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Yesterday morning, me and my family tried to go to Mearat HaMachpela, in Hevron.

Before all the Covid lockdowns, we used to go every chol hamoed Pesach, and also over Succot, as that was when the hall of Yitzhak and Rivka was open to Jews.

I’ve been in Hevron a few times over the last few months anyway, notably for the atzerot for the Rav, but this was the first time trying to get back into the Yitzhak and Rivka hall.

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We drive up there, and apart from the stupid masks, all looks like it used to before.

My daughter even called me while I was on the shuttle bus to tell me the government just announced they are no longer enforcing wearing masks outside, so I had that warm, fuzzy feeling that maybe things really were starting to shift in a good direction.

We get to the Mearat HaMachpela – and that’s when I saw a massive sign that had been erected at the top of the stairs leading into the main plaza.

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It said in simple Hebrew that anyone with a ‘Tav Yarok’ (Green Pass) should go to the right…. While people with what they were calling a ‘Tav Segol’ (i.e. no Green Pass) should go to the left….

Really?

Someone thinks these types of instructions are appropriate, at the top of the stairs leading into the Mearat HaMachpela?

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There was another sign hung up, reassuring all us unvaccinated ‘Tav Segol’ people that for sure, you can totally still get into the Tomb of the Matriarchs!!! Yessirree, no discrimination going on here, don’t worry!!!

Apparently, that was a lie.

My husband and kid queued up for half an hour, together with a fairly large group of other potentially diseased undesirables, and didn’t see anyone get let in.

In the meantime, I watched all the ‘Green Pass’ people get their little green wristbands that granted them magic entry to the Tomb, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, I’d got all this wrong, and Israel really is an Apartheid State after all.

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I didn’t hang around there long.

I figured it was a queue going nowhere, in the best tradition of Stalinist Russia, so I decided to walk off to the tomb of Yishai and Ruth, in the oldest part of Hevron’s Jewish cemetery instead.

Past the natural spring named for the Patriarch Avraham, up past the old Muslim cemetery, and on a path up through a few rickety Arab houses and across a green hill top – there it was.

I got in, and I had it to myself.

No-one asking me if I was ‘Tav Segol’ or ‘Tav Yarok’.

Just me and the Tzaddikim and Hashem – and that familiar twinge of heartache that has been accompanying me for many months, already.

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There was a volume of Likutey Halachot lying around, so I opened it ‘randomly’ – and got straight to a passage talking about Pesach.

There, Rav Natan was explaining how the real chametz to seek out and uproot during Pesach is anger.

And how whenever God is about to send a person a massive flow of riches and shefa, he is first tested with situations designed to provoke his anger.

Because if the yetzer can get a person angry, then all that flow of shefa and riches gets diverted away from the person, and lost.

And so I discovered, that I still have lots of lots of chametz hanging around, even on the 5th day of Pesach, that still needs cleaning out.

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I get back to our meeting point, and I find my husband and kid in a funny mood.

I guess it started to sink in a little, what is really going on in this country, where good Jews are prevented from praying at the Tomb of the Patriarchs because they don’t want to be guinea pigs for Pfizer.

“I went to pray on the Arab Step” my daughter told me, with an odd look on her face.

If you don’t know what that is, take a look at this:

The Seventh Step – Restriction on Jewish Prayer in Hebron

For 700 years, this was the closest Jews could get to the Tomb of Machpela.

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That evening, I had tickets booked to finally get to the Kever of Yosef HaTzaddik, in Shechem.

I’ve been once before a few years’ ago now, which I wrote about here:

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Last year, I tried to go again, and I booked tickets and all – only to have it all cancelled last minute by Coronavirus restrictions.

But this just kind of fell into my lap, and I had the feeling I was going to get there, this time around.

Me and my husband didn’t know if they would let us potentially disease-bearing ‘Tav Segol’ religious Jews in, after what had happened in Hevron that morning – but let’s just say, Kever Yosef appeals to a pretty different crowd.

