Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is available in paperback and on kindle and is being reprinted on Catholic News Agency with author’s permission. Cheryl’s non-fiction book is called Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.
How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one! Psalm 133:1
Just as Ayala had instructed, Beth enjoyed a leisurely, quiet morning. She read a few more sections of the newspaper while she drank her coffee on the porch. The weather was a little cooler than the previous day and there was a bit of an overcast to the sky. But that didn’t put a damper on Beth’s enthusiasm for a new day that held great promise.
Miriam had said that they were going to go to the “shuk,” which was an outdoor marketplace. Beth eagerly anticipated the entire experience, knowing that the Goldfarbs would again ensure that her day was filled with the true essence of life in Israel.
Dressed in a pair of her casual pants, a long sleeve shirt, and grabbing a sweater, Beth headed over to the Goldfarbs. Tapping lightly on the door, she trusted that her timing was fine because Ayala said there would be no formal plans for the day.
“Shalom, Miriam. How are you today? You look wonderful!” Beth couldn’t decide if she was seeing Miriam with different eyes because she now knew the beauty of Miriam’s heart or if she had been so caught up in her own thoughts these past two days that she hadn’t noticed Miriam’s true physical beauty. Either way, Beth admired Miriam’s strong cheekbones and large, almond eyes covered in lashes thicker than any Elizabeth had ever seen. Miriam’s hair was a bit longer than shoulder length but cut in a way that its volume enhanced her face instead of being a distraction.
“Thank-you, you are kind. Please come in and share in our good news. We just found out that David has decided to accept a position in a rabbinic training program. This is something that he has been praying about for the past year. He will be a wonderful rabbi and we are all so very proud of him! Maybe the Lord used your conversation with him yesterday about synagogue and services to help him hear his heart on the matter.” Miriam was almost bursting at the seams with pride and enthusiasm.
Beth felt quite honored that Miriam would even make such a suggestion that Beth could have had even a small part in such a wonderful event. Did the Lord use her to help David read his heart on this matter? The idea that such a thing could really happen, and that God could actually use people to help one another in such a significant way greatly affected Beth.
Beth couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment and hugged Miriam. “Mazel-tov! What wonderful news!”
Just then David walked into the room flanked by Meir and Ayala. Even though Miriam had just invited Beth to join their celebration, Beth felt as if she were intruding on a very personal moment in their home. She was just about to beg off when Ayala rushed over to her and hugged her as if she had always been in their family. “Did you hear the most blessed news? My son, David, has decided to become a rabbi!”
“Yes, Miriam was just sharing that with me. Mazel-tov! It is wonderful news. Congratulations to you, Ayala. I know this is a very special time for you. Maybe you would prefer we shop another day? I don’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense! This is the perfect day for you to spend with our family. It is a day of joy and celebration and God, blessed be His holy name, intends for you to share it with us. Did you have any breakfast yet?”
“No, actually I didn’t. I enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee and read a magazine. I’ve become a lazy bum!”
Ayala laughed with Beth and said, “Good. We are planning to eat at the market today. We will get going before the crowds start and take all the fresh fish and fruit. Come, let’s go then.”
All five adults entered an empty elevator for a day of, as Ayala said, joy and celebration. Beth quietly thanked God for allowing her to be part of this event.
The Goldfarbs were divided in regards to which mode of transportation to initiate Elizabeth. Miriam and David felt that the train was most efficient and represented the best of their country’s capabilities. Meir and Ayala, however, felt that walking was how God intended everyone to get around and insisted they all enjoy the beauty of the day and the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city life. The cooler temperatures added to the appeal of a leisurely stroll through the marketplace.
As they walked Beth asked questions about David’s decision to become a rabbi and what would follow. He explained that there were still a few years between him and his goal but that it had been something he felt would be quite rewarding. Ayala confirmed that David had always been “a people person” and that the rabbinic lifestyle would suit him well.
Miriam, for the most part, remained silent but was beaming with pride. Beth wondered what her own children would grow up to be: a doctor, a engineer, a teacher, a priest? Would they get married? Would they want children? Would they move far away from her?
