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Julia Knobloch


Sandy Negev Desert again blue skies

The night after Be’er Sheba brings no dreams. Morning birds sail through the canyon. In the still air, their choreography lingers; small sounds of peace. From somewhere, a sheep bleats.

Rapidly, the sun rises higher, warms the stones. The same smell emanated from the wall in the city, that tangible smell of two thousand years and more of pleading and screaming; absorbed by the desert. Forgive me for cursing in your presence.

Parched is the skin of my feet making their way through a dry wadi. Piety becomes a natural state as I go further south, seeking wisdom in a barren...

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Parashat Vayeira is rich in gleanings about hospitality, kindness, righteousness, jealously, reconciliation, and, particularly, faith and commitment to God.

Most parashiyot are equally rich, but for me, Vayera is special. It is the parashah of my conversion. My first aliyah – the first time I was called to the Torah – was for the last section, when Abraham is ready to sacrifice Isaac, his and Sarah’s son of their old age. The miracle child that made Sarah laugh, first with disbelief and later, I imagine, with joy and strengthened faith.

I always wanted children, three or...

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Jewish life and culture have become more present in Germany over the past decade or so, but when I was born in Mainz, in the 1970s, there was no giant hanukkiyah in front of the Brandenburg Gate, as in recent years. In fact, many people would only whisper the word “Jew,” as if it was verboten.

As a child, all I knew about Jews came from school lessons, books, and movies about the Holocaust. The so-called “historic Jewish quarters” in the quaint German cities I grew up in were devoid of Jewish inhabitants. I spent parts of my childhood in Worms, the city where Rashi established a...

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