Written By Elaina Marshalek, NFTY CWR RCVP 5766-5768
It was Simchat Torah, the day of the year in which we celebrate the rebirth of the Jewish people, the renewal of a new generation, the day in which thousands traveled from all over the world to come together in song and dance, to make all melodies and harmonies come together as one in joy and celebration. We had reached the Western Wall, a wall standing for thousands of years as a symbol of justice and freedom for the Jewish people. It stood tall, glittered in the sunlight with no shame. And yet, as the rays of sunlight danced upon the Jerusalem stone with the utmost brilliance, I stood still.
We were to pray silently in a small fenced off area amidst the yelps of joy overflowing from the men’s section. The area was so small that to touch the wall that I had to wait and make your way through the huddled group of women to lay a finger on the holy monument. We were to separate ourselves from our community, subdue our female voices, and suppress our passion and intent. And as the men’s section celebrated the liberty of the Jewish people, I huddled cramped between two girls, silent.
In my American Jewish World, I come from a place where freedom of expression defines who I am as an individual, a place where voice brings reform and development to society. NFTY has been an organization dedicated to the pursuit of social justice through programs, rallies, action projects, and simply speaking out as a powerful youth movement in North America. After living in a country where the First Amendment is freedom of speech, I did not understand how the women could stay silent.
I noticed a few Israeli teens in the fenced off area whispering. Their soft hums grew into adoring chants. With an overflowing passion for their country, with such devotion to their People Israel, these girls clapped and twirled, repeating the ancient words of their People. As I watched in awe, I came face to face with an outstretched hand. To dance? The vivacious girls had already attracted attention from the other women, some shaking their head in resentment, some eyes glistening in adoration.
I came to believe that Israel was still a growing and evolving country. Israel is far from perfect, and there are many Zionists and citizens that do not agree with all of Israel’s policies. And as I realized I had forgotten, Israel is anything but silent. It is a country of change, of birth, and of revolution.
I took the young girl’s hand, and as the glitter of the wall filled our eyes with fire, we freed ourselves through our melody, our arpeggios speaking of vision and dreams. “Ani v’atah neshane et haolam,” we sang, our harmonies and counter-melodies joining together as one. “You and I will change the world.”