For Love.

The jet lag continues, a week after my return.  I’m still having a hard time staying up past 7pm, and I’m waking at 4-5 AM; ouch! Add a bad cold to the mix, and it has not been a smooth transition. My head hurts, my nose is congested, my throat’s on fire… Damn! Is this some kind of turn 50 cosmic joke? I’ve spent a week easing back into life in the gray sky zone, and eating food that seems bland, after a week of incredible food, but that is ultimately comforting crap. I’v managed to recreate the Sabich that I loved so much, and have Mediterranean’ed up several other meals. Writing has slipped to a spot down on the list, well under comfort, whining and misery. There’s no real middle here, just a post.

The Artist formerly known as...image:

The Artist formerly known as…

In the last post, I said that my amazing trip to Israel was not all about the food (but if you love food, read this). There was a lot of personal experiences, as well as stunning landscapes as well.Going to Israel was a personal challenge, in itself.  In previous posts, I’ve talked about my relationship with my daughter, and how religion has caused some difficulties between us over the past few years. That, of course, is over simplified. It was never about religion alone, something we both understood. While I was there, my girl let me know that I she prefers that I not write anymore posts about her life, her experiences, about her. I get it, and I respect that, but it’s hard when our stuff criss crosses, tangles and untangles, and I want to write about my experiences. I told her I was going to start referring to her as the Daughter Formerly Known as Prince(ipessa). She didn’t get it. Clearly we have different reference points.

The fact that religion led her to Israel, only muddied the waters for me. Each time she went overseas for a semester, or in this case: another year abroad, she asked us to consider coming over to see Israel with her. Timing is tough; things get complicated. It’s hard to leave Little Man to sputter along on his own, if both Smart Guy and I go together. It also seemed like both Smart Guy and I would enjoy time alone, individually, with our girl. As my kids become adults, I feel it’s really important that they know each of us, outside of our role as their “parents,” the couple. It is an incredible thing for Smart Guy to have one on one time with his girl; it is equally important that I do, before she finds the person that she will eventually marry, and before she has a family that demands her full attention.

Anyway, all of that played into the matter of deciding who would go, and when. She had two real school breaks, when religion would not require that she stay put and observe certain Orthodox laws (not ride in cars, not “work,” eating certain foods, etc). One was over Hanukkah, in December, and the other was in January. I knew that getting ready for Christmas and Hanukkah really falls to me, so December was not my time to go. So I planned my trip for January.

Candles for prayer

Candles for prayer

In addition to all the scheduling issues, there was my inherent misgivings about going at all. I was harboring certain resentments toward Israel. The political climate there ruffles my feathers easier than it ruffles my girl’s or her dad’s. I have a distinct dislike of missiles, even when I’m assured that things are safe. In the fall, when situations were pretty dicy, it was out of the question that I would go (read this).  There was an endless list of excuses, not to go, if truth be told. Most importantly, I was very attached to my belief that she didn’t belong there—she belongs back here, somewhere in the U.S.— where we can get to her when we want to. I was attached to my belief that she could find happiness here, and didn’t need to travel 7,000+ miles to find it. Honestly, I wasn’t dying to go over there and have any of my beliefs challenged. But my girl missed me, and that was enough to nudge me into booking the flight. Once the plans were made, it was just a matter of going over there and duking it out with her.

All of that said: when the date for departure got closer, I realized that I was tired of fighting this battle with her. I may still feel set in my beliefs, but I was not up for making that point during our visit. Instead, I decided to challenge myself during my trip there, and work on my major personal goal for 2013: detachment. I would go to Israel and detach from my expectations of how I thought things should go. I would detach from convincing her that she should come home, that life will be better here. I would just go to Israel and let it all flow. I would let her drive the boat, and I would ride along and see things (as much as possible) through her eyes.  I’m an old dog. New tricks do not come easily. I thought a lot about this before leaving. I worked hard at letting go.

Groceries for Shabbat

Groceries for Shabbat

And so I landed in Israel free from all expectation. A miracle.  In letting go of my expectations, something very special happened in the 8 days I was on the ground there: I got it. I got why she loves it so much. I got why she fits in so well. I saw the beauty of her faith, and found myself moved by it too. I saw everything with fresh eyes, and an open heart. It felt good. I was able to listen to her without anticipating the arguments that I’d use to turn her around. I was able to look at Jerusalem and see her walking the streets, buying her groceries, going to Shabbat, hanging her laundry—living her life. Another mother, whose daughter followed a very similar path and who is now married and living in Israel, told me before I left: “When I went over that first time, it was so painful.” She had seen it as the confirmation of losing her daughter, and she struggled with liking anything about the life that was calling her daughter… away from her. When I first bought my ticket, I anticipated a similar experience, but in letting go, I had an entirely different one instead.

