Wednesday, April 22, 2015

From Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut

It begins with sobering remembrance. Each year it's different as to how I observe these days..Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron...and finally Yom HaAtzmaut. Always, though, at some point, I am moved to tears. So much to contemplate. One sets the mood for the other.

On Yom HaShoah and first siren on Yom HaZikaron, I was at home, firstly on my mirpeset, and last night, on the street in front of my building when the sirens bade us to stop and remember.  Last night, there wasn't a lot of traffic on my usually busy street. I had hoped for more, to experience once again, the oneness of Am Yisrael, as together we stop, get out of our cars, buses, and remember. For personal reasons, I wasn't able to go to a tekes this year, and this would have to serve as a quiet personal reflection for now.

Even though I know it happens, I've experienced this before, but I'm always shocked, and it always takes me aback. In the midst of the siren, a taxi gunned it down the street at high speed, making sure everyone noticed HE wasn't stopping. Obviously the taxi driver didn't approve, flipping us the bird in the most obnoxious way he could.

On Yom HaShoah last week, I read of an arab bus driver who refused to stop his bus, taking all the people hostage who tried to no avail to stop him.

Today, as we approached the time for the 2nd Yom HaZikaron siren, I too was on a bus, on my way to the shuk. I noted that my driver was Jewish, comforting myself with the fact I wouldn't have to run to the front, grab the steering wheel and find the brakes when the siren went off.

Still I was unprepared.

When the siren went off, the driver stopped, opened the doors of the bus, and those who wanted to exit and stand outside on the street, did so, the rest of us stayed standing in the bus. Mid-siren my submerged emotions began to surface and I felt the tears start.  Suddenly to my left, speeding across the street were several yellow arab sheruts, joined in spirit by a motorcyclist who tried to keep moving but was blocked by cars. Tossing his head and giving verbal smart a**ed remarks to those who would bid him stop, he wanted to make his point. I turned my head towards the Walls of the Old City and the tears just streamed down my face. It wasn't just the loss of our boys, although that was strong enough. It was also, the continual, ongoing struggle of the in-your-face hatred we feel and experience every day that I mourned. It wasn't that it's too difficult, it's just ...I don't know....such a loss. It filled me with such sadness that belligerence, hatred and violence is so strong....that the battle is way far from over, in fact, unchanged and I felt the eternity of the struggle.

I cried quietly for 3 or 4 minutes. Our lovely driver was slow to turn on the engine again, waited for the next light, thoughtful and reflective as were the rest of the people on the bus. It's a sobering moment that deserves our respectful attention. I was so glad that I was on that particular bus.

It was then I realized where we were. I mean I knew in real time of course, but was not even thinking of the powerful symbolism until that moment. We could not have been at a more meaningful place. We were at the top of Shlomo HaMelekh in front of Kikar Tzahal.  (Tzahal is our IDF). It is the location where the Ottman Empire surrendered to Allenby in 1917, the dividing line between our newly formed IDF and the Jordanian troops in 1948; it was the 1949 Armistice Line between Israel and "No Man's Land" , and is the symbolic seam between Jews and Arabs since the 1967 Victory and reunification of Jerusalem.

It seems - and not the first time for me - I was feeling more than the moment. I was feeling the angst of our People and the history of the very rocks that were crying and crying out.

With some difficulty we recognize it is now time to move into Yom HaAtzmaut. We have our set time for mourning and now it's our set time for rejoicing. As we move into tomorrow, let us celebrate not only with fireworks and mangal, but also with thankfulness that we are here. Just because it is such a's important that we understand the outcome.

Israel, a sweet Land, filled with milk and honey, is ours once again.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Moment in Time

Sometimes i feel like getting out of here...leaving Israel for good. Life is so hard here.  Among other things it's almost impossible to make ends meet for most Israelis...for some of us way worse than for others. Of course there are people who are comfortable and more, but most of us struggle to finish the week or the month. The wear and tear and fatigue from the never ending battle just to survive is sometimes overwhelming. 

Additionally, it's a bit schizophrenic here. Part of it's the neighborhood we live in, I guess. Being under attack all the time does take it's toll. It requires constant diligence, overcoming techniques, many tears, heartbreak and funerals. We don't treat each other well, except in the midst of tragedy and then we are entirely One people - no one will ever be bonded more closely together than at those times. But in between's a free for all circus. One minute a complete stranger will give you the money to get home on the bus because Egged screwed up your Rav Kav and won't - as in refuse - find a way to correct it, but five minutes later you will be cut in front of, in any line you have ever stood in, mowed down on the sidewalk by racing cyclists (including the Harley variety) or baby carriages (don't get me wrong I love babies, it's the parents wielding the carriage like a weapon that I mind), screamed at, insulted and out maneuvered.  The wear and tear and fatigue from the never ending battle just to survive is sometimes overwhelming.

And then there's the infrastructure. The mind-boggling bureaucracy, the unresponsive and self serving government, the public family brawl that is called politics...and a few other things that would be too airing of our family laundry to mention. There's not a single thing that we do not have to fight for, the first answer is always "no", and the rule is "wait two days", find a different person, and start over. Everything from receiving a package from the post office, to paying bills, dealing with the bank, maneuvering the health system, getting a renewal on your drivers license, paying your arnona (property tax) and everything in between, requires a lengthy instruction manuel on how to succeed at the task (except that no one has ever written one)....and an insane amount of sablanut. (patience). The wear and tear and fatigue from the never ending battle just to survive is sometimes overwhelming.

Nu, why on earth do I live here, you might ask. Fair question, as obviously, I ask myself the same.

The only answer I can give to that is to tell of a moment that happened to me this past fall. Even now I am trying to remember that moment again, especially when the fatigue of the battle overwhelms me.

That morning i was walking down the back road near my apartment, the sun intense and hot. Nearby cypress trees offered no shade, standing only like soldiers guarding the walkway and framing the Israeli sky.  The Israeli sky - that certain blue found nowhere else, proud and perfect and beautiful.  In front of me were the blue iron gates and fences of Yerushalayim - matching the sky and bringing heaven and earth together. The air, a mix between steamy and dusty settled into my soul filling all the empty spaces within.

For a moment in time, I felt the kind of peace that only Israel gives...the air, the sky & the Land is somehow eternal and it permeates everything. For a few real-time minutes my world became timeless -  by some immortal moment or memory, I found myself standing amidst the blazing sun, the Israeli sky, the companionship of the cypress as though it were anywhere in Israel and anywhere in time. I had stepped through a door into timeless realm ..and it was thoroughly delicious.

There was that inexplicable soul level knowledge/understanding that my neshama, even my dna, is married to this Land. I am safe here, my soul is safe. I am connected to this place Eretz Yisrael, this people, my people, Am Yisrael, and always have been. For better or worse, I am here.

So, on days when the going gets really tough, when my sablanut is missing or wearing thin, when the winter months are long, the days too short and the nights too dark & long, when i get yelled at or treated rudely one too many times, when i miss my family - none of whom are here in Israel - I will think of that special moment in time and try to remember why I am here.

I will stay and await my children to come, holding and anchoring a place for them like I always have. The safety of Gan Eden, they will come when the time is right.  I can only pray I am still here.