We made it. Now what?

I was born into a world in which Jerusalem was already united. For me, the image that really dominated a lot of my educational experiences, at Hebrew School and summer camp, was the iconic picture of the paratroopers at the Kotel. Wow, a picture really is worth more than a thousand words.

Reflecting on that image, I realize the resolution of that photo really has sharpened over time. I once met the talented photographer, David Rubinger, who recently passed away. He was in a Jerusalem coffee shop and we struck up a conversation; he explained and demonstrated how he had to lie on the floor of the narrow Kotel passage to get that angle he wanted.

Living in Israel is amazing and I think when I arrived on Aliyah I carried a bit of the paratroopers glare with me when I came. But after being here for a few years, settling in and down to my everyday life, the glow started to fade. And then I looked again at this picture and wondered to myself, “What exactly are the paratroopers really looking at?”

Now ask yourself, and instinctively you might want to say, “The Kotel!” But they aren’t and couldn’t from the angle of their bodies and the direction of their heads. After two thousand years of dreaming and yearning for the city of gold, these young men fought hard and battled to reach that spot. They watched soldiers and friends fall in battle, horrific sights – but also, at the end, experienced a sublime release, ascending to Har Habayit, the Temple Mount where the temples stood, and then to the historic western wall. A book was released sometime after the battle called The Seventh Day, sharing reflections of soldiers on the aftermath of the war, emotions and thoughts of burying dead, being victorious, unifying the divided city, as well as the reality of post-trauma stress and how to return to civilian mundane activities. This mash-up of emotions might explain the look in the eyes of these paratroopers. It also might explain to where they are looking.

After wondering and imagining being at the Kotel, these brave young men broke through – achieving the dream. Some cried, sang, danced, prayed, and then paused to think, what’s next? What will be now that we have this holy spot? Where will this achievement take us as a nation? At that spot and at that moment they weren’t looking to the old goal of the Kotel – they stood at the place and glanced out for a new horizon.

After making Aliyah, I eventually felt a bit of a letdown. With time, and a look into the eyes of these iconic paratroopers, I deepened my resolve to really make the most of this life here. I realize now that Aliyah isn’t about getting to a spot, rather it is a movement upward, both physically and spiritually.

(Image by David Rubinger via the Government Press Office)

Marc Rosenberg

Posted by Marc Rosenberg

Marc Rosenberg is the Director of Pre-Aliyah at Nefesh B'Nefesh. Over the past 8 years Marc has held hundreds of seminars and personal meetings to inspire and advise people thru the Aliyah planning process. An experienced educator, he has taught in several educational institutions in Israel and North America. Originally from Cherry Hill, NJ, Marc lives in Jerusalem with his awesome wife and 5 children.

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