I’m not one to look for miracles. After all, I consider the day to day life itself, wonderful and amazing… and often beyond my understanding. So why look for that exception to the rule, that crops up occasionally to wake us up from taking it all for granted… But as I’ve lived and learned from this life, there are some phenomena that I’ve experiences… rare experiences… some might even call them extreme… yet still believable to a rational mind like mine. We have an expression in my culture, that refers to such an experience. It is called ‘help from heaven’.

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gazing at the temple mount

Now we’re not talking about a situation in which a person is desperate, and everything he’s tried has failed… and he lies on the floor with his eyes aimed at the ceiling and waits for a miracle. Though I’m not saying I’ve never been in that posture myself. But that’s a different story, and I might find the strength to discuss it one of these days. For now, I’m talking about a completely different experience. You set out to do something, and you plan and prepare yourself for it, making no compromise. You don’t look for the coupons that promise a 20% discount, or say to yourself, ‘as long as I’m going that direction anyway, I’ll take the old bookcase over to my brother’s as he’s been reminding me lately… and it might give me some needed space in the hallway’. No. You focus all your attention at the task at hand, and you try to do it as elegantly as possible. You sleep the night before, and you put on new socks in the morning. And when you go out the door, it is with a steady step, your glasses clean, and as ready as you’ll ever be.

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touring Jerusalem on Segways

And then, as you do your work, everything falls into place as it’s supposed to. But there are unexpected surprises. You just happen to find that the tool you never used before is just perfect for this job. Or that the chair that someone left behind works as a perfect support… and just as you pressed your finger on the shutter button, a seagull came out of nowhere and glided into the picture, leaving its memory just a little above the shoulder of your subject and a bit to the right, making it one of the most beautiful portraits you have ever done in your life… Now how did that happen? We call it help from heaven.

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in prayer with phylacteries and witnesses around him

And that’s what happened when my virtual friend, Bill, came with his wife, for their first visit to Jerusalem. I didn’t know what was awaiting me. I didn’t know how well we’d get on together, and I didn’t know what plans or expectations they had. And yet, on the strength of having known him for some years in cyberspace, I managed to clear my calendar for a week, rearranging my different chores and work, so that if all went well, I would be ready. The camera’s battery was charged; there was gas in the car, and my mini laptop was in my backpack… just in case I’d have to wait for something. I really don’t like to idly wait. I didn’t know that the battery in my ‘easy-park’ was about to play dead, and that it would make it next to impossible to find a parking space downtown. But you never know what’s going to come around the corner. You can only do the best from your side.

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even the market can be a delightful experience

And what I got, was that little extra something. I think it’s like what they say about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I have experienced that knowledge too, in the most sober of circumstances… and it has since been etched in my consciousness… but that too is a different story. Together with my two friends, incarnated in this world now, we went off to discover Jerusalem together, and then the dead sea, and the remains of the fortress, Massada, where the Jews of 2000 years ago stood off the Romans in a losing battle. All of which, was familiar to me. But in partnership with them, I had the pleasure of seeing things with new eyes… and each day brought little gifts from heaven that added to my joy, and had me sailing in the wind and rejoicing in awe.

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ibex on the shore of the dead sea

Of course (!) there was water in the pond where I used to sit with my father and discuss philosophy… and some new very beautiful fish as well, and there was a middle aged man putting on phylacteries to remember his father in a beautiful nook in downtown Jerusalem, and some youngsters going by, were sweet enough to tell me that if I stood in the center of that nook, and said a few words… I would hear those words coming back to me in echo… and I never knew that… and there was the young man who explained that ‘eating like a bird’ is a misnomer, and why. And there were the deer drinking from the sweet-water springs at the edge of the dead sea… and the nuns dressed in black, allowing themselves the rare pleasure of dipping their toes in the lake. Oh, my friends, I had the most wonderful vacation… right here in my own home town.