April 26, 2006
So busy, and so many times I say to myself “the World should see/ know this – must at least write to those I know…”
But natural ignorance is a fact we have to live with. It’s the ever more subjective nature of what we do know that worries me.
And it obviously worried Donna Rosenthal, whose book, ‘The Israelis – Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land’ I have just discovered. It’s been around for 2-3 years. Although I have only now discovered it – and have only now ordered it. But I have checked on enough comments – and also seen what Donna has been doing in the 3 years since publication.
She’s been zigzagging across the States on the lecture tour, reportedly one of the most popular, opening people’s eyes. Not necessarily denying what they see and know and think, and certainly not focusing on politics. She just wants them to know that there is more than that to Israel, and it’s usually a surprise or even a shock.
A lot does go on here; we’re not really starved of events that make us part of the World’s community. It’s just that the Israelis really do hunger for more proof or normality. Sting’s coming in Summer, and Depeche Mode, and those are only the ones about whom my daughters spoke today.
And 10 days ago, what appeared to be the whole country jumped in their cars and made for the Tel Aviv seafront. The event was the start of some French Culture week, and this was being celebrated with what was promoted to be one of the World’s largest-ever fireworks display, put on by the same team that arranged the Athens Olympics ceremonies.
We parked the car some distance away, and enjoyed a 30 mins. walk to the beach. We decided not to try to get too close to the lighting-up zone. We grabbed chairs on the beach about 1 km. north. I mean, it was going to be a big one, wasn’t it? We got the thermos out, and put on our fireworks display smiles in great expectation. After a few minutes, we saw some ‘practice’ sparklers and rockets in the distance. We had our smiles ready for that. But the smiles dropped a little when we realised that they were the start of the show.
Well, it was a 20-minute show (how time flies) and there was some good stuff. And we would surely have enjoyed it more had we been within earshot of the music (which we found out later was not such a big deal even if you were part of the $1,000-a-place party slap bang in front of the show). But the fireworks display of our lives it was not. And during the traffic jams going home, we had plenty of time to ponder the pros and cons. Well, the cons. I expect there were lots of baguettes, Camembert and French wine left over afterwards.
A cousin of mine’s husband died last week. He had been ill for some time, but it’s always a shock. The funeral was in Petach Tikva, which means ‘hope awakening’. It was one of the first towns established after the arrival of the earlier Zionists. Some lovely villas. But for some reason, it has taken on the reputation of a lower-middle class new town for immigrants and newlyweds. Lots of high-rises; plenty of trees, but not enough grass around them. You know what I mean.
At the cemetery, the ceremony was attended by a totally secular crowd, yet of course was religious. That’s the law and tradition of the land. And in this place, the men and woman were initially separated. Only when we walked to the grave could we mix again. We felt very safe, for there at least 50 policemen in attendance – and perhaps more in plain clothes. One of the 4 sons is high in the police.
It’s always strange (for me) to see no coffin, but a shroud on a stretcher – a reminder of how Jewish Jesus was. It makes everything clearer, something which I personally find more difficult to handle. I remember once that I was one of the 4 ‘body carriers’ for the friend of my wife. I had the ‘head end’. One of the others stumbled slightly, and the body lurched a little, her head bumping against my hand. Not something I forget easily.
It was a hot day. All will have been happy to get back to the air-conditioners. Many went back to my cousin’s apartment, where Shiva then started. ‘Shiva’ comes from the word ‘Sheva’, meaning 7. The apartment becomes the venue of 7 days of mourning, during which many come to talk, reminisce, hug, laugh and cry.
And 40 kms. down the road, a truce is called between the warring forces. Only this time, it’s Palestinians and Palestinians. What a bloody mess.