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It was the same midnight trip, the same bursting out into the Kever in the middle of an otherwise silent trip through the backstreets of Shechem (aka Nablus) as the first time around.

I got to the Kever stood inside a few minutes – then started to realise just what a petrified Jewish zombie I’ve turned into, spiritually, over the last 12 months of mega stress and religious oppression.

I’ve been carrying a heart of stone around for months, thanks to all the worry and stress of ‘Covid 19’, but Yosef HaTzaddik is the first time that I really realised just how bad things have been, spiritually.

I stood there feeling totally disconnected.

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I went outside, said a Tikkun Haklali, and watched a couple hundred men and boys singing and dancing songs about Rabbenu at the top of their voices.

A taste of Uman…

A hint of Rabbenu….

Man, I’ve missed that so much.

Slowly, I felt some embers of hope and emuna and simcha start to re-ignite, and start to warm up my heart of stone, at least a little bit.

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On the bus on the way out, a shocking thing happened.

We’d come in on a full bus, and there were no spare seats.

A small group of 4-5 boys with long, Breslov payot – ranging from about 10 to 13-14 – tried to sneak in, to get a ride out of Shechem with us.

Initially, they were sat in our seat, so my husband asked them to move.

They did – but because the bus was full capacity, there was no-where for them to really go.

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Our bus driver was a psycho.

There is no other way of describing him.

Once he realised these kids were trying to get a free trip out of Shechem, he went into a towering rage and started cursing and shouting at them to get off the bus.

A couple behind me – the only people wearing masks on the whole bus – decided to get involved too, and started heaping verbal abuse on these kids, who were now doubling-down and refusing to budge out of the bus.

Before I knew it, there was half a brawl going on directly behind me, in the stairwell.

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I tried to get involved by deliberately putting my hand out to ‘touch’ any of the religious men who were trying to throw a punch, slap or strangle someone else.

Strange women are way more scary than almost anything else you can think of, for this crowd.

And I also started trying to tell the woman cursing these young kids that they were just children, and that she should calm down.

And then, when the police and army were called and forcibly started putting the kids into headlocks and dragging them off the bus, I also started yelling at them to be more gentle.

My husband had to pull me back over to my side of the seat, I was getting so upset about what was going on behind me, I almost literally dived in to try to break it up.

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What’s wrong with us Jews????

We can’t even come to the grave of a Tzaddik like Yosef HaTzaddik without getting into a brawl and angry fist-fight on the bus????

Where is our compassion for the other?

Where is our empathy?

That’s what I was wondering, as the bus finally pulled away leaving those poor kids to their fate, in custody with the army and Border Police. And those guys just lurve young teenages with payot. They treat them SO VERY nicely.

(Sarcasm / Off)

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I don’t have an answer.

Then I remembered what I read that morning about not getting angry, and I wondered if I blew it.

Probably.

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Ah, God.

We’re a bit of a mess.

But please redeem us anyway, because if You don’t have compassion and mercy on us…

Then who will?

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UPDATE:

A reader sent me a link to this video below (mostly shmirat eynayim friendly, save for a headshot of a frum woman and a couple of female doctors.)

https://www.freedomisrael.org/videos?wix-vod-video-id=c365a6bfc32a421e989ce93b45f0c99c&wix-vod-comp-id=comp-kmxdkjqj 

First, I’ll tell you why I’m posting it up here: It shows what the picture in Israel looks like right now, if you don’t have Rav Berland, and emuna in the true tzaddikim, very firmly in the picture.

I.e., really worrying and terrible.

That’s the reality, if you aren’t connected to the Rav, and if you aren’t buying into the lie that the vaccine is somehow saving the world and medical apartheid is a wonderful idea.

Baruch Hashem, that’s not my reality.

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I’m not denying that reality – any more than I would deny that the Holocaust happened, or that good Jews go through externally very bad, difficult experiences all the time.

But I’m saying that when you connect to the real Tzaddikim, and when you talk to God for an hour a day, there is another layer of spiritual ‘reality’ that becomes superimposed on this dark world, and that continues to light the path to hope, faith and happiness.

