The summer of 1969 is one I will never forget. It was the first time I was zocheh to be in Eretz Yisrael. Ever since the Kotel was back in our hands, I had dreamed about going there. I traveled with a friend and we became really close, having experienced the awe as we touched the stones, and said a prayer of thanks to Hashem. Once there, it had a huge impact on me. I felt that I was destined to make aliyah and call Israel my home.
It was now July 20, 1969. The world was abuzz with the news that the first man would land on the moon. I was in my uncle’s small apartment in Tel Aviv. Neighbors from all around, many who did not own a television set yet, came flocking to see the special moment with us. I felt proud of being an American and hearing and seeing Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut and the first man who walked on the moon.
I must admit that I felt prouder still, to be part of a land whose inhabitants had fought valiantly to regain our holy land. Despite the odds, but with Hashem’s help and the determination and courage of our chayalim, the Six-Day War was fought and won. I was so awed being there and to be among the endless stream of Jews from all walks of life, to stand where the giants of our people stood and heard the shofar being blown at the Kotel once again.
After a few short weeks, my friend and I boarded a plane for our return trip to America. Our plane made an unexpected stop-over in Paris, France. The airline put us up in a hotel along with the rest of the passengers.
We met some other young women and discussed how we would spend our short time there. They unanimously chose to go to the Eiffel Tower and see it lit up at night.
I preferred another destination. I chose to go to the Louvre Museum, home to the famed Mona Lisa. I had heard a lot about it and wanted to see it for myself. I stood mesmerized by the painting, along with everyone else. We all did the same thing. We stood in front of the painting, and then walked to the right and left of where it was hanging. Whichever way we turned, it seemed we were followed by her eyes and smile. I was captivated by it.
It took me many years, but one day, my dream came true. My husband, Yakov, a”h, and I were happily and thankfully living in Israel along with our growing family, baruch Hashem. More years have passed, and I now have my very own “Mona Lisa.” It is attached with magnets on my refrigerator door.
After my husband passed away recently, I went through the many family photographs waiting to be sorted. I found one which drew me to it right away. Yakov was standing in front of the Kotel, a place near and dear to my heart. I felt, and still do, that whichever way I stand, he is following me. In the early days after he was niftar, I would often find myself standing in front of his photograph. I found myself crying sometimes, but also smiling. I feel he is here with me. I see this picture is a gift from Hashem. I no longer feel so alone, and looking at this “Mona Lisa” of mine, helps me through some difficult days.