Like Talking To A Wall

If you have ever been to Israel, whether you are Jewish or not, you have most probably visited the Kotel, the Western Wall.  And whether it is your first time, or your 100th time, you probably every now and again leave a little note for God, stuffed in the cracks of the wall.

Come right up to the wall, and you will see countless little pieces of paper stuffed in the nooks and crannies, wedged in besides the stones that Herod and Suleiman laid down, bleached by the sun and polished by our tears.

When I was 16 my family traveled to Israel for the first time for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah.  We had rented an apartment in Givatayim for the summer, right around the corner from my Aunt Zipora and Uncle Eli.  My father’s brother, Uncle Abi, came over that summer from Norway.  He rented a car and a few days after we had been hugged and fed and cheek-pinched by our Israeli relatives, we drove to Jerusalem.  My first sight of the Kotel was… indescribable.  You put so much emphasis on a place in your mind, and when you see it for the very first time, well, I’m tearing up just thinking about it right now.

Of course I had brought along a little note to place in the crack of the wall.  I asked for the same thing I’ve been asking for the past 32 years, every single time I visit the Kotel.  I don’t believe that if you tell someone what you wish for it won’t come true.  The Kotel isn’t a birthday cake, after all.  It may be made of stone, but I believe it’s a conduit to a higher power.  And whether that power is in heaven, or on some Godly throne, or (as I see it) just in my heart, and each time my note contains just one word, the one thing I ask for:  happiness.

Sometimes the Kotel cannot hold all the notes, and some fall to the floor.  That summer my father could not bear to see some of the notes just forgotten under everyone’s feet, and he swept up a few into his pocket.  Later that day we sat together on a bench in the shade, drinking the quintessential Israeli drink of the 70s, Tempo, and we looked at the notes.  Some asked for love, some asked for riches.  One has stood out in my mind in particular.  An English-speaker had paid a visit to the Kotel and instead of asking God for something he wanted, his note had just four simple words, “Thank you for everything.”

Next month I will be paying the Kotel another visit, for Shy-Boy’s Bar Mitzvah this time.  I plan on leaving a note, but not my usual one.  For 32 years I have asked for happiness, and I finally believe I have it.  With some exceptions, I’ve had it all along.  I will say a silent Thank You as I press up against the (hopefully) cool stones that morning, but I still plan on asking for something.

I found this picture on  a blog called Hebonics, and right away I knew that this coming Rosh Hashana I’m not going to be asking God for anything for myself.  There’s another woman here in Israel who is not happy, she hasn’t been happy for over five years.  This year I want to ask God for her happiness.

Beef Tzimmes with Butternut Squash

I was thinking the other day of poor Gilad, kept away from friends and family and country for the past five years, and wouldn’t it be lovely if he could be released in time for Rosh Hashana?  If he were my son, the first thing I would do, after hugging him forever, would be to feed him.  Feeding cures everything, both physical and emotional.  And a little Rosh Hashana comfort food could work miracles.

I first got this recipe from one of the Jerusalem Post’s Friday editions, from Faye Levy’s recipe column.  Perfect for Rosh Hashana, or any homecoming.

  • 1 kilo (2 pounds) goulash meat (boneless lean beef chuck), trimmed of fat
  • 1 -2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch chunks
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  to 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 kilo (2 pounds) butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups prunes, pitted
  1. Cut beef in 1 1/2- 2 inch pieces and pat them dry.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoons oil in a heavy stew pan.
  3. Add the beef cubes in 2 batches, browning each lightly on all sides over medium-high heat and removing browned meat with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining oil if pan is dry and heat it.
  5. Add the onion and saute over medium heat, stirring often, until brown, about 10 minutes.
  6. Return the meat to the pan with any juices on the plate.
  7. Add the carrots, salt, pepper and enough water to just cover.
  8. Bring to a boil, skimming occasionally.
  9. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours or until beef is tender. (For a lighter sauce, refrigerate the cooked meat and its sauce separately for several hours, then skim the fat from top of sauce.  Return the beef to sauce and reheat.)
  10. Peel the squash and cut it in half lengthwise.
  11. Discard the seeds and stringy parts in the cavity.
  12. Cut the squash in 1 inch cubes.
  13. Stir the honey and cinnamon into the sauce.
  14. Add the squash and push pieces into liquid.
  15. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  16. Turn the squash pieces over.
  17. Add the prunes.
  18. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until squash is tender.
  19. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  20. Serve the tzimmes from a casserole or deep serving dish.

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 14 September 2011, in Aba, Beef, Faye Levy, Holiday cooking, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish cooking, Political, Rosh Hashana and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Tears came to my eyes as I read this post. I am Jewish but have yet to visit Israel. I long to go there and to daven at the Kotel. I, too, daven for happiness . . . and am very happy. I daven for Gilad Shalit, and now for his mother’s happiness, too. And I am grateful for the life I’ve been given. May you have a very blessed and sweet new year. Ketiva v’chatima tova, and thank you for this wonderful, touching post.


  2. Leah Kahn Plavnick

    I usually read your blog at 4:30 or 5am California time, when I am having coffee, getting ready for work, etc. I feel as though you and I are talking, having a conversation, and you speak to the heart Mirj, you really do.

    I hope your prayers join with all the prayers for Gilad Shalit and somehow are answered and bring him home.


  3. Visiting the Kotel is still so fresh in my mind. We went several times during our trip this summer and it was very moving. Thanks for this post.


  4. Beautifully written. You made me tear up thinking of poor Aviva Shalit – I couldn’t see the recipe clearly.


  5. Lovely post, will you reveal yourself and f2f?


  6. Amen! Just beautiful Mirjam…. as my father Phip, ז”ל , would have said – “you got a way with words kiddo”.


  7. Quite the emotional capture.


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