Painting in an ancient Ethiopian church, with faces from many faiths.

Painting in an ancient Ethiopian church, with faces from many faiths.

As I walked each ancient alley or street throughout the country; as I drove along each winding road through the desert, along the coast, into the West Bank; as I walked the streets that my daughter walks: I tried to look at each thing with love. I tried to really be open to experiencing it all through her eyes. In doing so, I could only see the beauty. I could only see the beauty of a land that has been fought for, bargained for, and torn apart for thousands of years. I saw the tenacity and determination of the Israeli faces, as well as the perpetual state of Post Traumatic Stress, that is on almost every face as well. They are a people who have seen their children and loved ones die in markets, on buses and in cafes, in suicide bombings. They are the children of, or the survivors of, the Holocaust—the pivotal event that led them back to the land of Israel, to form their own homeland. They are a people who are at war with nearly every country around them, and or have fled from countries that push them down, drive them out, or try to destroy them. How do you have peace with people who have been known to wish you would all just “disappear,” or who worse: wish you all dead? The dichotomy is apparent everywhere you go in Israel.

Ram's horns for Shofars, hanging outside a shop

Ram’s horns for Shofars, hanging outside a shop

I was stunned by the diverse landscapes and the diverse people. Turks, Ethiopians, Eastern Europeans, Americans, and more, have all immigrated to Israel to find a new life in a Jewish homeland. Judaism is by far the prevailing faith (5,978,600 are Jewish, out of an overall population of 7,933,200 in September 2012), but it is also home to the Palestinian people and the Muslim faith, as well as the cradle of Christianity. It is a melting pot of enormous diversity, with very common goals at the root: To live and worship in the land of their forefathers. That is a powerful thing to behold, and I was deeply moved by the faith I encountered, each and every step of the way. My eyes were opened to religion on an entirely different level, and that was a surprise I did not anticipate. It forced me to look at my own gnarled faith, and my sense of religion—which has been battered and watered down by politics, personal issues, and family choices. I was surprised to find myself crying in the tomb of Christ, yet equally moved by the Call to Prayer, and the pilgrims at the Western Wall or other Holy sites around the country. Faith on that level caused me to stop and think about my own beliefs.

Ancient Mosque in Old Jaffa

Ancient Mosque in Old Jaffa

In Israel, faith shapes almost every element of society. The call to prayer can be heard by everyone who is within a certain distance of the mosque, each day, as practicing Muslims stop what they are doing, kneel down, and face Mecca. The sound of the Call is one of the most compelling things I’ve ever heard, in travels to Africa, India (twice) and now Israel. It stops me in my tracks, and I must listen. It is the reading (singing) of the first lines of the Holy Koran, and is recited five times a day, in religious communities. Listening to it from the ancient Wall, around the Old City, was stirring beyond words, but it was also stunning to hear from a friend’s deck, a block from the crashing waves, in Jaffa. (Watch this to see my video—I apparently can’t upload videos here?)

Women pray at the Western Wall

Women pray at the Western Wall

On Friday afternoons, at a very set time (determined by strict Jewish laws called Halakha), you see Jews from all walks of life racing down the streets to get to the Synagogue, or home, in time for Shabbat (Sabath). A loud horn declares the start of Shabbat (sunset Friday until three stars are in the sky Saturday).  It is heard throughout the country, and clearly marks the time at which work must end and mindful prayer begins. Friday mornings, the Jewish Suk (marketplace) is brimming with Jews who are getting prepared for Shabbat dinner and the meals for Saturday. They rush to and fro, knowing that when the alarm goes off, all work ends and preparations must be finished. Participating in this endeavor, with my girl, was fun and meaningful. We shopped together; we cooked; we went to the synagogue (where women were on one side, and men on the other) and worshiped, and then we attended a wonderful dinner with friends. I found myself wondering how our family might have done things differently, if our religious community had been this close knit, if the practice had felt so meaningful, when my kids were little.

