On March 28th, Karen Berg traveled to the state of Chihuahua, Mexico to meet with Governor César Horacio Duarte Jáquez and discuss the economic development of his district. Chihuahua is one of poorest states in Mexico and is home to one of the highest homicide rates in the Western world.
After witnessing the extreme violence and poverty faced by the people of Chihuahua, Karen invited a team of volunteers to travel to Mexico and spread the Light of the Zohar to people in need.
Yaakov Goetz, a Kabbalah student from Venezuela, led a group of 14 volunteers from Venezuela, Guadalajara and Mexico City, on a life-changing journey through two of Chihuahua’s most dangerous cities, Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City in June 2011. This is Yaakov’s story:
“During the final week of the Omer, we landed in El Paso, Texas and crossed the border to Mexico. As soon as we crossed the border, we were alerted to the rules of conduct in the city of Juarez. The first rule is to never honk the horn while driving a car; the violence is so bad that you may just get shot if you disturb someone. The second rule is to never pick something up off the floor of a car while driving; if you kneel down or you try to pick something up inside the car, other people may get worried that you’re picking up a gun and they might shoot you. The third rule is to never engage with someone who is aggressive towards you; if someone is causing trouble, you just have to swallow it and do nothing about it.
One story we were told was of a man who was stopped at a traffic light; there was a person in a car in front of him and when the light turned green the car ahead of him did not move. The light continued to turn red and green, and red and green; after five cycles of this, the man didn’t know if he should get out of the car and run, or if he should try to drive away. Then, without warming, the driver of the car in front of him walked out of the car with a gun in his hand and knocked on the man’s window. The driver gave him a thousand dollars and said, “I just made a bet with my friend that if you honked your horn I was going to go out and kill you; and as you never honked your horn, I gift you your life back and I also gift you a thousand dollars for behaving well.”
It sounded like absolute terror. We really didn’t believe that it could be as bad as everyone was telling us; we’ve heard stories of violent places, then we’ve traveled to those places and it ends up not being that bad. But in Juarez, as soon as we crossed the border, you could see a restaurant that was burnt down; and the next building was abandoned with shattered windows; and the next building had fallen down because of non-use. The city looked like an absolute ghost town; the only things you saw in the streets were police pick-up trucks with policemen holding machine guns that were bigger than the largest we had ever seen. Obviously the police feared for the lives because they were constantly being shot at. It was a very delicate situation; a very dangerous place.
The morning after we arrived, we started travelling around the city and we spoke to a woman who said that she had lost her husband two years ago due to the violence in Juarez. Her husband had a business and was being forced to pay extortion fees; he was late one month on the extortion payment and someone killed him. This woman is now widowed with two sons. When we heard this story we thought, okay maybe this person has an extreme case, but as we started to hand out Zohars in Juarez we noticed that every single person we interacted with had been affected by violence. Literally, every woman or every man we talked to had lost their son or their husband or their father or their brother. Every single person we talked to in the city had been affected somehow by this violent situation that is going on all over the city.
At one point we were in the Juarez District Attorney’s office handing out Zohars when suddenly a woman approached us and said, “My son is in jail and he is going to be prosecuted, but he really did nothing!” She told us a complicated story about her son being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, so we decided to give this woman a Zohar. As we walked with her to our car outside to get a Sacred Zohar we explained to her that when she receives the Zohar things often get untangled very quickly. At the moment when we were handing over the Zohar to this woman she received a call from the District Attorney’s office, telling her that her son had just been released. So, that was one miracle we experienced in Juarez.
During the two days that we spent in Juarez, our team was able to share 1,500 Sacred Zohars; 4,000 Pinchas Zohars; 100 Spanish Zohars; and 40 Sulam Zohars with people throughout the city. After we completed our stay in Juarez on June 2nd, a local newspaper reported that June 3rd was only the third day of 2011 with no deaths recorded in the city. Of course, the citizens of Juarez didn’t know why that had happened, but we knew that the Light of the Zohar had arrived and Juarez was entering into a new phase of peace.
After leaving Juarez, we took a plane to Chihuahua City. The violence there was beyond belief. The city looked like a ghost town. During the daytime there were few people in the street, and as soon as the sun went down, people would stay in their homes. On our first night in Chihuahua, right in front of our hotel, there was a car chase between the police and local drug traffickers; this car chase ended in a huge shoot out. The next morning we heard about a threat from the local drug cartel to the police that they intended to kill one police officer every morning until a demand was met. Later that day we our team agreed to have lunch at a certain restaurant; when we arrived at the restaurant, the whole window panel was filled with bullet holes everywhere. It turned out that three hours before we arrived, there had been a shoot out in front of the restaurant and they had killed a police officer. This is a daily experience for people in Chihuahua; they picked up the body, cleaned up the floor and opened the restaurant as if it was any other day.
Later that same day, we went to the local transit police station; a police force that monitors people for speeding and running red lights, etcetera. As soon as we arrived and started talking to the police officers, they immediately understood what the Zohar was about; it was protection. Within 10 seconds of talking about the Zohar to these people, their soul just spoke to them and they opened up to it beautifully.
When I first began studying at the Kabbalah Centre a few years ago, my mind was very analytically oriented. Everything I saw needed to have a physical explanation; some sort of cause and effect in the visible realm. Getting involved in the Zohar Project has made me let go and trust how the Light, in mysterious ways, guides you through difficult situations which are in essence, blessings. I know that the Light is behind everything that happens in life. I have started to judge people less because I see where they come from; I see that other backgrounds can make people’s behavior different; this is something that has changed my life forever.”