I don't really know that much above doves. I do know they are a symbol of peace. A dove brought Noah an olive leaf proving that the flood waters had receded. Apparently they are kosher, so they can be eaten if one is inclined (though I am not sure who would be inclined...). But that's about it. That's all I know about doves. And yet somehow I managed to launch four doves on a journey around the world.
It began in October of 2013. I needed to apply for a Russian visa for work. At the time I resided in Amsterdam, so I went to The Hague to submit my application. That was easily done (a train ride of less than one hour).
After taking care of bureaucratic matters, I went on a leisurely stroll in The Hague. I had never been there before, and knew next to nothing about the city. I was quite surprised by what I found. Less than ten minutes walk from the Russian Embassy, I turned a corner, and smack in front of me was a palace. I was bewildered.
The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. (These pictures were taken with my phone as I unfortunately did not have my camera with me that day.):
While I couldn't enter the building itself, they did have a lovely visitor center. The Peace Palace houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague's Academy of International Law, and the Peace Palace Library. During the 1899 Hague Peace Conference, a treaty was signed to establish the Permanent Court of Arbitration and a building to house it. The idea was to end war by having a court where conflicts between nations could be resolved. Andrew Carnegie gifted $1.5 million for the building and the arbitration court with the caveat that it would also house a legal library.
After touring the visitor center, I wandered over to the gift shop area. Most items were mundane. History books and biographies, some items of clothing. I didn't think there was anything in particular worth purchasing. Some postcards for a friend perhaps. So I stopped to talk with the young ladies working behind the counter. We had a very pleasant chat. I learned they were students of International Law, and was quite impressed with their ambitions. It was as I was getting ready to depart that I saw a collection of small dove figurines. Some in white. Some in gold. Each of them held a scroll. The doves themselves were handcrafted in Guatemala, and were part of some sort of international fund raising initiative. Immediately they captured my attention. I knew exactly where they had to go. The journey they had to take.
I started to count members of my family and extended family, and ending up buying doves for most everyone. At this point it should be noted that upon my encountering them, the doves had already traveled 5622 miles from Guatemala to The Hague. I took the doves with me home to Amsterdam (a mere 32 miles).
From Amsterdam, I met my parents in Switzerland in November 2013 for my graduation ceremony (380 miles). I presented my parents with doves for Hanukkah. From there we traveled to Chicago for a work conference, and met my brother and his then fiance (now wife). I also gave them doves for Hanukkah (4428 miles). Then the five of us flew to New York (712 miles). While in New York I gave doves to my two aunts.
And for some time, that was that. I had a dove in Amsterdam. My family had doves in New York/New Jersey. And there they stayed. Tucked away with passports or in an odd drawer. Sitting and waiting.
Time passed. In early 2014 my brother and his fiance began to plan their wedding. They chose September 7, 2014 in Israel. I may be a bit biased, but I thought it was the most beautiful wedding ceremony I have ever seen.
Two days after the wedding we went to Jerusalem. This was the final leg of the doves' flight. (NY- Tel Aviv - Jerusalem is 5660 + 42 and Amsterdam - Tel Aviv - Jerusalem is 2045 + 42).
We took the scrolls out from the doves' grasp, wrote our personal messages, and returned them to the doves. The women and men separated. I put my dove into the Wailing Wall along with my mother and two aunts. I cannot describe to you the emotion of that moment. Words fail me.
The heat of the sun. The comfort of my family. The warmth and texture of the stone under my hand as we prayed. The sense that no matter what is going on in this world, no matter what is going on in my personal world, when everything is tumbling down, this Wall has endured, will endure. The Jewish people will endure. My family will always be there, will continue to blossom and flourish, will be on my side no matter what. When the sky comes crashing down, all this will still be here.
When I first saw those doves back in The Hague, I knew that the wings of love and peace could carry the words of my family. Our hopes and dreams. Our prayers. For ourselves and each other.
But more than that, when I saw those doves I knew they were the perfect symbol of peace and tranquility for a land filled with turmoil. I imagined leaving my message with a dove in the Wall and others who visit the Wall would see that dove, feel that love, and be inspired. It's been two months since we put the doves in the wall. I wonder if they are still there. I wonder what people have thought when they come across the doves.
In the end, four doves traveled 16,876 miles around the world to land in the Wailing Wall.