In Jerusalem, I sleep like the dead. I sleep like someone who’s had every second of the last ten days scheduled, like someone who has hiked, climbed, schlepped and sweated across Israel with 38-44 people in tow at all times.
I sleep this way every night and day until Erev Rosh Chodesh, when my sleep is fitful, filled with dreams of women having bags of shit thrown at them. Actual shit. In one scene, a woman is hit in the head with said bag. She puts her hand on her hair to feel it. In my dream, I can see her eyes, but she is no one that I know.
I wake groggily and proceed with my plan to go to the Kotel and meet the Women of the Wall. Jerusalem is already hot, and by the time I’ve winded my way through the streets of the Old City, I am literally a hot mess. On the women’s side, there are the usual suspects, and so I go right to Robinson’s Arch, where there are people snapping pictures and singing. I’m stopped by a woman in an orange t shirt, filling her water at a fountain. “Are you with Women of the Wall?” she asks me. “I’m trying to be,” I say. “Well, something has happened,” she says gravely.
She tells me the story, that Anat Hoffman has been arrested for carrying a Torah across the Kotel Plaza. There is a group gathered at the police station at Jaffa Gate. “Who gave this order?” she wonders aloud. “What is going on in this country?”
We leave each other, and I head back, reviving my dislike of the Old City as I struggle to remember how I got to the Kotel in the first place. I just want to go back to bed, maybe in Israel, maybe in the States, but regardless, I want to neuter this exhaustion that’s suddenly taken everything hostage.
As I glue myself to the wall in order to avoid an oncoming bus at the edge of the Armenian Quarter, I see them: the group of women. There are probably fifty of them, maybe more, waiting. I stand with them, still exhausted, but now there’s also a numbness. It’s been this way for my whole trip, me waiting to feel something, I don’t care what, just something about this place that previously has made me feel everything.
There is not a romantic ending here, of course. There is not even an ending. I’m still sweaty and pissed off, and more importantly, there’s still a misogynist war being fought in the name of spiritual civil rights. But sometimes what you need finds you, and maybe that happened yesterday when we sang Esa Enai, a song I have beautiful memories of in a former life. I heard it differently this time, especially the verse “ezri me’im Hashem,oseh shamayim va’aretz.” My help comes from Gd who made heaven and earth. “Va’aretz” landed sharply on my ears, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was the first flicker of authenticity, of purity, in two weeks, and there it was, in a most wrong moment.