they say on a clear day you can see four countries from the top of har shlomo, the highest in the eilat mountain range: israel below, jordan to the east, egypt to the west, and saudi arabia to the south. it’s early morning, but the sky is cloudless and the mediterranean sun is already bearing down. i am standing in a valley and looking up. we’re going all the way up there, someone says, pointing. all the way up there. i feel too small so i focus on my breath and my steps on the parched earth. i'm wearing red sneakers.
Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe who with wisdom fashioned the human body, creating openings, arteries, glands and organs, marvelous in structure, intricate in design. Should but one of them, by being blocked or opened, fail to function, it would be impossible to exist. Praised are you, Lord our God, healer of all flesh who sustains our bodies in wondrous ways.
three hours later i am standing at the top of the mountain. the expanse of tranquil desert around me seems endless and everything is still apart from the blue and white flag flapping in the breeze. i do not know who planted it but i am grateful it’s here. i feel peace here. an all- encompassing serenity i’ve only ever been blessed to feel a few times in my life and only ever in israel. up here, i know there’s more.
I am grateful to You, living, enduring King, for restoring my soul to me in compassion. You are faithful beyond measure.
there is a sandy haze settling over the land below, and saudi arabia is nowhere in sight. someone explains the syrian-african rift but it’s meaningless to me. an interruption. my aching body is drenched in sweat and my hands, swollen from the february heat, are covered in small scratches from the jagged desert rocks i clung to as i ascended. the hebrew word for moving to israel, aliyah, means exactly that. to ascend. and up here on har shlomo i know why. i know why we cry for this land and fight for this land and love this land. i know why we cannot let go of any part of this land. this is the land of my people, and i know why.