a sign

I am lost. I have not shot a single frame today and it’s 5pm already. It was too hot to even get out of the house before 2pm. Now, it’s better, but instead than hanging near the kotel, among orthodox women, I am buying mint and saffron seed in the Arab Quarter as a distraction. I am escaping my thoughts…since I got to Israel almost two weeks ago, the pressure has been on daily. I have no editor and no commission for my project, it’s just me and my self-discipline as usual, the only difference is that here, in this country, there are more Orthodox Jews than secular ones, so I am beyond overwhelmed and, more often than not, I have very high expectations of myself to always come home with “a keeper,” which, as we all know, it’s not always possible especially if the subject you are photographing is highly uncooperative.
While I was shooting in Crown Heights, it was a joke compared to how difficult I am finding only approaching these women here because of my language barrier and the fact that here in Israel they are bombarded with “tourists attention” that they would rather avoid.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, at the end of my day, tired, hot and unmotivated to keep trying to find a woman willing to speak to me and let me photographer her, I walk in a down-hill alley with stairs and spotted at the end of it a religious woman praying in a splendid square completely empty and quiet when all I had been dwelling with all day long were people talking to me into buying just about anything you can imagine.
She was sitting so serene with her Siddur in her hands facing the sky.
I stand in front of her for 15 minutes while she is praying waiting to see if she gives me a sign, but she is so into her prayers that she does not even acknowledge me. That’s ok, I wait and keep watching her. I recognize her from somewhere…Could that really be?
Yes, I saw her walking by me three hours earlier with her little caine because she is a bit crippled from a fall she took last year. What are the chances that I encounter the same Orthodox lady in the same day near the kotel where just about every five minutes there are different women from all over the globe who come to read the Psalms there.
I keep on watching her without taking a photo. I am dying to do so, but I stop and wait. I want to be respectful and I want her to know who I am and what I am doing before I “steal away her spiritual beauty” with an image.
The grace with which she reads and repeats the words is just so calming that I end up sitting next to her until she stops finally and we begin to chat a bit.
“When you pray usually you look toward East where Israel is. If you are in Israel you turn toward where Jerusalem would be. If you are in Jerusalem you go to the Kotel and you turn toward it. When you are at the Kotel, you look up where Kadosh Baruchu resides. I am doing just that now,” she tells me…
She is from Wyoming originally and she moved to Jerusalem 10 year ago because this is the only place to be if you intend to be closer to Hashem and “for him to hear you better.”
We start discoursing about the multiple definitions people use here for women within orthodox Jewish religion. Depending on what garmeth they use and with what they cover their heads, they come from a different sect of religiosity.”
“I am a religious Jew, but I have given-up trying to define myself as a Satmar, Litfish, Lubavitch or else…I am just a woman who believes and loves G-d and therefore worships him the best she can. The basis of my identity as a Jew is G-d, so I do not need to be called anything.”
Amen!
I agree 100% with what she says because the “essence of a Jew” and specifically of a Bat Melech is the same no matter the orthodox kind you like to call yourself. The core of the power of these women resides in their Jewish souls the same way in the chest of a Lubavitcher with a wig or an Haredim with a Techel…
The Bat Melech is ONLY one and so it’s her Jewish identity.
I am so grateful to have met this beautiful Jewish soul today who allowed me to see the other side of the Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, the ones who do not fight me for fear, but who challenge me and my photography for better information.
Let’s hope everyday is like today.

2 thoughts on “a sign

  1. cm says:

    Fede, Israel is only 20% orthodox

    • Actually about 30%…and I am here to photograph them. So that is why my Blog is mostly on them. But, do not worry I have seen all the others and you will get your shots of the “hippies” soon enough. Going to the dead sea with Miriam Thursday🙂 yayyyy!!!

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