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.
Return, my soul, to your rest; the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7
The third day of Shivah was underway as was Beth’s morning routine. Before she knew it, she was at the Goldfarb door, ready to offer her help, sit silently as needed, or just plain show that their mother had been a magnificent woman.
Beth was startled when Miriam answered the door and, instead of opening the door wide enough for Beth to enter had closed the door behind her as she stood in the hall. “Beth, both my father and brother and I have talked about this and want you to know that this is your vacation. You have been more than generous with your time during our Shivah but you must go and enjoy our country.”
Miriam held her hand up to Beth as Beth started to protest. “We could not live with the fact that this is the bulk of your trip to our beloved country. We have called some friends and they have shown a great desire in taking you to some of the spots you had talked about. We know you want to see the Western Wall and the Temple Mount and so many other things. One of our best friends is a Christian Jew and could think of nothing better than spending the next few days with you, sharing these experiences with you. We hope this is okay as we have made arrangements for them to pick you up this afternoon.”
Beth didn’t know if she should be hurt or pleased. She opted for humbly pleased and thanked Miriam. She assured Miriam that nothing had been more important to her than spending time sitting Shivah with them. Elizabeth wanted Miriam to share with David and Meir that never, not once, did Beth think of doing anything other than spending time with them. It seemed clear, based on Miriam’s response, that they all knew this and Beth was relieved. She couldn’t live with the idea that any of them would believe she could think of herself during their time of grief.
Miriam told Beth that Rachel and Sipporah would be by around noon to pick her up. Rachel had apparently been Miriam’s professor at the university and Sipporah was one of Miriam’s classmates. That meant that Rachel would be close to Beth’s age and that Sipporah would be somewhere close to Miriam’s age, which was still a mystery to Beth.
Miriam hugged Beth and turned to go inside. “By the way,” she began. “You will love the way Rachel will bring your messiah to life for you!” and then Miriam closed the door.
Beth was more than a little intrigued by Miriam’s parting comment. Opening the door to her own apartment, Beth looked at the clock. She had a full two hours before her newly appointed tour guides would arrive. Emboldened by the morning, Beth walked over to the paper and lifted it from its prone position.
Slowly opening it, as if it were a bomb, Beth read the headlines, “Eleven People Killed In Bomb Blast at Market.” Walking and reading at the same time, Beth found out that the blast had killed Israelis and Arabs alike. The article postulated who or what group might have been behind the attack. But that’s all it was, guesses. No one had claimed responsibility and authorities were working on the few meager tips they had received. Beth thought of the kind eyes of the Arab who had owned the shop and said a prayer for his family. So many people had been affected by this that Beth didn’t know how to wrap her mind around it all. How would it all end? She kept asking herself. Who held the answer?
Beth walked over to the living room recliner and settled in to finish her reading. As she completed the article on the blast that had killed Ayala, she read each of the victim’s name out loud and said a prayer for their peaceful eternal rest. She also said a prayer for each of their families. She wondered if they were all in heaven. Was heaven even a real place? If it was, were these people who had been enemies on earth now friends? Her mind was quickly filling up with errant thoughts when she heard a tapping on the door. Pushing the chair to an upright position, she walked across the room to answer the knock.
Opening the door, she was greeted by Mitzi’s husband, whose name currently escaped her. “Hello,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t mind that she didn’t use his name.
Smiling as he handed over a grocery bag, he said, “Mitzi wanted to make sure you were eating.”
Beth graciously accepted the bag and murmured her gratitude. It seemed as though Mitzi, in honoring Ayala’s memory, was determined to ensure Beth’s nutritional needs were met.
Opening the bag, Beth noticed a container of fresh fruit compote and a jar of matzoh ball soup. Mouth watering, Beth took a bowl from the cupboard and filled it with the fruit which she ate while the soup heated up on the stove. All the while Beth was pondering the sadness in her heart. There was a piece of her heart that ached due to the death of Ayala and the sadness with which her family would have to cope. But there was another piece of her heart that felt an ache for an entirely different reason.
Beth was probing and prodding the melancholy feeling she had regarding the aftershock of Ayala’s passing, trying to name it or identify it in some way. Shouldn’t Beth had wanted to run home to Luke after this experience? Why was Beth not running for the comfort of home during this tragedy? Somewhere in the midst of the past three days Beth put her own needs aside and was more interested in how she could help meet the needs of the Goldfarbs. Now she felt tied to them in ways untold. You don’t share what we just did and walk away from it, Beth told herself.
The soup was near boiling before Beth noticed it on the stove. Startled back to reality, she turned the stove off and poured the piping hot soup into a bowl. Now she would have to wait for it to cool down. She decided to step out onto the balcony and listen to the city speak to her.
She had grown to love the sounds she heard from the balcony, they were so different from anything she had ever experienced at home, in her backyard. This is why people fell in love with cities like New York and Chicago. There was a life coming from those cities that could not be tamed. Its pulse becoming the pulse of its inhabitants, ebbing and flowing, day and night, a crescendo at times while on other occasions a mere lull. Jerusalem was magnificent.
Knowing she had given her soup enough time to cool down, Beth went back inside. She silently thanked Mitzi while she ate the best matzoh ball soup ever. Her local deli had nothing on the kitchens in Jerusalem! She had just finished washing out her two bowls and spoons when there was a knock on the door. Drying her hands, Beth answered the door.
“Shalom. You must be Beth. I am Rachel and this is Sipporah. We are friends of Miriam’s and your guides for the next few days.”
Elizabeth looked at the two women standing at the door and smiled. Rachel was a bit older than Beth had expected, maybe by a few years. Her beautiful dark black hair was peppered with gray around the temples and strands making their way through the sides. The cut was short, just making it to her ears where she had it tucked behind. Her blue eyes sparkled with kindness and a bit of mischief as she was obviously looking forward to sharing her city with Beth.
Sipporah looked to be about ten years younger than Beth and had thick blonde hair with brown eyes. Her hair was long and hung in front of her shoulders and behind. Like Rachel, she was Beth’s height. In fact, all three of them couldn’t have been more than an inch different than the others. Sipporah looked like an athlete with muscular arms and calves showing in her Capri pants and short sleeve t-shirt. She had a sweater tied around her neck and her shoes were plain white sneakers. They both looked completely ready for a day of sightseeing.
Grinning from ear to ear, Beth said, “Yes, I’m Beth. I’m delighted to meet you both! Let me just get my sweater and purse and we’ll be on our way.”
The previous chapters are listed below: