I see what you did there, Anwar Sadat…

Oh, you know, just minding my own Zionist business at the IDF museum in מתחם התחנה in Tel Aviv (gorgeous area, go sometime), when in a room about Israel’s generals I notice a photograph symbolizing hope, future, and cold peace…

Ho hum, just having a grand time with my ex-arch enemy.

BFF forever

What’s that? The pattern on my tie?

It's flashy!

WHY, DOES IT BOTHER YOU???

SWASTIKA TIE at a peace conference FTW!

 

The fish, the shark and Passover.

When Gilad Shalit was 11, he wrote a short story called “When the Shark and the Fish First Met.” Though it seems this was originally published and spread around in 2008, I only came across it now via Facebook shares.

It resonates with me because I did a lot of short story writing when I was a kid… from the time I could draw doodles, to when I could write my alphabet, and then string sentences together, and then to the time I could consider word choice and sophisticate the effort.

His story is a good thought to keep in mind as we go into Pesach (Passover) this year, over five years since Gilad Shalit’s capture by Hamas. The story breaks my heart because it contains the same simple message in such a complex scenario, which so many of us familiar with conflict wrote, drew and dreamed as kids.

And here we are as adults, and the stories haven’t come true. Not many know that better than Gilad Shalit, than the Fogel survivors from Itamar.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to them.

So, amidst the pain and violence of the Passover story, let’s keep in mind all the story dreams our children will have. Maybe, next year, they’ll come true.

When the Shark and the Fish First Met

(by 11-year-old Gilad Shalit)

A small and gentle fish was swimming in the middle of a peaceful ocean.  All of a sudden, the fish saw a shark that wanted to devour him.
He then began to swim very quickly, but so did the shark.

Suddenly the fish stopped and called to the shark:
“Why do you want to devour me? We can play together!”

The shark thought and thought and said:
“Okay- fine: Let’s play hide and seek.”

The shark and fish played all day long, until the sun went down.
In the evening, the shark returned to his home.

His mother asked:
“How was your day, my dear shark?  How many animals did you devour today?”

The shark answered:  “Today I didn’t devour any animals, but I played with an animal called FISH”.

“That fish is an animal we eat.  Don’t play with it!” said the shark’s mother.

At the home of the fish, the same thing happened.  “How are you, little fish?  How was it today in the sea?” asked the fish’s mother.

The fish answered: “Today I played with an animal called SHARK.”

“That shark is the animal that devoured your father and your brother. Don’t play with that animal,” answered the mother.

The next day in the middle of the ocean, neither the shark nor the fish were there.

They didn’t meet for many days, weeks and even months.

Then, one day they met.  Each one immediately ran back to his mother and once again they didn’t meet for days, weeks and months.

After a whole year passed, the shark went out for a nice swim and so did the fish. For a third time, they met and then the shark said: “You are my enemy, but maybe we can make peace?”
The little fish said:  “Okay.”

They played secretly for days, weeks and months, until one day the shark and fish went to the fish’s mother and spoke together with her. Then they did the same thing with the shark’s mother; and from that same day the sharks and the fish live in peace.

THE END

 

Feeling the home land.

After almost a week of driving back and forth to work through trees and hills (the way God intended, no doubt) I have to say that it’s as if I’m only just now settling into my Israeli life. Jerusalem is more international, more global… in importance, position, people. It was a very different Israel, if Israel at all.

Now I feel tucked away on an Israeli yishuv, surrounded by nature and silence. No one has to know I’m here and I can just look up and feel like I’m standing with thousands of years of history, the image of God and myself.

I’d suggest to people that if they’re thinking of moving from Israel because it didn’t work out – and they’ve only lived the city life – try this for a change of pace and appreciation. Of course, I’ve only just arrived, but for now I’m betting that this will be a very different experience.

Bet Shemesh trees and hills

President Bush to arrive in Jerusalem.

Couldn’t President Bush just hold a conference call with the Middle Eastern leaders? I’m sure between the American and Israeli governments, someone could afford a couple of web cams. Didn’t Israel invent web cams? ICQ? Tiny USB sticks?

Wouldn’t they be more comfortable discussing the impossibility of peace in a resort in Eilat? Couldn’t they negotiate weapons sipping tea in a Beduin tent in the Negev?

It’s just that – with all due respect (or not) – all of us ‘regular people’ in Jerusalem are going to be mighty peeved as this Wednesday through Friday we sit in hours of traffic, arrive to work late and endure loud caravan sirens on the residential streets.

Ah, what we sacrifice in the name of peace.

Details about Bush’s visit and traffic changes.

What Jewish TV taught me tonight.


Tonight was the first taping of Tuesday Night Live, “the first Israel-based Jewish TV show broadcast around the globe.” I suppose I was curious about what all that meant (being aware that it is run by Ohr Olam and produced by Arutz Sheva).

When we arrived and I got a pamphlet, it became clearer what this project was all about:

With the world focusing on the situation in the Middle East, Israel is defined by terror, corruption and despair… The purpose of TNL is to reveal the joyful heart of a nation which has triumphed against all odds. As Jews living out our destiny in our Homeland, it is finally within our power to harness the spiritual light that emanates from Jerusalem, and with it, illuminate the world.

