Three days, four trains, and a boat ride later we have finally arrived. I can’t say it was all entirely unpleasant. You know how I love to see the French countryside, and I have never experienced anything quite like the Mediterranean Sea. Your father had quite a difficult time because of his sea sickness, but I think even he would say it was worth it.
The city at large is quite chaotic as expected. It helps me to realize that my decision in not bringing you was the best. Part of me wishes I had, but even though we are seen as tourists here there is still a danger that I would rather you not be exposed to. Perhaps when you turn 18, you and I can take a trip here, just the two of us. I think it would be good for you to see some of your own family history. Now, as you well know you were named after your great grandmother, but I wonder if you know that she was named after the place where Abraham was blessed by the angel of the Lord. It is also argued that it might be the place of the Temple Mount. It is a beautiful name, and I hope you know that with your heart.
Yesterday we took our first trip into Old Jerusalem. I can’t tell you how much meaning it had to know that I was walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. And not just our Jewish ancestors on Bubbi Moriah’s side, but the generations of Christians that are behind us as well. To walk the dirty streets where Jesus walked is awe inspiring. But I came here for Bubbi, and for your grandmother.
It was Bubbi’s dream to come here, and even though I’m thankful she never had to see the destruction of the war or had to be taken away from her home or have to watch the deaths of her children, I so wish she could be here with me now. Perhaps on some level she is.
I think this morning is when I missed Bubbi and my mum the most. We went to the wall at the Temple Mount. The western wall is all that is left of the second temple, and so Jewish people from all around the world come here laying their hands on the wall, praying and weeping. The sight of it all is heart wrenching. It is the only remanence of the second temple, and it’s not even part of the temple. It was the wall of the outward court. To be Jewish, and to know that the place that was once the home of God is not only destroyed, but overtaken by another religion that your people have been in conflict with for thousands of years is a truly morbid thought. As I approached the wall I began to tremble. Your father supported my steps, and then I knelt at the stone structure. An old man was kneeling about 10 feet to the left of me. He wore a beautiful shawl on his shoulders, not unlike the one my grandfather used to wear. The tears poured down his face. A familiar sound came from his mouth. It was a Hebrew blessing, not unlike the ones your grandmother would speak to me before I went to sleep as a small child. He was so passionate that I couldn’t help but envy him. His heart. I prayed silently. I didn’t feel like I had been there long at all, but it was close to an hour before I opened my eyes again. Your father never let go of my hand the entire time.
Leaving the old city was very intimidating. There were many Palestinian guards all over the place. They all seemed to look at us with contempt. Did they know we were English? Did they know I had Jewish ancestry? It was as if we had been suspected of some great crime. Every Muslim woman I passed looked at me as if she was looking right into my soul. I thought to myself that they must be brave. To live in this world where they are in constant war. To submit to it under the leadership of the men.
I still wonder if leaving England so early on was cowardly knowing my mum was in France, but she was stubborn. It was one of the things I cherished so much about her. Besides, she would have been devastated if she thought that her only grandchild was anywhere near London during the air raids. I hope you know how much she loved you, and how much your father and I love you now. It’s funny to think that in my heart I see so many similarities between my mum and these Muslim women. The bravery, the loss, the devotion. She would be appalled. I’m afraid that is one area where your grandmother lacked, understanding for others.
Anyway, there is still so much to see. You will hear from us in a few days. After a week here to explore the Holy Land, we’ll travel back north to Greece. I can’t wait to come home and tell you all about it, and to spend the rest of the summer with you my darling. Give your auntie our love. You are in our hearts.
Your Mum (and Dad)
The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”
Exodus 15: 17-18