Along with the heart-felt tributes to Arik Einstein, there has been a fascinating undercurrent of emotional hoarding on the part of some Israelis. Assuming that no one outside of Israel has ever heard of Arik Einstein or any of his songs, they then make a further assumption that it is their job to explain what he and his music meant. Yet after this double-assumption, everything closes down. Writes Israeli-born Liel Leibovitz: “I have nothing to say to you about Arik Einstein. I’m sorry to sound like a prick, but you wouldn’t get it.” It’s an extreme comment, but sums up a prevailing sentiment. Those non-Israelis, they won’t get it.
There is something rather beautiful and also sad about this kind of response. The character and the music of Arik Einstein made its impact in the way the best of art should: Through our hearts. His music touched millions, each of whom received it as if created for them alone. This is the paradoxical magic of art. As a result, when feeling his loss, it is a personal emotional loss that – when we are sad – we sometimes fight to “own”. “You wouldn’t get it,” is a perfect way to maintain the purity and unique authenticity of my pain. To Full Post
A few years ago I was the counselor for a group of immigrant students in Israel. The first activity that I was asked to run out was on Chanukah. My initial reaction was to use every means to try and avoid the task, because as far as I’m concerned the educational function of Chanukah as a festival ended after elementary school. Dreidels, Chanukah menorahs, jelly doughnuts, Chanukah gelt … you grow out of it after you lose your milk teeth, in my opinion. Add to that, from the perspective of my twenty-three years, I was convinced that if I had not experienced any miracles personally, there were no such things. To Full Post
1. Positive Thinking
Our blogger Dikla Rivlin-Katz believes that the main message of Chanuka is about positive thinking. “If I had been Judah the Maccabee, I wouldn’t have even tried to light the menorah with oil left for only one day. It wouldn’t have occurred to me even to try…” For more, click here.
2. Iran and Chanukah
The many contradicting responses to the breakthrough/deal/capitulation over Iran’s nuclear capabilities sometimes seem like more of a portrait of the writers’ states of mind, rather than cold analysis. The Chanukiah itself has much to teach us of this battle between optimism and pessimism. For more, click here.
3. What if Chanuka were in May?
Much has been made of Chanukah’s meeting with Thanksgiving. But what if Chanukah were by some freak hole in the cosmos to happen in May? Then we’d find an even more fruitful comparison – between Chanukah and Yom Ha’atzmaut. Both festivals are celebrated outside and inside of Israel, and both mark a historical event that took place in the land of Israel. One difference is that while Chanukah has found harmonious and inspiring rituals that engage the family home and the community, Yom Ha’atzmaut continues to find itself struggling for a consistent place at our hearth. For more on comparisons between Yom Ha’atzmaut and Jewish holidays, click here.
4. Whose side are you on?
Whose side would you take? It’s clear that in a struggle between darkness and light, we’re on the side of sunshine. But in our daily life, to what extent are we on the side of a proud, ideological, and sometimes violent form of cultural separatism? Or on the other hand, how often do we find ourselves supporting an inclusive, flexible and non-partisan approach to cultural integration? With that in mind, let’s take another look at the ideology and strategies of the Maccabees on the one hand and the Hellenists on the other…
5. The latkes have it
The latkes (levivot) have it. As we mix and grate, fry and chew, we know in our hearts that the flavors are in the complexity. Chanukah mixes the pure and the impure, the war and the miracle, the doing and the hoping, with enough and never enough. If for no other reason, this might define it as perhaps the ultimate Israeli festival.
So while I always get confused about whether we light the Chanukiah from the right or from the left, I never get confused about the cumulative effect. First night is only one candle, second night is two candles, and the final night is the whole dark-banishing lot.
This morning, trying to get my head round the Iran Breakthrough/Deal/Compromise/Capitulation, I was reminded of the old argument about which order we should light the Chanukiah.
Bet Shammai, concerned for the correct and truthful representation of things, insisted that on the first night of Chanukah we should light all of the candles, reducing the number every night until the final night only one candle should be lit. This is in correct and proper representation of the amount of light in the day, which in December diminishes every day. Just as light is falling in the world, so should it decline in the house.
