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.Chapter Twenty
Those who love me I also love, and those who seek me find me. Proverbs 8:17
Seated at a small café, under a faded canopy, the women ordered dinner. Although Beth didn’t seem to have much of an appetite, she knew better than to forgo nourishment. She listened as Rachel and Sipporah ordered a cup of coffee and a falafel plate. When it was her turn she ordered the same.
“I think it would be good for us to check in on Miriam and then we will let you relax tonight in your apartment. I hope you have enjoyed your day today and that you will continue to let us be your companions during the next few days.”
Beth appreciated Sipporah’s suggestion and wholeheartedly agreed, “That would be a perfect way to end what has been a perfect day. And I welcome any time you give me during my stay here.”
Beth still had no conversation within her and sat in silence enjoying her coffee and the sights and sounds of the people bustling past her. Rachel, being sensitive to Beth’s need for silence, turned her attention towards the street as well. Soon their meals were before them and each closed her eyes in private prayer.
If such a thing is possible, Beth’s mind was completely void of thoughts. She ate her falafel, enjoying its aroma arising from its perfect blend of parsley, cilantro, and cumin. The tahini sauce had just enough garlic and lemon to complement the dish and Beth dipped her small sandwich into the bowl with every bite. The side dish of tabouli, made from freshly cut parsley, minced tomatoes and onions was mixed with wonderful cracked wheat and seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. The entire plate was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Beth had never been “in the moment” as she was at that very point in time. She thought of Christ’s words, I leave you peace, and understood, as if for the first time, what this gift was that He was bestowing. She had that peace within her and did not want to move for fear it would quickly become but a fleeting memory.
“It is time for us to go check on Miriam,” Rachel announced. “Let us make sure she is not in need of anything.”
With that, Sipporah motioned for the server to bring them the check, “This is my treat. It has been my priviledge to spend this day with you, Beth and I look forward to tomorrow as well.”
Rachel asked if Beth had any preferences for the next day’s sight seeing but Beth found she had none. She thought of all the planning that had gone into the trip and her list of sights and spots to see. Now, all of a sudden, the list seemed so trite. These weren’t tourist attractions, these were moments in her Savior’s life and she felt almost ashamed that she had written them on a list as if they were rides at an amusement park. “Why don’t you make those decisions,” Beth said to Rachel.
“I will do that,” was Rachel’s simple response.
They drove back to the apartment complex and Rachel parked as close to the curb as possible without actually being on it. Beth smiled and wondered if it reflected Rachel’s driving skills or her lack thereof. It seemed that motorists were a frightening bunch in Israel.
In the elevator Sipporah said, “I know that some of Miriam and David’s friends were expected today so that Meir could be assured a minyan again. That was very important to him, to be able to praise God as God has called him to do.”
Remembering that a minyan was the gathering of at least ten men to pray, Beth wondered if she would have been able to rise to such an occasion as the Goldfarbs had done, praising God in the midst of their grief. But she also understood their commitment to the Torah and was beginning to see how that impacted every aspect of their lives.
At the Goldfarb door, they knew it would be unlocked and Rachel quietly turned the knob. As the door swung open, Beth caught sight of the praying minyan, now in progress. Sipporah softly closed the door behind them and they walked to Miriam, sitting alone of the couch. Silence seemed to rule the day as Beth and Sipporah simply sat in chairs that had been placed in a semi-circle around the couch.
Rachel took a seat next to Miriam on the couch and put her hand atop Miriam’s folded hands that were sitting on her lap. Miriam looked from one loving face to the next, ending with Beth. Beth’s nod and smile gave Miriam the information she was searching for: it had been a blessed day. Miriam’s head nodded in response and the women sat together for many minutes, content to allow their spirits console and support one another’s. In the background Beth could hear the minyan coming to a close. She felt Meir’s hand on her shoulder and stood to hug him.
“Bethula, did you have a good day today?”
“It was wonderful, but please do not ask me about my day now, Meir. You are at the center of our thoughts and prayers.” Beth said this with all honesty as she had asked Christ, while she was at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to cover Meir and his family in peace. She had an errant thought, Just as I asked Christ to give His peace to Meir, I, too, received the gift I prayed to give.
Meir shook his head in understanding and moved to Rachel and then Sipporah. David had also joined them and Beth decided to allow these good friends to spend time together, “If you don’t mind, I will go across the hall now.” Beth knew from the look of love that seemed to emanate from the small group of friends, that they understood her need to be by herself and wouldn’t take it from her.
Back in her apartment, Beth decided to shower and put on a comfortable pair of pajamas. It wasn’t as if she were uncomfortable in her outfit but that she simply felt like padding around the apartment in pajamas, robe, and slippers.
Standing in the shower she felt immersed in baptizing waters and let the stream wash away any remnants of hurt, pain, or unforgiveness she might still have harbored in her heart.
Dressed in a fresh pair of cotton pajamas covered in a pattern of pink bows and ribbons, Beth felt as if she were truly a new child, seeing life with eyes of faith. She walked into the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea and stood, transfixed by the day’s events. She wondered if a person could withstand the range of emotions that had been hers in the span of five days. She thought of Ayala and Miriam and Rachel and Sipporah. The sheer diversity of the group took her breath away. What did God have in mind, she wondered, for the balance of her trip. And would she be able to travel back to her family and pick up a life that had grown so cold and vacant in the past few years?
These questions, that once would have plagued her heart and mind, rested instead in the knowledge that Christ would be at her side, providing her with strength and support in whatever the future held.
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