Whatever is going to happen next, God decides.

Full stop.

But at the same time, I so, so believe in the power of heartfelt prayer, and the power of real teshuva, and the in the power of our true tzaddikim – like Rabbi Nachman and Rav Berland and Yosef HaTzaddik – to still turn things around for the good.

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The people who are really doing their best to stick to God, in whatever way they can, will come through WITH THEIR SOULS INTACT, whatever happens to their bodies.

And that’s the point. The soul.

Whoever uses all this current yuck to make some real teshuva, and to develop some real humility, and to put their hand up to all the things – and people – they’ve ‘broken’ in this world, and to genuinely return to God – that’s a great outcome, regardless of what else happens.

And each of us can make that choice, and get to that outcome right now.

Nothing ‘bad’ happens to any of us, that isn’t 100000000% deserved, at least when you take the past lives and gilgulim into account.

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But there is another level, too.

And that’s where the true tzaddikim come in.

King Shaul was the reincarnation of Lamech, Noach’s father, who killed his ancestor Cain and also his son, Tubal-Cain.

King Shaul came back to this world with a lot of ‘past life baggage’, and a big tikkun to do, to rectify what he’d done in a previous life as Lamech.

So many times, Rav Berland has emphasized how King Shaul could have come through his tikkun peacefully, if only he’d swallowed his pride and listened to the true Tzaddik of his generation, the Prophet Shmuel.

But twice, Shaul decided to do his own thing, and to come away from the words of Shmuel.

And as a result – he lost the kingship, and spent the last few years of his life chronically depressed and paranoid, trying to kill King David any way he could, before being killed by the Philistines in battle.

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Staying close to the true Tzaddikim ‘sweetens’ all this past life stuff that would otherwise literally drag us all down to the very bottom.

Even when I was at the top of the pile financially and socially in London, my life was so, so difficult internally, until I hit Rabbenu and started following his advice of doing hitbodedut for an hour a day, amongst other things.

Even post-Rabbenu and Uman, even after I’d made as much teshuva as I thought I could make, my life continued to be so difficult internally because I’d ‘inherited’ all this past-life trauma, and had all these heavy past life tikkunim to go through, still.

Until I hit the Rav.

And that’s when it all started to really turnaround, and to sweeten.

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A lot of people don’t like to hear this, I know.

I makes them uncomfortable.

I say to them – go do some hitbodedut, and see what God tells you.

That’s really the only way to get to any sort of ‘truth’ in today’s world, whatever the subject.

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But in the meantime, this is why my picture is still radically different from the one portrayed in the video above:

I have experienced the power of the true tzaddikim to ‘sweeten’ things in my own life, and I know that even very harsh realities like the one we are currently all living through can sweeten in an instant – if we get with the real tzaddikim, and start following their advice.

No-one left Mitzrayim unless they followed Moshe Rabbenu out and followed his instructions.

And as it was then, so it will be again.

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There seems to be an unfortunate tradition in my house that every Jewish holiday for the last few years has been attended with its own share of challenges and difficulties.

I tried to escape fate this year by checking into a hotel for Rosh Hashana, which worked for two days – but boy, did it catch up with me by Succot.

This last Succot was arguably the worst, or second worst I ever had, in terms of my matzav ruach and overall mood. I spent pretty much the whole of Succot crying my eyes out in the pit of despair about the mess I felt my life was in.

I was pretty nervous about Purim, too, as that’s also traditionally marked the start of a really difficult few weeks heading into Pesach. This year, Purim was bland, but OK – which is much, much better than it usually is, at least for me. So I was cautiously hopeful that I’d get to Seder in reasonably good shape.

Despite a few last minute issues and challenges, we got to a few hours before Pesach, and it was all going far more smoothly and enjoyably than usual. I’d warned my whole family we were going to enjoy seder night this year, even though we had no guests and were by ourselves again, as it’s been the last three years.

