15 February 2012

Here and There

The new trail that runs along the old Jerusalem rail line is a great place to run.  My morning workouts went from the Mount Zion Hotel where we were staying, down the hill past Cinemateque, up toward Jaffa Gate, around the corner and down the hill to Damascus Gate, then back toward the tracks, through Baka and into Talpiot, ending back on Emek Refaim at Aroma.  That was more or less my run this past summer as well and it so it shall be in July upcoming.  During our four days in Jerusalem, I saw two members of our shul trip logging their miles as well along the same trail.  Just like in the park here in Brooklyn.

Today, as rain fell upon my head, making my way through Prospect Park after an all-night flight from Tel Aviv, I thought of Exile.  The Jewish community has recently taken up a new buzz-word, "Peoplehood," which, I gather, is an attempt at landing upon some of talking about how Jews define themselves when they don't exclusively define themselves in religious terms.  Like, "We're a People:  with language, land, history, calendar, customs AND faith."

I wonder if there'll ever be Commission on Exile.  I doubt it.  But someone might look into it.

Exile means loving the ground beneath my feet, the verdant soil, the bare trees, the anticipation of the work ahead when I re-engage with the synagogue on Thursday--but feeling an inexplicable sense of loss, a lack of wholeness because the intensity of the questions of Jewishness has been turned down a notch, living here.  What did Einstein say?  "One can be internationally minded without renouncing interest in one's tribal comrades."

That's certainly true.  And to me represents a kind of exilic statement.  It recognizes a here and there.  Which is not to say that Exile isn't felt when I'm there, in Jerusalem.  A bit of a stranger here; a bit of a stranger there.  But there, the Jewishness at a more existentially intense level.

Still, in New York, at all times of year, we see Israelis in love with their national sport, shopping.  And why not?  The heaviness that can hang over life there, its tense, high-wire act.  But beneath the surface is another kind of exile--the pressure to leave that I heard alot about on this trip.  The fear of a war with Iran hangs over many heads and there is a kind of unspoken market for passports to other countries.  There's the brain drain to other academies of higher learning.  And there is an overall sense of exhaustion from decades of unresolved conflict with Israel's neighbors.  Both Palestinians and Israelis feel rather despairing of prospects for peace; each seem to have dug in for the long haul, ceding the ground to extremists on both sides.  And then there is terrifying instability of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria with its daily massacres, and Iran threatening nuclear mayhem while stirring the pot in New Delhi, Bangkok, and Georgia.  They hate us when we're here; they hate us when we're there.

Where's Exile?

What else did Einstein say?  "Perhaps it is thanks to it [anti-Semitism] that we have been able to preserve our race...Let us leave the goj his anti-Semitism and preserve for ourselves the love for our kind."

Precisely why bold leadership is needed:  to accept, like Einstein, that the hate will always exist.  So let's get on with the other project--that of living and loving.

Preparing to leave Jerusalem last night, despite my skepticism in the agency of such things, I left a note in the Western Wall for mom's health, for a friend's brother, and I promised Jerusalem I'd be back.

I don't know if it was an act of faith or if it's just what our people do.

Here and There.

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