I know, it’s taking me forever to tell you all about my Israel trip, but hopefully you feel it’s better late than never!
On Saturday night (Feb. 5), the friend who had us for the third Shabbos meal hosted a melave malka get together as a chance for people I knew to see me and me to see them. She put together a beautiful spread, lots of really nice food – but I was too busy talking to people I hadn’t seen in over a decade to do more than look at it until the very end!
When she asked me about planning it, I told her I didn’t think there would be that many people interested in coming. After all, I hadn’t been there for so many years, and had hardly stayed in contact with any of them. And it was a cold winter night, people are busy, and who’s going to drag themselves out when there are so many other things that need to be done to see someone they hardly remember?
She said she was sure there would be people who wanted to come, and I told her however many or few came would be fine with me. There were ten women who came, and it was such a nice group! And it was really nice to see that even having been gone so long, there were still people who felt a connection to me. I had minimized in my mind anything I had done in the past, and it was a reminder to me that even if I had forgotten what I’d done, others hadn’t. For example, two women were there who I had been with for their first two births, several people had attended my childbirth classes, I had made sheva brachos for two of them, one had attended my EMETT group (Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah), one was a walking partner – but regardless of what the relationship was and how it developed, they were all wonderful people and I was glad to see every single one. (Thank you again, R, for arranging this beautiful event – it was very special for me.)
We ended up staying so late that we missed the last bus that would take us to the A section of Beitar (the melave malka section was held in B, which didn’t even exist when I was there – it’s like another city now!), so we finally walked back at 1 am. I was glad to do this because it gave me a chance to pass by the apartment we still own and see it. If I had the time, I would have loved to have spent time visiting neighbors in that building and seeing other friends as well in the city, but there just wasn’t time.
As we were walking, I suddenly said to my girls, “I just want you to remember that even though Israel feels so safe, and a place like Beitar is extremely safe, don’t compromise yourself by thinking you don’t have to be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of your gut feeling and listen to it, even if things look fine. ” I lived in Beitar for six years, and as a doula sometimes had to walk alone in the city in the early hours of the morning and never felt unsafe at any time – the crime rate hardly existed – and it was a strange thing to me to suddenly say it right then, but that’s when the thought came to mind.
As I was finishing saying this, we crossed the street and encountered a (religiously dressed) man. As we walked by, he very deliberately stared us up and down and slowly rotated to watch us as we continued going by. I admonished him very aggressively in Hebrew, and kept walking. Later dd16 told me this was the creepiest person she ever encountered, but it creeped her out even more when I yelled at him (because I’m not at all a person who yells at people and that confirmed something was really wrong). I was feeling uneasy about this, but when we heard him start to rapidly follow us, my girls started walking faster and for about a minute, so did I. Until I decided there’s no way we’d make it to where we were staying, so I whirled around and demanded to know what he thought he was doing, and he better leave us alone. That made him nervous, so he moved into the street and tried to hush me so I didn’t attract attention, but I yelled at him more and stood there until he went by, noticing that a couple of men further down the street had now stopped talking and were watching to see what was going on.
It’s interesting that both of my girls had the same exact thought when they initially saw him – that he looked like a person dressed religiously, but not a religious person. Whatever the case, I was glad that the thought had been sent to me to be aware prior to this so I was able to immediately shift into the appropriate mode to handle him. My daughter later asked me what would I have done if he had kept following us, and I laughed and told her I would have whacked him with my substantial purse. (A couple of days later, I saw a story on the Israeli news of a 70 year old women in Britain who single handedly attacked a gang of 6 masked men by smacking them with her purse – you must watch this quick clip! Look at the right of the screen and see the figure in the red coat running toward them.)
Our very late return meant that we changed our plans for the following day; I had been planning a very early departure from Beitar to Jerusalem, where we’d pick up our rental car and then drive to the hot spring of Hamat Gader, on the southeastern side of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), then continue on to Tzfat (Safed) for the night. Instead, I told them they could sleep in and after we got our rental car, we’d drive to Tzfat and spend the afternoon exploring the Old City and other sites in the area (which we’d been planning to do on Tuesday), and we’d go to the Hamat Gader hot springs on Tuesday instead.
That was the plan, at least! But things don’t always work out as planned….