Bet Hillel just could not accept this reasoning. However rational and true, the Shammai ruling was just too depressing. I often like to think that Hillel appreciated the aesthetic side of things: Increasing the light daily is just prettier and lifts the soul. Bringing light to banish the darkness gives us hope.
So here we are on the cusp of Chanukah, with the results of the Geneva talks gradually being assessed and judged. Not being a nuclear physicist nor an international statesman myself, I find myself switching between columnists like one might switch between Shammai and Hillel. Sometimes I see clearly we are heading towards darkness. Sometimes towards the light.
And maybe this Chanukah, as we light ourselves a symbol of increasing optimism in defiance of the reality outside, I might also pray for a miracle.
Jerusalem has been a-popping with assemblies and conferences. The Assembly of the Jewish Agency for Israel overlapped with the General Assembly of Jewish Federations (GA), which fed into the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency… A real party!
Makom was highly involved in all these gatherings, and as well as working like dogs, we also learned a few fascinating lessons…
1. We were surprised that non-Israelis were surprised that Israelis are engaged on meaningful journeys of Jewish Identity.
Yes, that’s right – a double surprise. At the session we ran at the GA on the Jewish identity of Israelis, we decided to take multi-vocality to its ultimate conclusion. Instead of having a panel of a few Israelis, we invited over 27 Israelis involved in all sorts of different Jewish identity questions, and sat them around small discussion tables. That way everyone would hear at least three different stories. From the head of a Secular Yeshiva, to the leader of a group of Orthodox gay men, to the orthodox woman working for the New Israel Fund. People from the far North, deep South, trendy center. People born in Israel and born elsewhere. All of them engaged and committed to expanding their own and other Israelis’ Jewish horizons. To Full Post
This year it will be the 16th Memorial Day of the Assassination of Rabin. Every event that repeats itself year on year presents an educational challenge, but unlike traditional Jewish holy days, the shape of this Memorial Day is being formed in the here and now. And I ask myself what will make this Memorial Day into something different from other value-laden days like May Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Columbus Day? Is there anything to be learned from a political assassination? Did the world learn anything from Kennedy’s assassination? Martin Luther King’s? To Full Post
What was the secret of the charm of Rav Ovadiah Yosef?
On the one hand there were his fans and followers through fire and water who related to every word of his as holy; yet on the other, a whole swathe of Jews who saw him as a leader whose statements were hurtful and communally insensitive?
How is it possible that there can be those who saw him as a great leader who established the tent of the Torah, and others who saw him a leader of a crowd of primitives?
How can it be that a man of phenomenal intellect and superlative expertise in all areas of Judaism, failed again and again by shaming and slandering other leaders? To Full Post
For two years at the turn of the millennium, I would ask this same question at every school I visited in Israel.
Studying Jewish Educational Leadership with the Mandel School, we would go out on field trips throughout Israel. Dialogical alternative schools, Shas schools, Haredi schools, different shades of Orthodox schools, Jewish/Arab schools, teaching colleges – the lot. And at every school I would ask only one question, the answer to which would tell me all I needed to know about the school.
“What does your school do on Rabin Day?” To Full Post
I’ve been doing a lot of HaDag Nahash recently. As part of my work for Makom I’ve been translating the latest album at the band’s request, and preparing translation projections for their show at the opening of London’s new JW3 building. Lots of bilingualising and cutting and pasting.
Then a couple of nights ago I took my daughter to see a gig of theirs, at the outdoor amphitheater in Binyamina. Standing there, bopping and singing with my thirteen year-old as I had done some 11 years ago with my then-fourteen year old son at Limmud UK, I was struck by three thoughts.
HaDag Nahash have been going a long time, they keep getting better, and their work has helped me live and thrive in this strange and wonderful country. To Full Post
They say you should never try to translate a joke, but I just can’t resist. These memes flying around the cracking facebook page best translated as “Tweeted Statuses” should not be kept from the non-Hebrew reading world. The interplay between modern Hebrew and liturgical Hebrew is a great deal of fun…
There are the ones that just play on the word slicha – סליחה. It means “sorry”, and also “forgiveness”, but sometimes “excuse me” – hence our opening cutey that initially looks like a standard facebook request for forgiveness.
The small print asks “What is the time?” So the re-read of the meme would be “Excuse me, what’s the time?” Tee hee… To Full Post