I’ve reached Day 21 of the challenge and received a 20-day banner. This banner has the mighty responsibility of pushing me to finish the challenge.

Today, I will go back in my memories to the brief time that impacted my life the most by helping me grow into an adult away from my parents. In the summer of 1976, I traveled to Israel with a group called Yavneh. I subtracted and realized it was 47 years ago, and I was 17 years old.

This is our motley group. Our leader was the Israeli woman at the back standing beside the tall man, who might have been her husband. There goes my spotty memory again.

Here we are at the Kotel, or Western Wall. It was never crowded like the pictures I’ve seen in recent years. I returned to Israel with my parents the following year since my brother bought us a vacation, where we stayed in 5-star hotels, not youth hostels or sleeping on the sand like with Yavneh. I haven’t been back, but I hope to revisit Israel one day.

At the Kotel, the men and women pray separately, with a divider between them. There is a custom of placing your wish on a piece of paper and shoving it into the cracks between the rocks. I can tell you my wish since it didn’t come true. I had asked for my mother’s vision to return and my family’s health. Lately, there have been breakthroughs in Retinitis Pigmentosa but too late for my mother. The disease causes the retina to degenerate, and I heard of a man having a lens implanted to help him see.

I spent most of my life afraid I’d go blind. My brother didn’t, and I didn’t. My mother always told me it was a recessive disease, so I was hopeful. Then one day, when I asked about my relatives, my mother told me her parents shared relatives. I was confused and asked how that could be. That’s when she told me her parents were first cousins. A light bulb went off in my brain: that’s why my mother is blind. I’m not afraid anymore of becoming blind, but I still hate the dark.

I’m standing at Maarat Hamachpela with my friend from home.

I Googled to explain the holy site:

“The cave of Machpelah, in the West Bank city of Hebron, is the burial place of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. According to Jewish mystical tradition, it’s also the entrance to the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve are buried.”

I went to Yeshivah for 12 years but never heard of Adam and Eve buried there. It might be true since girls didn’t learn Gamarrah or the Torah through word of mouth when I attended school. I wanted to know what the boys were learning since I always wanted to do what I was told I couldn’t.

I was sitting here thinking Jacob had two wives, Rochel and Leah. Then I remembered Rochel was buried separately at Kever Rochel or the Tomb of Rachel.

“Located just outside of Bethlehem, along the road of the forefathers that connects Nablus and Hebron, Rachel’s tomb is where Jews and Muslims believe the foremother Rachel was buried. Rachel was the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and the burial site is holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians.” Google

I also stole this picture from Google. I don’t remember if we visited the Tomb; it could have been one of the places we couldn’t see because it was too dangerous, even though we had armed soldiers.

This is the cave where I learned I had claustrophobia. Dark and small places terrify me. I’ve walked out of 2 MRIs, 1 Catscan, and even a bone density test. I’ve never been able to jump into a swimming pool since I always need to feel the bottom with my feet. So, here we are, walking into the narrow opening of a cave. We go some way, and one of the soldiers announces we’ll have to stoop since the cave gets narrower. I start feeling dizzy and yell for everyone to back up. I hear a lot of grumbling behind me as people back out. Finally, I ran into the daylight. Everyone returns but me. I’m left outside with an old Arab man and his goat. Now that I think about it, how safe was I with no soldiers? Our two soldiers, with their rifles, returned to the cave.

Israel is a beautiful country, and Jerusalem holds a special place in my heart.

Tomorrow I’ll continue my journey through Israel, where I will face and conquer another fear.

14 thoughts on “#RRBC 30-DAY BLOGGING CHALLENGE DAY 21

  1. patgarcia January 24, 2023 / 10:26 am

    Hi, Susanne,
    I’ve always wanted to see the cave where Sarah, Abraham, Issac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah were buried. Israel is a fascinating country for me, and one day I want to see it while I am on this side of the earth.
    Thank you so much for sharing the photos and some of the history.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist January 24, 2023 / 3:36 pm

      When I was there, I didn’t want to return home. People lived simpler lives with more regard for their past. I hope to go back one day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • patgarcia January 24, 2023 / 3:41 pm

        Susanne, I believe that. I see the same thing happening in some of the countries in Europe. People take time for each other. I hope your hope becomes a reality.
        Shalom aleichem


  2. maurabeth2014 January 24, 2023 / 7:43 am

    Susanne, what an exciting adventure for a young girl! To see all that history and to be able to relate the locations to your studies and religion must have been quite a feeling. I look forward to hearing more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist January 24, 2023 / 3:38 pm

      For twelve years, we studied the Bible, and to see it come alive was a spiritual awakening for me. I’ve never felt the same way again.


  3. Wanda Fischer January 23, 2023 / 10:13 am

    Susanne–This is so fascinating for me, as a Catholic who grew up with no Jewish friends in my town. I never learned anything about the Jewish faith until I attended Boston University briefly from 1966-67. I was definitely overwhelmed by the number of Jewish friends I made there and knew nothing about their religion or ethnicity. My best friends, Tom Feldman, was killed while crossing Commonwealth Avenue late at night. I attended his funeral in Providence, RI. That’s how I learned about sitting shiva and how he had to be buried within 24 hours. He was 19; I had just turned 19 and he was my best friend at BU. He was dating another one of my friends. She was devastated, of course. Your photos here are amazing. I would recommend a song by Rosanne Cash, “The Wailing Wall,” from her “Rules of Travel” CD. She reacted emotionally to her visit to Israel from the point of view of someone who’s not of Jewish heritage. Thank you for these photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Susanne Leist January 23, 2023 / 11:01 pm

      I went to Boston University for my Freshman year in 1977 and lived in The Towers on Commonwealth Ave. I’m sorry you lost your friend. I hated living in the biggest dorm on campus, where kids pulled the fire alarm almost every week, and I had to climb down 18 flights and stand outside. Then I had an Anti-Semitic teacher who gave me problems over the Jewish Holidays, so I transferred to NYU. I’m going to check out the song you recommended.


      • Wanda Fischer January 23, 2023 / 11:45 pm

        That dorm opened the year I was there (1966-67). It was a big deal when they opened it. I was there when there were riots on Commonwealth Avenue–tear gas and all–against the Vietnam war. Ray Munger edited the BU News. He organized a lot of the protests.


  4. yvettemcalleiro January 22, 2023 / 11:09 pm

    What an experience at such a young age, Susanne! I was actually having a conversation on the beach today about first cousins marrying and the health issues it can create. I’m glad finding out about your grandparents brought you a bit of understanding and lessened your fear.

    Yvette M Calleiro 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne Leist January 23, 2023 / 1:44 am

      Nothing surprises me anymore about my family or my in-laws. I live by Murphy’s Law.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Patty Perrin January 22, 2023 / 6:49 pm

    I can’t imagine how you felt entering that cave with claustrophobia, Susanne. You were better off with the man and his goat! What beautiful memories. I would love to visit Israel someday. Did you like this vacation with other young people better, or the one with your parents at five-star hotels?

    I look forward to hearing how you conquered another fear. Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Susanne Leist January 22, 2023 / 7:01 pm

      The summer with the young people was the best time I ever had. The one with my parents had my parents, so no. Maybe I should write about that vacation. There’s a strange story in there.

      Liked by 2 people

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