Apart from one absolutely massive argument between my husband and a kid an hour before Pesach about setting the table for seder (which ended on a positive note) – it was pretty smooth sailing.

Until about half an hour into the seder, when I started to feel pretty yucky.

Hmm.

Maybe, I hadn’t eaten enough all day? (Very possible…) Maybe, the argument had been more upsetting and draining than I’d realised at the time? (That could be…) Maybe, I was such an alcoholic lightweight that even one inch of fizzy wine mixed with grapejuice was more than I could handle on an empty stomach?

I held on until we got to the meal, ate my full share of matza, lettuce and chicken soup – and then started feeling even worse. I got shooting pains down the outside of my legs, and a migraine-type feeling of severe heaviness descended upon me, completely knocking me out.

I could barely even bench, let alone continue on to the end of the Haggada and drink another two cups of grape juice. I asked for a quilt and fell asleep on the couch before we even got to opening the door to rain down retribution on the anti-semites of the world.

I woke up a couple of hours later feeling even worse, and went straight to bed.

The next day, I was completely out of action and felt like I was back in the exhausted ‘burn-out mode’ I’ve had on and off for the last five years.

But this time round, I had no idea why! Usually, I have such big things going on that I’m amazed I’m still walking around some weeks, but nothing so ‘big’ happened before Pesach this year. But nevertheless, I still felt half-dead.

Gosh. I had that sinking feeling that Pesach was going to be a complete spiritual wash-out again.

The next day, I barely had energy to get out of bed. But my husband coaxed me to come out with him to visit Hevron, even if only for a few short minutes – and I somehow managed to get dressed and follow him out to the car.

The Hall of Yitzhak and Rivka in Hevron is only open on chol hamoed, and the small entrance to the underground tombs is located there. Some years, I’ve had the most amazing uplift from sitting close to that small hole in the ground that’s reputed to be the entrance to Gan Eden, so I didn’t want to miss out, if at all possible.

I sat there for half an hour.

The first ten minutes I felt so exhausted again I could barely speak. God, am I going to have months of ill-health and exhaustion again? Am I going to be struggling to find the energy to get out of bed again, and start worrying that ‘something’ is going really wrong health-wise, like happened a couple of years’ ago?

As I pondered that question, I realised I was actually feeling better. After half an hour, I was feeling so refreshed I decided to go for a little walk around the Jewish area of Hevron. I tagged on the back of a tour that was going through the ancient Jewish cemetery located on Tel Hevron, or the mound of earth where the biblical Hevron of the Patriarchs was located.

Hardly any of this Tel has been excavated by archaeologists, I suspect because they would find so much overwhelming evidence of the Torah’s veracity, and the Jewish roots that go so deep in Hevron, that could cause a lot of ‘trouble’ for the world’s politicians and atheists.

On the way, we stopped at the ancient grave of Ruth the Moabitess, and Yishai (Jesse) the father of King David.

The view was gorgeous, the grave was very picturesque, and for a moment, I got a taste of Hevron from 3,000 years ago.

It was magical.

In what is becoming a recurring theme at the moment, I sighed a big sigh and wished that Jews could live more freely in Hevron, and in Jerusalem, and in many other parts of Israel. It’s our country! God gave it to us! Why are places like Ruth and Yishai’s grave effectively ‘off-limits’ to Jews for 360 days of the year?

I know when Moshiach comes, these questions will finally be addressed and resolved, but in the meantime they are piling up higher and higher in the corners of my life.

But the good news: I came back from Hevron feeling so much better, physically and spiritually and not for the first time, I was reminded of the enormous spiritual power these holy places contain, albeit it’s often so hidden.

But the day is coming soon when that ‘hidden’ holiness, that hidden, beautiful Jewish spirituality, that hidden face of God, is going to be revealed in all its glory – and transform the whole world.

This Pesach, you can see that all the headlines of the ‘next intifada’ that the press has been steadily churning out over the last few months have taken a real toll on certain parts of the country.

