When visiting 'Mamma' is dangerous
-- "Thus said the L-rd: A voice was heard in Ramah, crying and bitter weeping. Rachel was weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted...for they are gone...... Thus said the L-rd: Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work shall be rewarded....and they shall come back again. .. there is hope for your future and your children shall return to their border. "— Jeremiah, 31, 14-16
One day last winter I met one of my 8th generation Jerusalemite relatives on the street. (These old Jerusalemite families are an independent, feisty, wonderful breed unto themselves.)
"I'm going to Mommeh Rochel," he said in Yiddish. "To whom?" I asked. bewildered, knowing that his mother's name was Channah, not Rachel. "To Mommeh Rochel," he repeated.
In one of those mini-second flashes which surge through the brain, I realized that Mommeh Rochel was none other than Rachel Immeinu --- Rachel the Matriarch, mother of all Jews everywhere. Of course. Who else could Mommeh Rochel be?
"Mamma" is one of the first words most children in the world learn to say. Not Poppa nor Daddy nor Tatty nor even G-d... but Mamma - that very first source of human contact and comfort. And when we are in need, in pain, "Mamma" is one of the first, instinctive, universal cries.
When I was sixteen, my grandmother lay dying in a Christian hospital. She asked to see me and as I sat by her bed, watching her drift between outer consciousness and some form of other-world inner awareness, she suddenly cried out for Mammeh. An uncle, obviously distraught at being unable to help her, wondered if perhaps she was asking for the Mother Superior (the nuns were also the nurses).
I remember jumping up from my seat in great distress and insisting that this was the furthest thing on her mind. I knew she was calling for Mommeh - her own mother Nechama whom she hadn't seen since she set out for
Mommeh. The universal cry for comfort, salvation, love - be it Mommeh Rochel, Mommeh Nechama, Imma, Mommy or any other form of the word, in any language. A cry for Mommeh is a cry for help.
Several years back, a long line of concrete road blocks were set up in front of Kever Rachel - Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem - as a protective wall against Arab stones (this was before they began shooting bullets ...). The wall effectively hid the Kever from passersby. My daughter-in-law was driving through the city on her way from Efrat to
Since the outbreak of Arab violence on Rosh Hashana last September, Rachel's Tomb has been closed to Jewish visitors. Except for one or two armored buses each morning, Jews are not allowed into
What does one do when one needs to pray, to cry, to be comforted by the memory of the Matriarch Rachel and to ask for Divine assistance in her merit, but one is unable to "go" to her? Years ago, I took my daughter to Kever Rachel on her bat mitzva. Last week I was unable to take my granddaughter for her bat mitzva. It was too "dangerous". Dangerous to go to own mother.....
G-d hears our cries, wherever we may be, and I assume that our prayers reach their destination if they are said in
Other places in the
And perhaps more pressing (and depressing....) than the loss of burial sites, central and holy as they are, are the losses in the domain of the living. What is supposed to happen to the rest of the
A new wave of Jewish "refugees" may be old hat for the world, but after two thousand years of exile, two hundred years of return to the Holy Land, and a mere fifty years after the Holocaust, I do not think that the Jewish people is about to pack their suitcases and wave goodbye to the world. Anyone who views the seeming disarray in Israeli policies today and is led to this conclusion is in for a surprise. Like those Jerusalemite relatives of mine, we are an independent, spirited people with amazing powers of tenacity and renewal.
But we in
As part of this endeavor, we - Jews of Israel and the world - shall continue to come, live, build, multiply, educate, participate, volunteer and love the
By Yaffa Ganz
Top of page | Print this page | Send to friend