I remember when August would roll around in Sag Harbor, and our synagogue’s Rosh Chodesh group meeting would focus on Tisha B’av (the 9th day of the month of Av) – the holiday that animates the Hebrew month of Av.
I would always frame the conversation by saying how out of sync the Jewish calendar felt with the Gregorian one. August is the height of summer fun – the beaches and BBQs, summer evening dresses and dinner parties. And in the Jewish calendar cycle Tisha B’Av represents the low point of the Jewish year. We sit on low chairs, we fast – in collective mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temples, the loss of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, and so many other calamities that have befallen the Jewish people. For me, most years the sense of mourning feels forced.
This year, it felt real. We needed Tisha B’av, to give ritual expression to the collective pain that we are all feeling about the war with Hamas. To Full Post
The first time I saw “Waltz with Bashir” it was with a bunch of Jewish educators. “It is going to win an Oscar for sure,” we speculated. But more than an extensive pre-Oscar betting, the kind that occupies Hollywood and the Academy days before the show, our prediction (however wrong it might have been) was a part of a different pre-game analysis.
Any newspaper reader or BBC listener would tell you that Israel is a state whose military machinery is at the center of the society, and that engaging in war, security and defense is most (if not all) that the country does. (It might even be surprising to some people to know that the citizens of the country have time for much else – like making eggs for their kids in the morning or making love to their partners at night).
It always starts with a phone call. “Is everyone ok? Do you know where everyone is? Was anyone there – at the site?” Terrorist attacks were all too common in the 10 years that I lived in Jerusalem from 1994-2004. Sbarro, Cafe Hillel, Hebrew University, the Dolphinarium. Each time a bomb went off, my circle of friends called to check-in. After covering all of our bases, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. That sigh was only partial though, because we knew that someone else’s circle of friends and family were shattered by the news that they had lost someone close to them.
When my friends and family, who lived in the States, asked me if I was scared to live in Israel – if terrorism created a veil of dread too heavy to lift in our day-to-day lives – I told them that my experience was just the opposite. When the edge between life and death is so narrow, living life to the utmost becomes your battle cry. Everything intensifies – your relationships with friends and family, your work, your commitment to make meaning out of the everyday. Without denying death, your life becomes more vivid.