Updated: Dec 21, 2019
Living in Israel is a heavy responsibility sometimes. We live here and raise our kids here and keep our Jewish traditions alive. This always seems to come at a price, despite our determination to continue.
The Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of time for their traditions . Our holidays, the brit mila, bar mitzvah, breaking the glass at our weddings, and attending the mikve, or ritual bath. The others are more public, but going to the mikve is more secretive and therefore kept out of the public eye.
This tradition has been kept for thousands of years. The mikve is a monthly right of passage for women who have completed their menstrual period or before their wedding , or returning a few months after giving birth . In more religious communities men use them on special occasions as well . We go only after dark and the mikve building is usually set apart and nondescript from the outside so as to not attract attention .
Since moving to Israel 23 years ago and getting married a year later, I have visited many different mikvaot in different parts of the country, depending on where we were living at the time. This is a tradition kept by many woman here, even many of the secular ones. Going in the summer time means waiting for the long days to end and we end up only going at 9 or later at night. In the winter, days are shorter, but torrential downpours usually happen at night, for those of us down in the south, the tradition poses even more challenges.
Last month on my way to the local mikve , we happened to be in the middle of a war. Gaza was sending over hundreds of rockets and I needed to get to the mikve. When it's your time, it's your time. (In both senses of the word). So out I went even though the rockets and the Iron Dome anti-missiles were flying over my head as I drove. That was crazy and surreal. I saw them flying through the sky and i saw the Iron Dome search for it's target in midair and blast the kassam out of the sky just above me.
A month later, I went to the same mikve and although rockets were flying the day before, they weren't at the time of driving . Instead, it was our first really good torrential rain. I couldn't see out the windshield which makes driving on our mostly unlit roads considerably more dangerous. But I drove very slow and got there and back safely, albeit cold and wet.
All in the name of keeping the mitzvah!
Gaza seems to think that when they shoot at us with rockets or anything else, we will all cower and hide. This happens to never be the case. In fact, quite the opposite. Their terror in our land just makes us stronger in our traditions and in our resolve to keep them. We are Jews in our Jewish homeland. We have experienced hardships throughout history in other lands because of our traditions and our laws, but here it all comes alive without shame or fear. So we continue to risk our lives in order to keep our Judaism alive.
One such example is Masada. Jews were forced into hiding there. It was located on top of an enormous rock with no water source and hardly any rainfall, but the Jews dug these ritual baths out of the rock and continued to keep the mitzvah of the mikve the entire time they were up there despite the dangers .
Our little local mikve, or ritual bath is located about a 20 minute drive from me. We don't have one in our moshav and although i've visited all of them in my immediate area, i never felt comfortable with the ladies running them. Some ladies are very sensitive and respectful and make you feel comfortable, others are more competitive and make you feel like you are on stage. Some actually check you out from head to toe to see how you are holding up after births. Some don't accept you if you are coming from outside their community and the feeling is anything but friendly.
So I have chosen a mikve a little farther away run by a sweet little lady with a French accent. She very respectful of my privacy, as well as being very accepting of anyone no matter what kind of Jewish life they lead or where they live.
To prepare for our ritual dip, we remove any jewellery, make-up, or nail polish, shower, rinse again before getting in, then naked , step into the bath. I go under 7 times. Others do less, but each time we go under we can use this time to say blessings or ask for whatever you're seeking, such as a healthy pregnancy, or peace at home with your partner (shalom beit). This is a very special time for a woman to connect with God, her partner and/or Jewish traditions/ancestors. We were commanded by God to keep these practices and have done so throughout history .
Our modern mikve houses are more up-to-date, (such as air-conditioning , tile flooring, and heated water) but they still keep the same laws that go into building them and rituals in the mitzvah of using them.
We hope and pray for peace from our disturbing neighbours in the Gaza strip, although I doubt they will stop firing anytime soon. So we'll continue just like we've always done with our rituals and our traditions, with or without permission from anyone.
Below is a picture of my humble local mikve that I attend.