Monday, May 6, 2013

Shabbat in Givat Ze'ev with the Ever Family



I was about to go into "panic mode" having missed the last Friday afternoon bus from Jerusalem to Givat Ze'ev when Gad Ever, one of my closest friends, called to inform me he was still in the Jerusalem area and would pick me up from the Central Bus station and take me to the West Bank settlement where his parents moved about five years ago.

As Gad and I traversed highway 443 which connects Givat Zeev with Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, we watched the sun dipping beyond the hills to the East. Shabbat was approaching. Soon, public transportation in Israel would shut down, and people around the country would put away their mobile devices in preparation for the Sabbath, the national day of rest.

Givat Ze'ev is a thriving settlement just northwest of Jerusalem. It's named after Ze'ev Vladimir Zhabotinsky, perhaps the single greatest Jewish leader of the 20th century. The population of Givat Ze'ev numbers about 11,200. Most of these are young families. The flourishing municipality has continued expanding under Binyamin Netanyahu's government.

Having said a brief "Hello" to Gad's mom, I took the next half an hour to take some pictures of the serene countryside. I imagined how much my parents would perhaps enjoy living here one day. I imagined this Judean town growing into a sprawling city. "One day," I thought, "...it will be possible."

Shabbat at the Ever's was a refreshing experience. Gad's parents came to Israel from Yemen as little kids. His dad fought in the Sinai Campaign of 1956 and the Six Day War of 1967. The Ever kids all served in the army--the boys along with the girls. It's a family that's time and time again risked their lives for the future of the Jewish people. A majority of families in Givat Ze'ev are exactly the same.

His parents recounted stories about the past, and of course, his mom treated me to the finest Yemenite delicacies. As Shabbat came to an end and I was all packed and ready to go, she shoved a bag full of food into my hands.

"Here, you'll enjoy these!" She was thanking me for helping explain her something on Facebook. No good deed goes for naught in the Ever household because this is how they were raised, and this is how their parents and grandparents were raised. Israel is a country of many unfamiliar faces; many different colors and brands. It takes time to learn to appreciate them equally. For me, it's been a journey; one I wouldn't ever think of doing any other way.

As the new week begins in Israel, we welcome fresh opportunities. There are problems on the horizon in Syria and Iran, but Israel will handle these in due time. Meanwhile, people are getting married, communities are being built, and Israel continues to grow. No one really buys too much into the troubles those on the outside are predicting for our tiny state. You won't hear a word of complaint from Gad or his parents at least.

As Givat Ze'ev continues to grow, so does the rest of Israel. Now is the time to take the bull by the horns, and continue building in Judea and Samaria. I wish all of you a shavua tov, a good week from an area in Jerusalem which the world considers part of a future "Palestinian" state. May it, too, continue to grow.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On Yogurt and Life (or should it be "On Life and Yogurt?")

As I opened up yet another cup of yogurt, a thought struck me: I've been having yogurt ever since we moved to America in '89. I had a taste of the delicious liquidy convocation for the first time when we were staying in a small town just South of Rome en-route to Chicago.

I'd continue having yogurt: chocolate, banana, covered with whipped cream, cookie yogurt, etc, etc to the billionth dimension from then on.

The different types of yogurt I'd had have been a reflection of my life. When I made Aliya in '01, I began my yogumance with new, Israeli yogurts. This lasted till I left Israel in '06. The yogurts I had in Chicago from '06 till my return to Israel a year and a half a go were uhm...OK just like everything else in America: Earth's "only" bastion of freedom, the "last" Superpower. Whatever...

Anyhow, when I came home to Israel, my yogumance just kept on rolling. I took in ginormous (this term has existed since time immemorial but I bow to Ze'ev for re-introducing us) quantities of yogurt with a conviction I'd never had before. And I must admit: they were good!

In any case, I'll wish y'all--whether you're in Chi or in J'lem; Sin City (Tel-Aviv)--or somewhere out in the Northern burbs, a mighty good night and may the best team (Bulls) win!

Oh, and uh...no yogurt for you!

This here wacky post brought to you by your one 'n only...

Letting Go of Old Ties

I'm "done" with a few people I considered close friends. I'm very happy they were part of my life, but I feel I'm entering a new phase and these people have no place (and honestly speaking don't belong) in it. Here's a poem that's dedicated to old friendships, the things I learned from them, letting go of the old, and continuing onwards...because "forward" is the only direction that exists in my life:

We met,
We bonded,
We spoke over lunch,
Now, it's time to part,
At the chess club in Ramat Aviv--
Or in Eilat,
We had good times and bad,
The time to part has come,
And while I feel sad,
What must be done has no way of escaping you or I,
As much as we can try,
To put the past behind us,
To make up and focus on the things that bind us,
We must travel far,
Leave familiar places, lands,
Foreign soil, foreign hands,
Will hug us as we prevail,
You in your world--
I in mine,
Time?
Time shall mend all pain,
It doesn't really matter who will fall--and who will rise 'n shine.

Does it?

Does it really matter if I'm at fault or you?
How will this effect us 10 yrs down the line?
I haven't stolen from you (G-d forbid),
What's mine I've earned (or my parents have given me),
What's yours is yours forever,
And once again kids will cry,
And once again, there will be lemonade and my favorite drink, Lemon Lime...

For Heaven's sake...
Why does any of this matter enough to me?
I should be completely cut off by now--
From her, from you,
Why does it matter?
Am I as crazy as everyone else?
Certainly, I'm no go-getter!
Not as much as she was, no way!
But I'll have my day, you'll see,
You didn't believe in me?
Didn't think I'd climb up out of this?
That I'd give up?
No way--not me!

And for the few, the "chosen" that never stopped believing?
The ones that never lost hope, that always believed?
Is there a present in store for them?
Only G-d knows
Who am I anyway?
Dust and dirt--
עבל אבלים
I'm quoting him again.

The end comes so quickly,
It met a so-called "settler" today,
Any one of us might be next,
Life is fast, we must make the RIGHT choices,
Not the best--but the "right!"
Flight?
From Israel (from life)?
Impossible.
We're all "settlers" here...
My people: have no fear!

Old friends will always be the best,
The first will always be the first,
The first fruit tastes the best,
When one quenches his thirst--
It's best the first time 'round,
No matter what it is,
--or is it?
Up to you to decide, my new-found group of friends,
You shall "define" my future,
My future will "define" yours,
We will laugh over lunch in J'lem
Taste the first seeds of Judean pomegranates,
Drink the wines of Samaria.
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