Thursday, January 3, 2008

Monday, April 16, 2007

Yom HaShoah

It's been almost 2 months since the last blog, I guess a good sign that I stopped observing and started participating. I know that the juggling's become much easier--work, family, Israel. I'm just here rather than thinking a lot about being here. At least most of the time. The city drew quiet last night, and the t.v. became serious--all holocaust-related programs. We watched the ceremony from Yad VaShem. It's hard to know where the Holocaust ends and Israel's suffering begins. A friend said "everyone here feels touched by the losses in our wars" a literally true statement that doesn't hold true for the holocaust. It moved me to here survivors speaking Hebrew--a rebirth for them and for the language and for our people all at the same time.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Place of Refuge

Lunched with new friends from Boston: both grads of a famous dayschool high school in NYC area. Both distanced from that world, philosophically and in their life style; both committed to giving their kids enough knowledge/exposure for them to make an informed choice about Jewishness. But will that work in Diaspora? They had lots of historical/ethnic/religious experience; their kids will be that much further from those sorts of people/places/senses. So they come here and I can tell they're feeling as if "wow: here we wouldn't have to work so hard at all of this stuff." Just to be. Hebrew, Shabbat, the air.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Charley on the MTA

I rode the bus today, for the first time. A city bus that is. We promised our mother we wouldn't--at least the kids and my wife--which presumably included me as well. The Gemara on that Mishnah is that we don't apply that restriction to inter-city travel. The central bus station seems well secured, it's fast and cheap and we feel a safe and practical mode of transportation. We avoided renting a car; the trains get poor reviews for speed, so the bus seems the best bet. But in the city felt scarier. On this bus security types came on at some point downtown; with German shepherds to boot. I'm not used to feeling joy at the sight of a big dog but in this case I liked it. We live right on a bus line, and I took a nice tour of the city, literally going at least half way around it, from our part of southern Jerusalem, past the King David Hotel, up Jaffo St, then all the way up into the hilly outskirts. Why? Because I wussed out and didn't ask the bus driver where I should get off, and the little the taciturn man provided I didn't fully make out. But I eventually found my destination. People looked thoroughly buslike--staring out the window, talking, sleeping, the normal range of what people express on buses. Amazing: the human ability to compartmentalize/forget/rationalize call it whatever you want. Wonder if that'll happen to me.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

1 + 1 = 0

This may read like Berenstein Bears for Adults, something like "Berenstein Bears and Too Much Sabbatical." File this away dear reader in the "stop whining about doing something that most of us never get to do" category, by all means. Allow me my self-indulgence for the moment. I spoke with an old friend tonight, who's lived here for over twenty years, is raising 4 kids here, etc. His youngest is in the States right now, with her mother who's on a sabbatical of her own. The 8th grader faces a nice choice of high schools. So does my daughter. So why am I envious? Because I'm unresolved about my daughter's options, Jewishly and otherwise. Real three bears stuff and I don't feel any of the choices taste right. Bottom line is that the Jewish thing in America is inorganic in some deep way. The street isn't Jewish, the language, the time of day, etc. It's not a moral criticism, it is what it is. A non-Jewish space and time. It's just different here. Yes the split between religious and secular exists, and yes the state-run Orthodox mafia does violence to Judaism, but in spite of those problems this is a Jewish place/space. And the educational possibilities for kids to grow Jewishly are tremendous, in spite of the overburdened underfinanced school system generally speaking. And my kids aren't going to benefit from those, not in any real sense.
That's a way of stating my ambivalence about my own place in the universe. I'm here for too long to be a total tourist, yet for not long enough to be here, dealing with things like "where's your kid going to school next year" kind of stuff and everything else. Like I said, I know it sounds like sourgrapes: the point is I'm so lucky to have two places to live in both of which I'm doing interesting things, yet it feels like they add up to less than one whole place. Leah Goldberg wrote a poem about pine trees where she reminisces about her native Lithuania and its forests. The pines, ill-advisedly planted here by incompetent planners, suggest to her that maybe she's neither place: she's the pine tree planted in the wrong soil, stuck somewhere between Lithuania and Tel Aviv. As much as I hope and intend for this time to be precious for me and for us as a family, I cannot see how this feeling will subside. If anything the opposite.