Downtown Jerusalem, and particularly the Old City, have been unusually quiet for months, and even the recent ‘Sounds of Jerusalem’ street festival appeared to have had limited success in coaxing scared visitors back to Israel’s capital city. (That said, it was also unusually cold and rainy weather a couple of weeks’ ago, and if there’s one thing that Israelis fear more than a Palestinian terrorist, it’s getting caught in a downpour.)

The fear is also hitting places like Hevron, too, which has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for weeks leading up to Pesach.

Most people have heard about the story of the soldier who ‘eliminated’ a terrorist a bit too permanently for the government’s liking, and ended up getting a very stiff prison sentence that could keep him behind bars for almost a decade (!)

So in people’s minds, ‘Hevron’ has unfortunately become synonymous with terrorism, and feels far too scary to visit at the moment.

This morning, I got in my regular Hyundai i20, (without rock-proof windows or bullet-proof body work) and I drove the regular route down Road 60, through Gush Etzion, straight down to Hevron. The hills were green and gorgeous, the ride was very peaceful (thank God) – and the Cave of the Patriarchs was the most quiet I’ve seen it in ages.

Normally, the town council for Kiryat Arba and Hevron put on a park and ride service, where you park your car in Kiryat Arba, and then take a five minute bus journey to the tomb of the Patriarchs, at the center of Hevron.

Normally, the car parks are full of hundreds of cars, but today – hardly any. Now, in fairness we did set out pretty early for Hevron, and we didn’t stay very long – I left by 10.30am. But it still struck me that people are scared to visit – and that’s a real shame, because Hevron is as safe as any where else in the world right now, appearances notwithstanding.

I know we hear about the stabbings and all the other things going on in Israel far more than we do about the attacks, assaults and murders happening in the rest of the world, so I came back determined to try to write something that would provide a little perspective on the wave of terror hitting Israel, to underline that this country is still just about as safe as it comes.

For example, if you take a look at the crime figures for February 2016 released by the Metropolitan Police (the police force responsible for enabling the citizens of London and Greater London to sleep ‘safely’ in their beds at night), you find the following scary statistics:

There were just under 5,000 reported cases of criminal damage and arson; just under 300 people arrested for possessing weapons (including knives and guns); and more than 25,000 (no, that’s not a typo) violent and / or sexual offences committed on London’s streets.

How about New York?

Well, the latest stats for NYC show that there were 8 murders in the last week, (and 19 in the last month); 25 shooting victims (involving 22 separate shooting incidents) in the last week, plus 360 violent assaults, and a whole bunch of other nasty things going on.

Now, what about Israel, even in the middle of its wave of terror? According to the official statistics from the Israeli government, by March 27, 2016, the picture looked like this

Since 13 September 2015, 34 people have been killed in terrorist attacks and 382 people (including 4 Palestinians) injured.

There have been 144 stabbing attacks (including 66 attempted attacks), 85 shootings, and 42 vehicular (ramming) attacks.

Let me pause for a moment to say every single person killed, every single person injured, is a terrible, horrible tragedy, and I’m not writing this article to minimize the problem, or the suffering of the people affected, God forbid.

But what I am trying to do is to give some perspective, that even in the middle of this current wave of terror, Israel is still probably the safest place in the world, particularly for Jews.

For example, the one day of Islamic terrorism that recently occurred in Belgium killed and wounded almost as many people as all the terrorist attacks combined in Israel.

What can we learn from this?

Each person must draw their own conclusions, but this much appears to be clear: don’t avoid coming to Israel, or going to the Old City, or visiting places like Hevron because you think these places are ‘dangerous’. The streets of New York are much more violent; the suburbs of London are much more dangerous; the terrorist attacks happening abroad are much more lethal.

There are no guarantees that anywhere today is truly ‘safe’. But one thing you can be sure of God is looking after Israel, and the Jews that live here, and visit here.

And once you really start to internalize that, you stop worrying so much and you start enjoying your Pesach vacation a whole bunch more.