My Bubie loves to swim. She goes to the pool every morning, except for Shabbat and Holidays, and swims back and forth for over an hour. Bubie says that water gives life, not just to drink it, since most of our bodies are made of water, but also to surround ourselves with the healing power of water. My parents won’t let us learn how to swim. My brother goes to a pool with his friends but does not take lessons and my sisters and I are not allowed to go to a pool or the beach to swim, even if there are only ladies. I am not sure why this is but this is what it is. The next story is about a girl who desperately wants to go swimming and a carp (a type of fish) who becomes her friend.
Once there was a girl named Miriam. Miriam loved to run, play, jump and climb. Whenever she got new shoes she would try them out by climbing on the ladders on the playground and running on the sidewalks on her street. However, there was one sport that she really wanted to try but her parents would not give her permission to do it. Miriam wanted to learn how to swim.
Miriam had some girlfriends who would go to the ladies’ swim at the pool near their house. They would tell her how fun it was to float in the water and kick and splash. Some of the girls were taking swimming lessons so that they would know how to go from one end of the pool to the other without sinking and, God forbid drowning. Just like many activities, being in deep water could be very dangerous if you don’t learn how to stay above the water.
What could Miriam do? She was too young to go to the pool by herself and also she was a little afraid of being in the deep water where her feet could not touch the bottom. Every day she would practice holding her breath so that one day she could put her face in the water and not breathe for a certain amount of time. Sometimes, in the bathtub, she would submerge her whole head under the water and count. She would keep her head under the water, holding her breath until it felt like she was going to faint and then, she would blow out the air, lift her head out of the tub and take a long deep breath!
One day, Miriam’s parents agreed to let Bubie and Zada take the whole family to the Jerusalem Aquarium. Everyone was very excited to go on this outing, especially Miriam because she thought, “Maybe I can learn something about swimming in the water from the fish!”
Everyone piled into the two cars, one Zada drove and one Bubie drove. After about a half an hour they all arrived at the Aquarium. It was a beautiful place. You can see the link below which tells you all about the New Jerusalem Aquarium. https://www.funinjerusalem.com/israel-aquarium/
There were ponds of fish on the outside and Miriam watched as the fish all swam with each other like a group of students walking together on a trip. Some of the fish didn’t follow the crowd exactly, but of course with children it was the same. There was always someone the teacher had to lead back to the group. Miriam learned that a group of fish is called a “school” and she thought that made a lot of sense since they did remind her of children on a school trip!
Once they went inside there were many large tanks in which you could see so many different kinds of fish swimming this way and that way and all around. They were so beautiful and they sped through the water as if they were flying, flipping their fins back and forth, racing and not a one bumped into another one! “How did they do that?” thought Miriam and “There weren’t even traffic lights!” Miriam had never seen any creatures so beautiful and graceful and it made her want to learn, even more so, the art of swimming in the water.
One of the amazing features of the Jerusalem Aquarium is that within many of the displays, children can crawl inside and be right next to the fish in their own bubble! Here is an example of what I mean:
Miriam really enjoyed going inside the tanks and being really close to the fish. She wanted to talk to the fish but didn’t know what language they would understand and also didn’t know if they had ears to even hear her. So she stared and watched patiently and thought in her head what she would say to the fish if they could hear her.
One of the larger tanks held a school of large carp. Bubie told them that the gefilta fish which they ate on Shabbat was made up of carp, like the ones that they were seeing in this fish tank. Miriam thought to herself, “These fish are so beautiful and they swim through the water freely and happily. I don’t know if I will be able to eat them at our table anymore. I wish I could jump in there and swim with them for a while. I want to feel the water around my body and through my hair and I want to move quickly, as if I am flying!”
“You can do it if you want,” said a voice. “You can swim through the water like a fish and feel the freedom of moving quickly from one place to the other as if you are flying!”
“Who said that?” said Miriam. She thought that maybe her brother was standing next to her and heard her say something which she thought she had just said inside her head. However, she looked on both sides and there was no one there; she was standing by the fish tank by herself!
“Don’t be afraid”, said the voice in again. “We can hear your thoughts through the glass if you stand very close to our tanks. Normally we don’t answer you or talk to the people who come to see us at the aquarium, but I could tell that you so desired to experience what is natural to us as fish, that I felt I should let you know that it is possible to do.”
Miriam went even closer to the tank. She put her face right up against the glass and just then she thought that she saw one of the fish wink at her! She jumped back and started to walk away because she got a little scared. As far as she knew fish could not talk to people and for Heaven’s sake why would a fish choose to speak with her?
“Don’t be afraid”, said the friendly carp. “We are all God’s creatures and we have the ability to communicate with each other in many ways. We just have to be open to listening, watching and sometimes thinking.”
“But why”, thought Miriam in her head, “did you choose to speak to me today?” “That is an easy question to answer”, said the carp. “You have a strong desire to do what we do, swim in the water, and you are sad that you think it is impossible. I wanted to tell you that it is not impossible! You can learn how to swim when you are older. Also, you can learn how do scuba dive under water and even come to swim with us in a scuba diving suit!” Here are more pictures from the Jerusalem Aquarium which include the divers who take care of us and clean our tanks.
Miriam remembered how her Bubie and Zada went down to Eilat to dive under the water. They took pictures of the beautiful fish and coral which they saw there. Zada loves to go diving underwater. Bubie likes swimming in and on top of the water best. However, they both love the water and it is also good exercise to swim and to scuba dive.
Miriam thanked the carp for reaching out to speak to her. “Now”, she said, “I have hope that someday I too will be able to swim with the fish and see all of the beauty under the water”. “You will”, said the friendly carp. “You can choose to do most anything you want in your life. You should always choose to do things that protect Nature, that help others and that make you realize how grateful we all should be for the beautiful world that God has created for us, both under and outside of the water!”