After Israel

Location: Long Beach, California, United States

We moved to Israel thinking, rather naively that it was our true home, but after many months of trying to assimilate, learn the language and seeking employment we were forced to face the TRUTH! Israel is a bit backward, they still tend to mix religion with government and they are gravely biased by the belief of the Ultra religious who make it difficult for secular, everyday Jews to get along.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Israel at War

As the days pass and here in the US we scavange for any bit of "real" news of the town in whci we lived, I finally came to despair somewhere in the night last night! I woke thinking I heard air raid sirens, it was only an ambulance passing by our street, fitfully I returned to a disturbed sleep, I woke again thinking I heard bombs in the was only thunder.
Finally I moved from the bed to the floor at the foot of the bed, not wanting to disturb my husband who had worked hard all day in terribl heat! There I lay for several hours, in the darkness I heard crying, Israel crying for her children, my face was wet with my own tears...tears for the friends still there in Tzfat, tears for those who had fled leaving behind their lives not knowing when they could return, tears for the children I had seen being disembarked from an Nefesh b'Nefesh flight with their parents earlier in the week in Jerusalem! I wept thinking of the dream Theo and I had of living in Israel, home of the Jews. And then I stopped weeping...a sense of quiet crept over me. Not the quiet of peace, but the deeper quiet of understanding.
Yesterday while surfing the net I found a wonderfully well written piece by a private journalist who went to Tzfat to see what was happening to that ancient mystical city, he wrote from his heart, about the destruction, the lack of people in the street, his disappointment of wanting to visit a Shul and being told he could stand in the doorway, his sorrow over a small dog who was being held by his owner, poor pup a victim of the shelling of Hezzbolah.
My thoughts spun round to Theo's and my experience there in Tzfat, we had believed that we would be welcomed, we found that we didn't fit in, we couldn't go backwards in time to obey all the myriad and sundry man made rules that we faced if we wanted true acceptance from a community, a shul. I thought of this sentences from someone whom I consider a friend there in Tzfat; " Those not affiliated with shuls, we don't need to worry about, for the most part. Not because we don't care about them, haz v'shalom-G-d forbid. Only because they were the first to flee. Boy, they were out of here before I could blink. " Again the tears ran down my cheeks, because the truth is people who are not affiliated are dispensible, through away folks, like the unwanted deformed or crippled children of India. Had we still been living in Tzfat I am certain we would have been amoung those who fled, we have children, and four beautiful grandchildren here in the US, and three great nephews, family, when we decided to leave we thought we would never come back here, we thought we would call Israel home, but that didn't happen. We love the country of Israel, the idea of a country where because we are Jewish we belong, but we didn't belong in the place where we wished to live. We were misfits!
So we are here in America and in the dark hours of the night, I cry and pray and ask for peace in the mid est, and I don't cry or pray selectively, I weep for our brothers and sisters in Lebanon...Yes! our BROTHERS AND OUR SISTERS...remember Abraham had two sons, one the father of Jews the other the father of Muslims...I pray for all the injured and frieghtened on both sides, and especially for the children.
THere on the sheet on the floor last night in the quiet that comes when a person is all cried out, I realized that the people of that part of the world are much more alike then they are different...both the religious Muslims and the religious Jews are loathe to accept anyone that isn't exactly like them, the ultra religious on both sides are hateful, unkind, and prejudiced peoples. They shut out systematically anyone that won't adhere to their idea of "religious behaivor".
Isn't it a terrible thing that while the war rages on, the TRUTH is that as long as the religious fanatics on both sides continue to exist there can be no real, no lasting PEACE! Isn't it a sad statement on our modern society that we continue to cling to fanatic religious beliefs that seperate us more quickly than WAR! If there is ever to be a true and lasting PEACE not just in the middle east but throughout the world, mankind while have to reinvent religion, we will have to come to some understaning that G-D just is and Religion in all it's varying forms is man made as a toil to control and manipulate people, to make them feel seperate, apart from and in many case better than "OTHERS" much like "those not affiliated with" and after that you could add the names of many of the worlds greatest religions...Catholisim, Judaism, Muslimism and all the others too numerous to list. Point is Israel is a Jewish state, but if that is true than it would be accepting of all Jews regardless of their "affiliation or non-affiliation".
THis war is not just about two soldiers who were kidnapped, it isn't about the age old battle for land, it isn't about occupation, is about HATE! Yes, HATE...the type of dislike that causes one group to believe that they are somehow better than another group, the type that is taught from an early age, and becomes a part of a persons belief system, it is about the inability to see that we are all HUMAN, that the death of an inocent Lebanese child, or Israeli child diminishes us all...yes ALL of us are merely HUMAN!
If there is ever to be a true and lasting world peace we must come to understand that we all live here together...we are one world, not many and we are all resposible to each other, not just to those who are like us!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Reflections on Israel

