26 February 2013


We returned from Israel somewhat bleary-eyed on Monday morning, Oscar winners being announced at the customs terminal in JFK Airport.  Our Delta flight from Tel Aviv was delayed by 5 hours (no explanation ever given) and so after a great last day hiking up Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, and a closing dinner at Anna Ticho, we began to wile away the hours reveling in the Jerusalem Purim scene and then resting a bit more at the Mount Zion Hotel until a 2:30 am bus ride to Ben Gurion.  The Old City glowed in the distance as we loaded our bus and joining a long-practiced a tradition in the city where such behavior is if not normal than certainly ubiquitous, I spoke to the stones.

First I did what I usually do--expressed my love and a promise to return.  Having turned 50 up in the Golan Heights, I have become acutely aware not how old I am or feel (a chronic lack of maturity ensures my youthful pride) but just how rare and precious are these opportunities.  While I felt no particular pang of spiritual oneness (Jerusalem is an oddly inspiring profane place) I did feel a sea-deep binding with my teachers, with history, and with the raging current-ness of Israeli life.

It was almost as if it came to me this way:  the trouble in this land all these years is that people mistake its mystery and power with God, when in fact God is, if anything, more like the insulation meant to protect us from shocking ourselves to death.  It defies logic, after all, to think that God can possibly approve of Hezbollah rockets poised yet again in Lebanon; Hamas rockets aimed again at Sderot and Tel Aviv; nuclear centrifuges spinning toward confrontation in Iran; or Hilltop Settlers beating Palestinians or Western Wall rabbis oppressing women.  We did a graffiti tour in Tel Aviv with the brilliant Guy Sharett, walking through the Florentine neighborhood, analyzing what street art says about an area on the verge of radical gentrification, contemporary Israeli life, war and the admixtures of cynicism and the hope for peace.
One particular piece of graffiti stands out:  a "fake" quote from the Book of Proverbs, permitting the act of spitting in the face of women who dare to sit in the front of the bus.  A passerby had attempted to cover up the graffiti, a religious person no doubt offended by its irreverence.  Which of course begs the question:  what is holier?  The defamation of women not allowed to sit or pray where they choose or the defamation of a holy book, defamed by a man who through his aspirations to be near the Divine stomps out freedom and human dignity?

It was that kind of trip.

On the other hand, there were Shabbat evening services in the city at an Orthodox synagogue where women do lead.  And today's Haaretz reports that the intrepid Women of the Wall won't back down from confronting the corrupt powers of the Western Wall Authorities.  And even though Yair Lapid nixed his party's tour of East Jerusalem settlement policy, we were among three different groups working to understanding Jerusalem's complex reality with Ir Amim on a great walking tour ourselves, which is to say that despite seeming fortifications of seemingly intractable problems, there are others aiming to make things changes.

There's alot to say about our ten days, more of which will be posted here in the days to come.

My heart turns again to those silent stones, emanating with the electrical currents of fools like me, and I pray into this keyboard, backlit, to find the right words to keep her close, that City of Peace.

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