As usual, Beth exhausted herself with her meandering thoughts. If she could just learn to release them as quickly as they entered her mind, she could maintain her sanity. Unfortunately, once they made their appearance known, Beth owned them, tended to them, and nurtured them so that they could become full and complete burdens with a life of their own. This, of course, meant that the rest of the day Beth would deal with fleeting thoughts of her children’s careers and marriages. She would do her best to ignore their trespassing, but experience taught her that would be futile. Resigned to this fact, Beth rejoined the Goldfarb conversation as best she could.
“No, let’s stop and get something to eat before we shop,” Meir was saying, apparently to someone’s suggestion.
David, maybe practicing his mediating skills for his life as a rabbi said, “Why don’t we compromise. There is a wonderful café about two blocks into the marketplace. We’ll pass a few vendors along the way and can enjoy viewing their merchandise but won’t pass our favorite vendors. That way we won’t have packages to carry or watch while we eat.”
Everyone seemed agreeable to this solution and Beth nodded, just to give the appearance that she had been listening the whole time. As they continued to walk Beth took in all the sights and sounds of the city. Cars and drivers were competing with one another both for right-of-way and in an attempt to out-scream each other. Although there didn’t seem to be any real friction behind the escalating voices, Beth was glad that they were safe on the sidewalk.
Until, of course, Miriam quietly mentioned the number of pedestrian fatalities in the past year. Beth was shocked but as she watched the activities on the street, she felt she could understand. She became a bit more vigilant in paying attention to her proximity to the curb while listening to David and Meir discuss the benefits of fresh air. Meir obviously wanted David to be in agreement that walking had been their best alternative. David wholeheartedly agreed with his father and Elizabeth could see the makings of a special rabbi right before her very eyes.
“Here we go!” announced Miriam. Standing in front of a small café that Beth would have bet only existed in quaint books and stories, Miriam and Ayala made the decision to take the table closest to the potted palm tree. This gave way to merits of Israel’s “Plant a Tree” program, all of which appeared to be positive.
Seated, everyone looked over at the small board that declared the morning specials. Having had enough coffee in the apartment, and not wanting to have to hunt down a restroom because of her ever-needy bladder, Beth declined any beverage. She would have no issue having to find a restroom for someone else but preferred not to impose her own needs on these wonderful people. Meir, Ayala, and David ordered coffee while Miriam settled on a glass of mint tea.
“Well, what would you suggest to a visitor?” Beth inquired.
“Definitely a falafel plate,” said Meir.
Ayala’s opinion was different, “Bubele, it might be too early for you to have a falafel plate, even though they are delicious. You might try their beautiful plate of fresh fruit and yogurt. Yogurt unlike anything you have ever had! I also believe there are a few almonds and other nuts on the plate as well.”
Miriam and David remained silent on the subject, probably realizing that two different opinions were enough for Beth to contemplate. After a few seconds Beth said, “Meir, I think I will take you up on your suggestion this afternoon. It does sound wonderful but I will have to go with the fruit and yogurt plate.”
After they had all ordered, Miriam began mapping out their day. First, they would go to their favorite stalls in the marketplace. She assured Beth that these would be the best places for Beth to buy a few groceries plus a few souvenirs, should she be interested. Beth definitely was interested in souvenirs and was grateful they had also thought of helping her buy some groceries. Miriam continued explaining that they would work their way back home and stop for a light snack before heading home, mid-afternoon, for a requisite nap. Beth liked the sound of the entire schedule and sat back to enjoy her fruit plate. When it was time to leave, Meir insisted on picking up the bill and Beth graciously accepted.
The crowds were increasing and with them the noise was as well. Beth loved listening to the haggling over prices and being able to walk up to each vendor and inspect his or her merchandise. Three stalls away from where they had breakfast, Beth found an espresso cup that she wanted to buy for Luke. She held it and smiled at the merchant. His head was wrapped in a white turban and he was wearing a long robe-like coat over a pair of trousers. His feet were sandaled and his smile genuine. “How much?”
“Twenty shekels,” was his reply. Beth did some basic calculations and turned to Miriam.
“That is about five dollars, right?”
“Yes, that is about right, but you could bargain with him. He expects it, you know. Would you like me to?” Miriam offered.
