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Challah making at the Kotel

I may not have been writing but life in Jerusalem’s Old City is going on… The erev Shabbat before last, as women around the world baked challah together, we in the Old City had to up the ante. Our neighbor Pamela Claman organized a challah bake at the Kotel! Dozens of neighborhood women, with a few curious on looking tourists to boot, either made the challah dough at the Kotel or brought their ready-made dough down to braid together. It was yet another display of “life as usual” in the walled city. The crowds have yet to return to the Kotel, and I read in yesterday’s paper that unfortunately schools are canceling visits to the Kotel as parents are afraid. All I can think is that, thank goodness these parents weren’t here pre-48. A state never would have materialized with a population scared to stand up for what is rightfully theirs.

On Shabbat Lech Lecha the community council organized a getaway for 150 neighborhood youth, Jewish teens from the Jewish and Moslem Quarters, the City of David and Mount of Olives communities. Our youth have been grappling with pain and fear since the murder of neighbor Rav Nechemia Lavie on Sukkot. Shabbat in the north at Moshav Keshet in the Golan was a release from the tensions of the past month as well as a unifying element in a fun atmosphere for the teens. Isn’t it ironic that we took them to a moshav on the border of Syria for R & R?!

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And back within the walls, hundreds of Israeli tourists “braved” the Old City to participate in the municipality sponsored “Homes from Within” event which encompassed all of Jerusalem but also featured locations in our neighborhood. There were tours on both Friday and Shabbat in homes of residents, shules, churches as well as archaeological sites. At the grand opening held at the newly refurbished Ticho House (what an amazing job!!) our mayor Nir Barkat called on residents of Israel to come up to Jerusalem and participate in the many cultural events we have to offer, as our way of not giving in to our enemies. Someone must have been listening to him as indeed they did come. Personally it gave me tremendous chizuk to see people on the cobblestone streets, seemingly oblivious to the surrounding storm.

And I ask myself, are we surrounded by a storm? On Thursday my husband Barnea and I drove up to Nahariya and then spent Shabbat in Safed to have our own little release from the tension. Removed from the minute by minute news updates, strolling the magnificent beach promenade, we suddenly felt no fear. We were amazed to see people walking and jogging freely, without frying pans (our weapon of choice!), without looking over their shoulders. Ambling along the Mediterranean we realized how much stress we were living with over the past month, and in true tashlich fashion, we decided to throw all of our angst into the sea. What a relief! That, together with a conscious decision to avoid the constant news bombardment, made for a thoroughly relaxing weekend.

Observant Jews world over are given a weekly 25 hours to disengage from the media on Shabbat. I am not proposing a total blackout on the news. We are in a very serious situation and we must grapple with it. But at the point where one begins to obsess and become overly involved with every last detail, to the point where it affects your ability to function, I highly recommend heading out to your nearest beach promenade, focusing on the beauty of the world which we have been given. Since returning to Jerusalem I have opted to choose life and let go of the subconscious fear which the media has instilled in me. As I walk through the Arab shuk on the way to town, I thank all of the soldiers and policemen guarding the way, hold my head up high and am so thankful to be where I am, at this special time, where by my very walking through these streets I am exercising my right to the Land of Israel.

Not bad for an Atlanta girl…from the heart of Dixie to the heart of the Jewish people!

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Shoshanah Selavan is a chairperson of Jerusalem's Old City Jewish Quarter Community Council, and manager of the Overseas Office at Yeshivat HaKotel. She is also married to tour guide Barnea Levi Selavan, and has raised five amazing children in the Old City of Jerusalem.

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