Israel, no Freedom, no Liberty, no Justice
Here in the United States yesterday was the official Birthday of our nation, nearing three hundred years the country is a youngster in the shadows of older and more established nations of the world, but she stands head and shoulders above most. Ours is a unique nation, born out of a need for religious freedom. At first we totered and stumbled our way along as most nations do, but we put forth a lot of effort right from the start to set down rules and laws that would be of benefit to all of our people, we didn't hesitate to write a constitution or Bill of Rights to ensure the freedom, liberty and justice of our people. We took in the homeless and the wretched of other countries, those suffering persecution, or lack of religious freedom and somehow the peasants of England, Spain, Portugal, Austria and many, many other countries came to America to seek a new life. The immigrants became citizens of what we now call the United States of America. When I think back to where I started my life, on the rough seas of the Atlantic Ocean on the deck of a vessel filled to over capacity with what was left of the Jews after the second world war, I smile to myself. Survival is everything! For a kid who was born with no hair, no eyelashes, no toenails or fingernails, into a family where there was no inheritance except our Judaism, I think I turned out alright, I grew up strong, proud and intelligent!
As many of you know who read this blog monthly my husband and I returned to the United States in November of last year, so this is our first fourth of July back in the old US of A. We are wiser now than when we left, we see things in a different light now! We left these shores beliving with our hearts, souls and minds that we were going to live in the place where we belonged! We had dreamed of this time for years, planned for it , for long years it was hidden away in our hearts, a desire we longed to fullfill.
It still astounishes us to think that Israel is fity years old, and she is still so unsettled! She is a country that was still born, she came about for all the right reasons, but somehow, somewhere in the construction process the ideals of those who were planning a place for Jews to live for all time were lost. She fumbles along like a crippled child, not able to stand on her own, and caught in a trap formed by Zionism and the Ultra Orthodox that will forever keep her disabled. What a shame that such a beautiful nation cannot seperate religion and state in a satisfactory fashion, how terrible that at fifty years old she still has no Bill of Rights, no Constitution. Worse are the fact that she can't support herself without aide from other countries, mostly the US. In the fourteen months that we lived there the entire country was shut down for a total of 144 days out of the possible 365 that everyone could have been working. Israeli's stop for every Shabbat, a total of 36 hours from two in the afternoon on Friday until Sunday morning at 9 AM, and for other religious holidays of 5-10 days at a time, everything must stop...the grocery, the bank, the buisnesses, the USA if we shut down that many days in a year we would be bankrupt by the middle of the 365 days!
It saddens us too that Israel is now again at war with Palestine...yes I agree they shouldn't have taken a soldier hostage, but think about it. The country of Israel has held Palestine hostage for the last 50 years, trapped inside their borders they became persona non grata for all of the mideastern world, their Arab country men didn't want to take them in, and Israel shut them out so efficiently that they became sub-human.
On a day like the fourth of July one's mind always turns to the great strides this country has made in her history. We came from a few hundred settlers to millions, we saw women become equal, blacks be given full rights which should have happened sooner than it did, we fight prejudice and bondage where ever we find it, we defend the defenceless and yes, sometimes that has meant going to war in a place far from home, but we kept growing and through it all we have become a great nation. Ours is a country where Freedom is the right of every human being within our borders. We have brought democracy to a new level, and liberty was bought at a high price for us, no one handed us a nation and said here, make it yours like NATO did for Israel!
What will it take for Israel to realize that she is becoming a nation where there is no freedom , no liberty and no right some of the founders of the modern state of Israel were, who warned the government against letting the religious become too powerful. If a country is formed for the betterment of all people of it's nationality than it must have laws that protect all Jews, not just the ultra religious or the Orthodox...if a country wants to become a light to other nations than it must defend the right of all it's citizens, even the Muslims! Christianity and Catholisim, were already well established in Palestine before Israel was made a state, the Muslims were once in the majority there as well...the largest problem of the nation that my husband and I left is inequality! Yes, Israel wants people to populate the country, but they truly do not want anyone who is anything but ultra Orthodox!
So this Fourth of July here in the US, I spent a lot of time thinking about why we didn't make it there in Israel, and unfortunately I could find only one true answer...PREJUDICE...yep, yesterday as I ate my good old American hamburger with cheese I was very grateful, not just for the food which I could eat as I pleased, but for the freedom and the liberty and yes the justice of our nation. If anyone out there reading this blog wants a reminder about truly how great it is to live in a nation where you can choose what to eat, what to wear, where you work, or what you do with your life just email me and I will give you a hundred or so reasons why this old country of ours is truly great!!
Yesterday was a great mix of sadness and expression for me, I really felt what a joy it is to live in a nation where religious freedom is assured, and in the evening when the echoes of the fireworks filtered up from the beach I felt a great wave of sadness that far away in another land there is not such freedom, there is poverty, unemployment, hatred, prejudice and war all as a result of a nation's inability to grow into a democratic state!
Today on the way to my teaching position I was listening to the grand music of the National Orchestra as played at the Ford Theater last night in celebration of the USA, and for the first time in many years I felt a swell of pride hearing the Star Spangled Banner...America the Beautiful and yes, even God Bless America...Israel is not the only country with a G-D who watches over her, and perhaps, just perhaps the Jews are not the only people upon whom God bestows blessings. Maybe if Israel were more gentle, more kind, more open to the possiblity of growth and change, maybe if those who live in the confines of the rules of centuries past, burndened by rules of Rabbis long since gone from our sight, maybe if those humans could step into the light and see that all human kind is a creation of God and that we are created equal...maybe then the world would turn its face toward Israel and we all could have PEACE!