“Oh no. I’m fine. That is very fair and I don’t want to think that I couldn’t pay a few extra cents for a present for my husband!”
Miriam and David smiled while Meir and Ayala continued looking at the merchant’s other items. Beth reached into her pocket and handed over the shekels. The merchant held a brown bag in his hand, indicating that he could put the mug in it for Beth. She handed him the mug, waited the few seconds for him to wrap it, and moved towards the next stall. Meir and Ayala were a few steps behind.
The day continued with everyone eventually purchasing a few things. Beth bought a couple of ripe, mouth watering avocadoes. Miriam insisted she had the best recipe for them and would get the extra ingredients from Ayala’s kitchen. She said there would be no reason for Beth to buy spices and other things of which she would only need a fraction.
At Meir’s insistence, Beth also bought a cup or two of fresh grain cereal. She had never seen barrels filled with such items and bought them for the unique experience as much as for the product. At one of the stalls Beth actually bought a shopping bag. The entire Goldfarb clan protested, saying they had many extra ones but Beth wanted one of her very own and immediately put her purchases inside the canvas sack. She put the straps over her shoulder and knew that one final item would complete her purchases for the day.
Circling their way around, Beth spotted her prey: a long loaf of challah bread! Like a school girl, she ran to the vendor and pointed to the bread. All she could imagine was carrying her sack with the loaf of bread sticking out like a tried and true native. She fished for a few shekels and accepted her treasure. She turned to see David and Miriam laughing out loud at her escapade and Ayala and Meir smiling as if their only child was taking her first steps. Elizabeth, too, found herself laughing as they gathered together to confirm the last leg of their marketplace journey.
Being quite close to where they started their day, the final decision was to eat a light snack at a café about a dozen meters over from where they had eaten breakfast. Ayala wanted to make her own purchase from the outdoor shop that Beth had bought the cup for Luke. Ayala had been eyeing a tea service for four and had spent the day talking herself into and out of the purchase. For Ayala, a tea service represented time of love and laughter with friends and family. The set had to be perfect in many ways: how it felt, how it looked, and the feelings it evoked.
Having made up her mind to purchase the set, it was decided that they would all get a table and after they ordered, Miriam would run over and pick up the tea service for her mother.
Between the walking and shopping and bargaining, Beth had worked up quite an appetite. The sound of a plate of falafel sounded just right and she didn’t need to ask anyone’s opinion. David, too, seemed famished and ordered a corned beef sandwich and a cup of mushroom barley soup. Miriam limited her order to soup while Meir and Ayala ordered the same falafel plate as Beth. Once their order was in, Miriam said, “Okay emma, I’ll go and pick up the tea service. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
“Sheyne meydele, I can’t decide if I want the blue and white service or the green and white set. Let me go. I enjoy the walking and feel that I still have enough energy to walk one hundred meters!” Ayala was right, Beth had a difficult time keeping up with her at times. She did have a tremendous amount of stamina.
“How about if we go together?” Miriam asked.
“Tsk. Tsk. No, no. You keep our beautiful guest company. I don’t want abba and David to bore her with talk of our economy or of our trials. You stay here and make our plans for tomorrow.”
Like David, Miriam was incredibly respectful of her mother’s wishes and simply said, “Okay, emma. That sounds like a good idea. We’ll run our plans by you when you get back.”
With that, Ayala left to buy her tea service, blue or green, and Miriam began discussing options for tomorrow’s agenda. Miriam asked Beth what her hopes and expectations were for her trip and Beth shared what she wanted to accomplish within the next two weeks. She also worried, out loud, that she would become a burden to the Goldfarbs, or overstay her welcome. Miriam, David, and Meir simultaneously dismissed that notion and Beth knew they were sincere. How had she been so blessed as to have found this wonderful family?
With only a few blocks to home, Beth had ordered a glass of lemonade, as did the others. The drinks were delivered and the meal would soon be as well. Meir lifted his glass and held it towards Beth, Miriam, and David. With a twinkle in his eye he toasted, “Le Chaim. To Life.”
David raised his glass, as did Miriam and Elizabeth. In unison they agreed, “Le Chaim. To Life.”
The previous chapters are listed below: