I'm sitting at the entrance to sacred Kotel wall in Jerusalem. Our radical feminist rabbi is telling us about how, until recently, women were not allowed to carry holly objects or even pray at the wall and she reminds us in the orthodox community women are not permitted to sing in front of men.
I can't seem to control my grief. It feels old, ancient, not even mine. It is so painful to know how much women's voices are still not honored and valued. We are told, even on this day to cover our shoulders and where long dresses while the men in our group remain in their hiking clothing. We enter the women’s entrance to the kotel, which is about 1/2 the size of the mens. I notice that male workers are allowed to be here, but doubt they would let a female worker on the men's side. The wall is powerful, I can feel ancient feminine wisdom here. I participate in what feels like a radical show of civil disobedience (but is probably not as we aren't arrested or anything) and burst into song. I sing wide open, yet feel scared to sing "too loudly,” something I haven't felt in years. My song is a prayer, a grieving cry for all the women past and current who do not know the power of their voices, and if they do have been forced to soften and hide them. I am convinced this is a huge cause of war.
I have already learned to dread the sound of any siren. I jump at the police siren, I stop my breath for a moment to listen more quickly when something bangs in the apartment above me. I came to Israel to claim my jewish identity and begin to heal old wounds around being Jewish - most of them tied up in the loosing and hiding of feminine mystical traditions and the disempowerment of women. But now, Jews all over the world are being thrown into old fear patterns about survival. When will we get it: Hate for hate, violence for violence, revenge for revenge will never cause peace. I have been quiet confused and conflicted about the current Gaza-Israel conflict. But I do know this: I want peace, and I want all humans to know that we are one.
When the streets are loud I feel safe, when quiet I wonder what we are waiting for. Perhaps I am being paranoid. One moment the war feels miles away, nothing to do with me; the next, close and utterly personal. I have been on a journey to claim my Jewish identity at a time of great pain and great harm. It is confusing and conflicting. I hear about anti-semitic acts in Western Europe and the US just days after visiting the holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Monday August 4th was Tisha b'av, the jewish fast day to grieve in honor of all the suffering of the jews. Is it ironic that this is the day they finally pull troops out of gaza? And I think I get it, I get why Israel is this way: We, jews, are caring in our bones this fear - this knowledge that not so long ago, someone was able to organize a huge force to extinguish all jews. Still, how can our past be an excuse for causing great harm to others? I can't help being aware of all the genocide in the world as I write this, and my heart bleeds for all people. There are so many issues at work here, too much to go into now, too much I am still conflicted about. But I do know that for me, claiming my jewish identity and standing for peace is a step towards healing the ancient wounds that we are still carrying, passed down for generations. Only then can we honor our oneness with others and stop causing harm.
The question I keep coming back to is this: Does this conflict have anything to do with the continued oppression of women in both the arab and jewish world? I can't help but feel they are connected. A line of hopi prophesy comes to mind: “Only when women return their blood to the earth, will men cease to shed blood.” I like to interpret this as “only when the feminine is empowered, will war end.”
I have sang together with groups of jews gathered in prayer. I have met with musician peace makers who, over the years, have gathered Palestinians and Jews together to make music even as riots raged around their song circles in Jerusalem. I have watched a youth Palestinian - Israeli choir share their beautiful voices with a mixed audience, gathering in song for healing and comfort.
Even more so then ever, it is time for each of us to claim the power of our individual voice.
So let this be a message for you: whenever you question the validity of what you have to offer, or you don't share yourself fully, remember that only your unique voice will ring out clear and true about the things that matter most for you to speak. Being a performer is a privilege and a power. When we unapologetically share our truth, we wield great power to inspire and to influence. How we use that power determine everything. I will use it to connect people and create peace. I make music to end war on the planet and have the feminine become known and empowered in each of us.
You, my darling SSOL sisters and my music fans, are my army for peace. When we empower women's voices in song, we can heal the planet. I've seen it upfront, for real on this trip. I've seen the difference between a political argument and a group dancing and singing on Shabbat, praying through song for peace for all. This is the feminine way of prayer, of peace, of negotiation.
The question remains, how can we be more free? What does freedom mean? As a jew, as a Palestinian, a human being. Freedom cannot happen for us when it causes others to be less free. Freedom is peace, freedom is our souls recognition of itself in another's eyes. When I see myself, I see the woman who is a musician, a coach, a healer, a teacher. I also know the woman who carries deep longing, in the pit of her stomach, in her womb, in her vagina. What longing? Somedays, I know what it about. It is a longing or wholeness, for feeling complete, for feeling one with others, for knowing exactly what my life is for. It is a longing that shares the same space within me as grief. The two collide in my womb, age old suffering rising up to cause tears, todays suffering just beyond my finger tips. The planes fly over. We hear the bombs but know it is still too far away to touch us. What if we could feel the distinct flavor of war in our mouths even at this distance? What if my pain was yours and yours mine. Because, in reality it is. Were you to experience an end of suffering, so I would as well. It is only suffering that causes violence. Suffering is fear. Suffering is an unquenchable thirst for security and power. Suffering is the sewage in the street and no running water. Suffering is your child dead at school. Suffering is your best friend killed serving his mandatory 3 years in the army. Suffering is the pain your lineage has known. Suffering is thinking we are right. Suffering is thinking we are different. The end of suffering is simple: love. Love that pervades all space and swells up within us so big that it cannot be contained within the narrow walls of who looks like you, shares your religion, has a claim to your land, comes from your same lineage of suffering. May you, friend, love beyond all boundaries and know yourself as the most powerful force of peace in the world.
I cannot do this alone. I need you. We need an army of peacemakers. But, I hope to inspire you, to help you understand you are not alone and your voice matters. If you are inspired, touched, moved, grateful for my music and words, I would love to have your support to keep making music, in the name of peace and feminine empowerment. I have a huge vision to help heal the planet through performance, through the gathering of song circles, and through the work of SSOL. Please consider supporting me, by becoming a Patron of my music and vision at www.patreon.com/emmasong. Or, join the army of feminine peace makers by becoming a SSOL sister! Workshops and community events, plus a new membership program coming soon!
Do you know a woman who you think belongs to SSOL? A woman who has a voice and just needs some feminine support to have her voice impact the world? Is she questioning the validity of her voice, or feeling conflicted, confused, resigned or doubtful about how to take her next step of expression? Please connect us and have her join us! Maybe this woman is you!
You mean the world to me. Never forget how beautiful and powerful you are.