Living in the heart of biblical Israel gives me the special privilege of being an eyewitness to the mosaic of historical- religious sites in the landscape, just from my window. On rare occasions I can even go out and touch them. Within a mile from my home in Itamar you can see the old stone monuments of the tombs of Itamar and ElazarHaKohanim, the High Priests that entered the land with Joshua.Their tombs stand as antique testimonies to the original owners of the Land of Israel. This, combined with the sprinkling of modern day organic farms on the hilltops integrates the past into the present. There is another element though that has crept into the domain of ancient Israel. What up until a hundred years ago remained barren and rural, has been built up and taken over by a people and culture far different than ours, making it almost impossible to reach the holy monuments.
ItamarElazarPinchas and the 70 elders are all buried in GivatPinchas, also known as its present name, Awarta. (for more information about that site please see my article on ParshatPinchas 2008) This week, on the first of Av we commemorated the yartzeit of Aaron the High Priest being given an opportunity to pray at the site of his sons, Itamar and Elazar. Only a handful of Jews from all over Israel arrived at 1:00 in the morning on that night to be driven in by armored army escort, myself included. Driving down a lane of gnarled olive trees, past the home of the Awads, convicted THAT DAY for the murder of The Fogel family who lived down my block in Itamar just a few months ago didn’t leave me feeling victorious but there was a painful sweet netzach- yes, I can reach you… Here I was entering the core of holiness surrounded by a husk of fierce, zealous profane uncleanliness. Stepping out unto the dusty dark road leading up to the old broken stairs of the Tomb, a verse from Shakespeare hit me: “The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended the nostril.” The silence of the dead night was not betrayed by the hundreds of olive green soldiers standing there in rows only to protect our lives.
These nine days of Av are sad. We don’t listen to music, dance or go to the movies. There are no weddings or simchas as we commemorate the destruction of our Holy Temple destroyed by the Romans. It is hard not to realize that most of our holy places still sit in ruins.They are hard facts for us to see. We cry for the end of our exile. As I touch the wall of the shrine and strike a match to light a candle for the immortal soul of the Tzaddikthat lives on in us, I perceive a swastika above Arabic writings. What comes to mind is the verse we read on TishaB’Av about the swine being placed into the chamber of the Holy of Holies. This is why we mourn. The soldiers lead us back into armored halftracks and down the road, home.
We know that Mashiach is born on TishaB’Av. I turn to face the lights the new outpost set up, GivatAreyeh, where the Awarta murderers passed by with their butcher knives and evil plans. Next week will be Shabbat Nachamu There is a time to mourn and a time Hashem consoles us. A little light shines bright in the dark dark night. I was blessed to live in biblical Israel in a generation that has brought forth sweet grapes from old vines. NetzachYisrael Lo YishakerLaOlam. (Samuel 1:15:29)
Shabbat Shalom Leah Goldsmith