I picked the worst day of the year to go to the Kotel. How was I supposed to know this is some kind of Greek Orthodox Easter? I had to go through FIVE checkpoints before actually walking through any gate to the Old City.
While I was inside, I felt like a mouse caught in a maze with thousands of mice and hundreds of cats. The mice were the Christians and the cats were the police. So many little walkways were blocked. I literally was stuck in the Old City for an hour and a half- trapped. This would’ve been the perfect storm to set off a terrorist attack- like arson, a bomb, a massive knife-stabbing spree… it was madness.
Yet, I chose to go today- this very day. You see, 48 hours ago I shaved my head bald. I am going through a bought of depression. I have never been depressed before and the past few months have been very dark. I allowed someone to re-enter my life and distract me from my purpose. I forgot myself, my identity and why I moved to Israel. I decided to force a massive change by doing something drastic- and so I shaved my head. This powerful metaphor began to reset my way of thinking.
Jerusalem is not the kind of place a woman walks around bald. I have been hiding under various head coverings in order to not be questioned every five minutes by Israelis as to whether or not I am sick. Yet if I do not own this choice, then what was it all for? If I conceal my baldhead, then I am hiding from the change that I am embarking on.
Oddly enough, of all the head coverings I could have selected today- I chose white gauze. This is what a couple of sects of Christianity wear here in the Middle East. Thus, police all assumed I was Greek Orthodox. I had to explain FIVE times that I am an American Jewish Israeli. Of course, the one and only time I leave my house without my teudat zehut (Israeli identity card) I was asked for it FIVE times. I went through numerous questions and smiled the whole time. The most memorable moment was the security at the Kotel. I was asked to remove my tiny sling pocket book from across my shoulder. In order to do this, I had to carefully remove my white gauze loop from my shoulders, while keeping the top of my head covered.
Once the item was returned to me and I was putting it back on- the woman who sits at the Kotel security to ensure all women have proper shoulder covering- told me I had to cover my shoulders. I looked her in the eye and said – “this white fabric I am wearing is precisely for that purpose.” DUH!!!!
Upon realizing I was trapped in the Old City, I tried to leave through two different areas. First I ended up on the Mount of Olives exit. Sorry, just no. Then I ended up just plain lost. I was told to go one way and it it landed me as far away from home as I could to be. By this time my feet were bleeding. I was wearing sandals that I cannot walk a far distance in. They were perfectly fine for me literally walking across the street to the Old City, but not walking two miles in a circle.
I ended up taking a cab for merely 5 minutes; I just needed to get out of the cluster fuck. The cab driver asked me about the white gauze and 100 more questions, which after living here 18 months, I’ve learned that a single American female must lie.
He tells me I owe him 50 shekels. I told him I had exactly 20 shekels and he was welcome to it. Asks me out on a date, then wants to triple charge me… Bah.
Sadly all of this distracts from my Kotel experience and why I needed to go there today. I needed to reconnect with myself, my Jewish self, me, Yael, not Kara. I needed the universe to see evidence that I am ready for drastic change. I went there to present myself to HaShem at our holy site. However, the Kotel did not behave the way I assumed it would. It was not somber and holy. There were children playing, eating snacks, and women shooting the breeze- just having total benign bullshit conversation at the Kotel. People were on their smartphones taking pictures and there I was- bald, wrapped in white gauze needing a sacred moment and it was ruined.
Can we talk about Kotel etiquette? Seriously Jews- WTF? It’s bad enough you litter on the ground at our holy site, it’s bad enough you hindered me today from my personal spiritual objective. If the Jewish people cannot respect their own holy sites, why should we expect the world to take our claim to them seriously?
I am home now, sipping Judean wine, my feet are tapped up and my twelve floor to ceiling windows are open. I wonder how long it will take me to stop covering my baldhead and just be? Sure, I will have an inch of hair in five weeks, which is all I require to feel like I am no longer bald. I could’ve done a buzz cut, but that would’ve fallen short of the purge, the goal, and the test. If I were living in the US this wouldn’t have had any meaning. It is the fact that being a bald woman in Israel- particularly Jerusalem is not socially accepted. I will be kind to myself, stop judging myself and see how I feel tomorrow.