 

This first episode was an enthusiastic introduction to the show and the goals of its hosts (as mentioned above), Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel.

The audience was composed of many members of the Nefesh b’Nefesh crowd; new olim from the last five years or so, bursting with what a lot would call religious/spiritual/hippie Zionist enthusiasm. A few people were asked to share why they came to Israel and all very energetically and lovingly spoke in the name of religious, Zionistic aliyah.

I’m very proud of what Ari (who I know on somewhat of a personal level) is doing as far as taking something he truly believes in and empowering himself to spread his message. I find him to be a very modest but inspiring person, and it radiates along with his message, throughout this specific angle of the Jewish community.

While watching the audience get involved, I wondered what I myself could contribute to this televised conversation if I spoke up. The answer I came up with in my fantasy goes something like this:

I agree that as a historic, ethnic and religious family, we Jews must stick together and constantly rebuild and reinvent ourselves. I believe all Jews, on some level, do believe in this concept and wish it to come to fruition. I think Israel plays an important role in that, as does our Torah and our collective story.

But I think that it is not just about being good, God-loving or fearing Jews that will help us get along in the world; for we are not alone, and never have been, and never will be. We need to remember to be human. We must keep the connection with other humans alive. There is a lot more to this world than our specific Jewish existence – why, there are many Jewish experiences, for starters.

I can’t help but come at this from the point of view of my studies. I think the role of a Jewish mediator might be this: to always keep in mind what dispersed us in the beginning, sina’at chinam (hatred for our fellow man). The role of a Jewish mediator might be to remind ourselves constantly that we are not alone and we must always strive to live peacefully with the other Jews and the other nations around us.

There is an idea that when giving charity, you first give your family and then your community and then you spread out through the circles in life. Should it not be this way too, with creating and maintaining coexistence?

The job isn’t done until most people here in Israel can understand this and live it. The audience there tonight was very excited about sacrificing what the rest of the world offers and building Jewish lives in Israel, but no one mentioned the possibility aliyah grants of living with all kinds of Jews from different places and backgrounds – peacefully, in one state, the way it used to be two thousand years ago.

I guess that is what I would have said: By living here, I get the chance to live amongst people who my peers abroad call their brothers but who they don’t really ever get to know. I get to sit next to these brothers on the bus, walk near them on the streets. I get to look deeper inside them, past their payot, and past their light or dark skin; listen to them through their accented Hebrew. I’m here, existing in a place, with the opportunity to make true the idea that peaceful coexistence between brothers – and beyond brothers – can exist.

And when all of us olim – whether we arrived here in 1930’s Palestine or came in the last five years off a Nefesh flight – can recognize that point – I really think the world will truly be illuminated by the Jewish existence.

So, Ari and Jeremy, I do hope this point gets raised at some point – and then over and over – on your show, and I wish you the best of luck in driving it home – to all Jews, and even beyond.

The view from here and National Geographic.

On Sunday nights there is usually nothing on TV for basic-cable watchers; or at least this one. Tonight, however, National Geographic had a special on anti-terrorism technology. And wouldn’t you know, Israel served as all of their examples for technological solutions to preventing terrorism.

bomb robot

Sure, they butchered our names – Amos is ‘Aymus’, Pessach is “Paysack”. And the Israelis do their interviews with thick heavy accents. But it’s nice seeing my own on TV in a positive light, even if the topic is – as always – terrorism.

Which brings me to the eerie feeling that I think many of us have been having lately: something big – and bad – is brewing in these parts. You can feel the stirring if you sit still for a few moments… And it’s a lot weightier than the mild earthquakes we’ve been experiencing in the last week.

Intifadas tend to spring up from the depths of misery after a ‘peace talk’ has proven fruitless. It seems like we’re due for one any minute, considering the kinds of people being called up for miluim lately and the amounts of police back on the roads these days. It’s starting to waft in, odorless, but you can sense it in the media when you hear about knife-wielders caught here or guns jamming there.

I wish there’d be a special on National Geographic about Israel’s advances in cancer research or infertility treatments. Hopefully soon. But for now, I can only take comfort in the fact that as this feeling creeps over me, I’m in somewhat protective hands.

Playing the PeaceMaker… from your desktop.

Not sure I’ve ever mentioned this ‘out loud’ here before, but I maintain a second blog called Better Than Misery which covers my journey as a mediation student.

The latest post I wrote is actually relevant both here and there, so I thought I’d bring some attention to it here:

PeaceMaker

Yesterday, Haaretz newspaper did a promo of the new PeaceMaker Game released by the Peres Center for Peace. It was included in the (left-wing) paper and is being sold from the game’s website for $19.95.

The motto of the game is: “Play the news. Solve the puzzle.” That’s pretty much what it’s about: solving a strategic puzzle, essentially getting your ratings – as a world leader (of your choice) – to be 100% good with both the Palestinians and Israelis. That sounds politics to me, not really conflict resolution. More of a short term thing and a game centered around displaying the hardships of a world leader embroiled in conflict.

Read the rest…