begin to sing, to pray, to tell the age-old stories of Hasidic masters. We will be swept up by the chants, the music, the stories, the embracing love he has for all Jews, mirroring the love of God for His People. “So Sweet” he will say.

The music will fill our souls. Remind us of why we are here, in Israel. Of why we are in Jerusalem. Of the challenges we must rise to as the Chosen People. Remind us, that our destiny is bound eternally with the destiny of our people. “So Holy, Mamash. So Holy,” he will say. He will remind us of who we are. Holy Beggars beseeching God for mercy, for redemption of our people.

Perhaps he is here. Perhaps not. But his spirit pervades each Shabbat we spend here. Each Shabbat we spend in reverence and joy, immersed in the music, the tradition of our people throughout generations, now brought to life by prayer and song and the sacredness of Jerusalem.

“The Soul is Yours

and the body is Your handiwork

have mercy on the fruit of your labors”

(Tahanun- set to music by Reb Shlomo Carlebach z’l)

For years afterwards, my feet were in New York, but my soul was in Jerusalem. Strolling along carefree on the wall which surrounds the Old City, as the sun rose in the dreamy sky above. Listening to the bark of dogs and the sound of voices wafting upwards form the village below. Walking among the enchanted paths of the Old City, on the way to the Kotel. Where ragged children happily sold their wares on the street. Where mystics appeared in small alleys lining the magical paths.

Winds of the past drift by. As the smell of baking challah.

Jerusalem, the city nourished by internal waters, as we are nourished by our souls.

Jerusalem. The city of promise, of hope.

An oasis of sanctity, cherished during times of sorrow as well as of joy. Jerusalem. Symbolizing the promise of redemption.

Are we not now a nation of Holy Beggars, waiting for God’s mercy?

Hopefully, one day life will no longer be divided so clearly between joy and sorrow. One day, we will cease to ask the Why of suffering.

“And there shall be one day which shall be known as the Lord’s, not day, and not night; but it shall come to pass, that at evening time there shall be light.

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem: Half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea; In summer and in winter shall it be……

"And men shall dwell therein ….Jerusalem shall dwell safely”

(Zecharia 14:8-11)

And until that time?

Today, perhaps I will go to the shore. In the Land of Israel, where even the sand is holy.

The sparkle of sunshine on water. A froth of whiteness crashing as the waters approach the shore, rising up again as the waters flow out towards the horizon.

My feet will sink into the moist cuddly sand, as my thoughts drift out to sea, my soul uplifted by the eternal motion of the waves. Seemingly ominous from a distance, but lapping peacefully by my feet as they come closer. The coolness and freshness of the waves, which then flow out again, merging their fate with eternity.

May our lives overflow with the Living Waters of Life.

And In every hole may the sea come up till it can come no more.

Dr. Devorah Ungar is an American-born scientist and musician.who mved to Israel 30 years ago.