I don’t know if this is just me, but when I am extremely pressured with work, and have a to-do list that contains more items than there are minutes in the day to do them, I am far more productive than when I actually have time on my hands, but am somehow unable to get my act together. Know what I mean? Until Shavuot, I was working on three editorial projects simultaneously, yet I still managed to go shopping, make phone calls, ya di ya, yet here I am now, enjoying a brief hiatus before the commencement of my next project, and I have become Queen Procrastinator, concocting a multitude of excuses why it is best for me not to fulfill the most menial of tasks.
Oh well. Still no excuse for not blogging, I know. Truth is, I have had a lot on my mind lately, mainly about what is happening to this country of ours, G-d help us. My husband’s aunt, who made Aliyah from Milwaukee the year I was born, 1978, spent the Shabbat with us. She has lived in Jerusalem for the last thirty years, and has raised six children in this country. I was talking to her on Friday night about what is going on politically this country, and how hopeless things seem to be right now. Sometimes when I speak to Israelis who have been in the country since almost the establishment of the State, my spirits are buoyed. They have seen the good times and the bad times, and they have a sense of perspective that we newbies lack. I was hoping that I would hear some reassuring words from Josh’s aunt, who is a deeply spiritual and passionate woman, but she too expressed a sense of helplessness that has been weighing me down now for a while.
If I am to be honest, I have to admit that I am not too hopeful about the future of this country. I want to believe that before we can see the light, we have to experience dark, and all of that, and that we have witnessed miracles before, but somehow it feels different now. I don’t know that as a Jewish people, we necessarily deserve this country. Perhaps we might delude ourselves into thinking that we are entitled to this country, that it belongs to the Jews, and it is therefore our inalienable right to hold on to it, but what are we doing as a Jewish people, as a nation, to DESERVE it?
If we look at the current government, we will not find one individual who has not faced indictment. If we look at our educational system, it is enough to make you weep. Children in chiloni (secular) schools are not learning about Zionism; they are not learning about the history of Israel; they are not learning about Tanach, and the festivals. The few secular Israelis in this country who actually care about instilling in their children a sense of national and Jewish identity have to send their children to religious schools in order for them to receive the most rudimentary education. We know an exceptionally nice secular Israeli couple who live in our neighborhood, and run a food store in Modiin, and they told us that even though they are not religious, they feel that they need to transfer their children from the secular school to a religious one because their teenagers’ faces were blank when you ask them who were Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion. So again, what exactly are we doing RIGHT in this country that entitles us to hold on to it? We [and I am talking about the majority of Israelis] don’t turn up to vote for elections; we try to mollify the Arab world at the heavy cost of our own security and soldiers’ lives; we are constantly and futilely seeking the approval of other governments; we are apathetic and indifferent about what is going on this country, and instead fantasize about green cards and ways of leaving the country. By giving up on Gaza, we have shattered the ideals and hope of the young settlers whose passion has been extinguished, and who have become old and burnt out overnight. So what do we do as a response to the upheaval and psychological trauma that has afflicted our country? Do we learn from our mistakes? Do we avoid the pitfalls that were responsible for our downfall? No. That would be too logical. We are talking of giving up the Golan, going back and repeating our mistakes, resulting potentially in more bedlum, more chaos, and ultimately, the downfall of our country. The Jews of Sderot are suffering on a daily basis, and instead of providing them with refuge and support, the government is encouraging them to stay put. On Friday night, when we were discussing the situation over Challah and chummus, as Jews are wont to do, Josh said that the Jews of Sderot ought to stop paying their taxes as a way of protecting themselves. That way, the police will arrive on their doorsteps, arrest them, and they will find themselves in the haven of a police cell, where at least they are safe from rockets.
When you take a look at the insanity in Israel, it is all too easy to throw your hands up in the air, and say: What can we do? We are totally and utterly powerless. The government is doing nothing to protect us. Lives have been lost and terrorized in vain. What can we, as individuals, do to effect positive change? The best course of action might very well seem to be to pack one’s bags, and leave. But for all those people who have made Aliyah to Israel, who have thrown in their lot with the Jewish people, for better for worse, I don’t think we left behind our families, our cushy jobs, our luxuries, to give up that easily. I think that apathy is a luxury that we can’t afford, and that small steps, even though they may seem to be inconsequential, can go a long way in boosting our individual, and ulimately collective, morale.
Josh’s aunt was telling us about the organization VAT (Victims of Arab Terror) that provide financial and emotional support to those people who were either directly affected by terror, or who have lost family members to terrorist attacks. She told me that she was feeling a similar sense of malaise, but that she heard about this organization, and decided to attend an event in which victims of terror gathered to share their stories. People whose lives were torn apart, people who lost limbs in terrorist attacks, who lost their children, who had every reason to give up on life and humanity, were sharing their stories, but were living and breathing testimony to the enduring strength of the human spirit. They were not bitter or angry or despondent, nor did they talk about leaving the country. They talked about the miracles, the beauty of Israel, and the hopes for better times. I was deeply moved by her description of the event, and it made me feel that perhaps there is something we can do. You just have to be able to push aside the all-consuming feelings of frustration at the country, and focus on helping people in whatever way you can – whether it be someone in the street, opening up your home to Jews from Sderot, or donating money to worthy causes in Israel. There is always something you can do.