Pilgrims bowing before the stone that held Christ's body

Pilgrims bowing before the stone that held Christ’s body

Christian pilgrims make their way to the Holy Selpulcher to visit the tomb of Christ, and touch the stone where is body was laid. They bow and prostrate themselves on the stone where Christ’s body was laid. They wept in his tomb and prayed fervently beside me. They follow the twelve stations of the cross; they visit Bethlehem to see the birthplaces of their Lord; and they stop at countless other Holy sites throughout Israel. Everywhere you look, there are Monks, Hassidic/Orthodox Jews, and people of deep faith. It is powerful to be around; was very moving to me. The love of faith was everywhere.

This post has ended up being much longer than I anticipated, further evidence of my fuzzy brain and time away from writing. To be continued. Next: the people and the land

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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16 Responses to For Love.

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    It takes a big person to be able to set aside their own expectations and perceptions and then admit that these preconceived notions may have been hindering their responses. I’m glad you were able to see the country and situation as your daughter does. But I’m sorry you got sick. No doubt from that air travel. I swear I get a cold every time I return home from flying.


  2. It is an incredible place. Interesting that your daughter doesn’t want you to write about her. Mine is worried that my posts will affect her career. So far the others haven’t objected. It’s those stories that resonate the most!


  3. I know that I would get very emotional and swept up in all the history. I’d have to take along plenty of kleenex. 🙂
    You did good, Mom. What you describe does not sound easy – detachment is tough stuff but ultimately is probably the greatest gift that you could give your daughter and yourself. And look what resulted! You cleared the way so that you could see her life through her eyes, and what you saw was so beautiful. Well done! You inspire me. xoxox


  4. sarafoley says:

    I love this post – is it my favourite of yours? I just don’t know :). You painted a very clear and honest picture of yourself and your daughter – and this holy land they call Israel; I can totally understand your mixed feelings and reservations about the whole lot of it. I love how you made the decision to approach your daughter and your journey in an open-hearted and loving way, and you really made the most of it.


    • Thanks Sara! It was a real yoga mindset for sure. 😉 I’m glad it struck a nerve for you, and appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment. The trip was very transforming; I’m still digesting the various components. Being sick, and not sleeping enough is not helping though!


  5. ‘But my girl missed me’…I understand how you felt the pull to go see her. I remember missing my daughters when they left, but my older daughter surprised me recently when she said she missed me. I was still caught off guard hearing it for the first time. It’s nice to get to know the kids as adults.
    You have a great story to tell – not just about travel, but also about family. You had me at “For Love.”


  6. As always, great job. I enjoy the way you unfold a story. I’m really more about the writing than the actual content. I know, weird, huh? However, you pose so many interesting questions about family and faith, it’s hard not to put my two cents in, so, for better or worse, here goes:
    If I’m not mistaken, in regards to your daughter’s faith, they put great stock in family and in family ties. Choosing to live so far from you might be a good choice for her, but does not take your feelings into account and I believe her religion stresses that she needs to be accountable to her parents. In regards to the many religions in one area, that is quite overwhelming. At least it was to me when I visited. However, as I may have expressed before, I do not like “works” religions. I don’t think praying five times a day at a certain time shows devotion to a god, but instead shows devotion to a religion about a god. In other words, does the prayer make you feel better because you did a “work” or does your god actually appreciate it. Anyway, enjoying your thoughts on both family and faith. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. HF
    PS: I post about my daughter and sometimes get flack from readers about it, but she does not mind.


    • i always appreciate your feedback and comments HF. Always an honor to hear what you have to say. I did, by the way, ask my daughter to consider writing a post or two, and she is thinking about it. Her studies are very rigorous, and the time is the issue. But she does read these posts from time to time, and maybe these comments will nudge her. She’s a wonderful thinker, and I believe she’d have some interesting things to contribute.

      Yes, she is very torn about the family piece. I think for now, at her young age, she is ok with being that far away… but it weighs on her heavily. Israel has offered her so many amazing things, but being away from family (who she is very tied to) is definitely a challenge. For all of us.

      Could not agree with you more about he Work of religion… I guess I found the connectedness within several of the religious groups I spent time with, very powerful. It all had a profound impact and I’m still processing under the weight of my sore throat, congested nose, and lack of sleep. Feh. Thanks for taking the time, cyber friend.



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