Today was the 17th of Tamuz, a "minor" fast day in the Jewish calendar. This day marks the beginning of the three week period from when the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem till the 9th of Av, when the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple. Today is also the day that Tzefat/Safed and Haifa were hit by rockets.
Who could have imagined such a crazy thing. These are all places that I have visited over the years when coming to Israel.
I took the day easy today. I went to classes this morning, then came back to the apartment to hang out. We heard about Tzefat about five o'clock this afternoon. I have the computer here with internet and we (myself and my apartmentmates) sat and checked the news.
About seven o'clock, myself and the other girls piled into the car and we went to the Kotel/Western Wall. It was pretty packed, and at first I couldn't figure out why it was so busy. Finally I realized that since it was the 17th of Tamuz, more people were visiting the Kotel.
Davening/praying at the Kotel is always an experience. Multiply that experience by twenty when it's a holiday or special occassion. First of all I couldn't get all the way up to the Kotel, but I came close. Then I began davening the afternoon prayers (Mincha). There was a lady standing next to me crying.
She reminded me of a story I heard once. There was a young man who was at the Kotel who was really emotional and praying his hardest. There was an older fellow who saw that the younger man was really into his prayers and wanted to know if maybe there was something he could help the younger fellow with. The older fellow waited for him to finish and asked if he was okay. The younger fellow explained. Thank G-d my family is well and healthy. Thank G-d I have a job and a way to make a living. I was emotional because things are going well and want things to continue this way.
What I got out of this story was that we should not only ask G-d for stuff when things are not going well. We generally only talk to G-d when we are in need. We need to remember that G-d is there for the good times as well.
But I digress. While davening I heard some of the men praying Avenu Malkeinu, which is said on fast days. I had thought this was only said on Yom Kippur - so I had a very deep reaction to hearing it said. Then I heard some teenagers singing, Acheinu Kol Bais Yisroel (that all of Israel should be okay and those captures should be released. Considering that three of our boys are in enemy hands it's a really serious song) and Vl'Yerushalayim (that G-d should rebuild Jerusalem). It was very emotionally weird. Then I while was finishing praying with Aleinu (recommended reading for everyone!) the Muslims began their evening prayers. What a way to wrap up.
What a day. The time at the Kotel was heavy, but awesome. I was also thinking about this war situation. I'm not afraid and don't think that there's anything to be afraid of. My concern is how Jews are going to be killed before this ends. I know that HaShem is watching out for us.
What is interesting is that HaShem is always watching for us. Even when we can't figure out for ourselves the right thing - HaShem is there. When Ehud Barak tried to hand over Judea/Samaria to Arafat, Arafat said no and started a mini-war. When Ariel Sharon set us up for the situation we are in now - he ended up a vegetable. When Ehud Olmert began to seriously discuss removing the Jews of Judea/Samaria - the Muslims of Gaza and Lebanon decided to start a war. The cause and effect is pretty clear.
As we are now in the three weeks between the breach of the walls and the destruction of the Temple, we need to think about what we can do better. It is said that if the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as if the Temple were destroyed in that generation. Which means that if we don't see the rebuilding - we didn't do enough. The Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred. The question is: What are we going to do to fix the situation? We need to take on a mitzvah along the lines of Bein Adam L'Chavero (between people). What are we going to do to improve relations between Jews? We need to take on one mitzvah. We could even do something simple. Shamai said in Pirkei Avos (Sayings of the Fathers) that we should receive everyone with a cheerful face. Why not that? It's amazing what a simple smile can do.
I hope to continue to update as I know stuff, but all of you should know that thank G-d I'm fine. Please also find your way to Psalm #20, and ask for the safe return of our boys and all Jews in Israel and across the world should be safe as well.
With love of Israel.