Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A New Baby in Yerushalayim

Here's a little bit of advice.
When your wife goes into labor, don't tell her to give it time. Even though it's 11:15pm, and you've just gotten into bed. Especially when you know that your wife has babies fast. And you live a good forty-five minutes from the hospital.
We finally got into the car at 12:30am and began driving to Hadassah Ein Karem, where Rena was scheduled to deliver. About fifteen minutes later, Rena couldn't really tell where one contraction ended and the other began. So she called the police. Or ambulance. Whatever. (In Israel, just dial 100. Or 101. Not sure.) The lady on the other end of the line wasn't really sure if Rena was driving or not (she wasn't), but strongly emphasized that it would be dangerous to give birth on the side of the road. Thanks for that. She sent an ambulance, and told us to pull over and wait for them.
By that point, we were at Latrun (the turnoff from 3 to the 1). So we pull off and start waiting. And waiting. Finally, Rena asked the lady, "Where are they coming from?"
"Beit Shemesh." (fifteen minutes away).
"Beit Shemesh?" I said. "That's crazy. We're closer than they are." So I start driving, and get on the 1.
Rena has an idea. Tell them to meet us at the 38 and the 1. (Where the road to Beit Shemesh meets with the main highway.) It's pretty close. So we're driving along, and there's an ambulance pulled over with its lights flashing at the entrance to the 38, but there's another car in front of it. So I keep driving. At that point, the ambulance driver called Rena on her cell and started yelling at her, "What are you doing! Pull over and wait for us."
We did, and she transferred to the ambulance. Those guys drive fast. I couldn't keep up, even in my Mazda 5. (That's four whole cylinders of power.)
When I finally got to the hospital, I had to park, find my way to the maternity ward, and started walking down hallways until I found my way to Rena, who was well into labor.
About twenty minutes later, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Today Jews around the world mark Yom Yerushalayim, the day that Israeli soldiers recaptured and reunified Jerusalem during the Six Day War. Yet, the day seems somewhat distant to me. It could just be that my wife just had a baby and I'm somewhat preoccupied.
But I think that it's more than that. For whatever reason, I'm struggling with Yom Yerushalayim, because I wonder how far we've come in the over forty years since we captured the Old City and Har Habayit. Is Har Habayit really "b'yadeinu" - in our hands? Sure, I guess it is from a technical point of view, but we don't and can't really go and pray there, both for religious and political reasons.
Don't get me wrong. The city is beautiful, and teeming with life and energy and vitality. I work in Yerushalayim once a week, and still have a sense of wonder from the fact that I can even say that. (In all honesty, one of the reasons that I've never wanted to live in Yerushalayim is because I didn't want to lose that sense of "specialness," and that's hard to do when you live in a place.)
But we're still missing the essential elements that made Yerushalayim unique: a Beit Hamikdash, and the Divine presence that it's supposed to contain; a Sanhedrin to bring guidance and Torah to the Jewish people and the world.
I guess in some way, I feel that after the amazing achievements of Yom Yerushalayim, we're kind of stuck in the mud, spinning our wheels.
After the baby was born, the placenta came next, and the doctor was examining it to ensure that it was whole. It's a pretty bloody thing, and I made some offhand remark about how "gross" it was.
The doctor would have none of it. "On the contrary," he said. "This is the most beautiful thing in the world. This is life itself."
Right then and there, I saw his point. Life isn't clean and lovely. It's somewhat messy, and complex and confusing. It's never as pure as we want or think it should be. But in that is the beauty and power and Divinity itself.
That's how I've been thinking about Yerushalayim these past couple of days. I don't see the process. The US government is leaning on Israel not to build in "East" Jerusalem. We don't yet have Har Habayit, and certainly not a Beit Hamikdash.
But my son will soon put on his tefillin for the first time, and we're thinking of going to the Kotel to do it. He is taking a tiyyul with his class to Yerushalayim. I'm going to pick up my new daughter, just born in a hospital right outside Yerushalayim.
On Yom Yerushalayim.
There's a lot to celebrate.