Friday, July 28, 2006

Sulha - Jerusalem

I had to take a test for Osteoporosis at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus. I took a sick day off work, which is something I hadn't done in 4 years, and thought it was high time I did. Normally hospitals give me the creeps, but when you walk into one in Israel, you see the many kinds of people all being given treatment here - Arabs, Druze, Jews - and I thought what a nice place for a "Sulha"

I had to prepare for a visit by 19 interfaith workers from the States later that afternoon and really didn't want to give the impression of being a "dirty Jew" in my home. I ended up doing what I usually delegate to my kids - cleaning the bathroom and thought that'll better my reputation. I managed to give a 45 minute lecture and field questions from the group. The reason they were so interested in visiting with me is that I live over the green line - so that kind of makes me a settler of sorts. I don't live way over the green line, but about a 10 minute drive. And I'm a peace worker. So settlers and peace workers don't usually jive and they were curious to meet me, after one of the members of their group had met me at an olive-picking expedition with Taayush or Rabbis for Human Rights.

"Can I clone you?" asked one of the visitors after my speech.

"Huh? I think my kids would be absolutely horrifed to have two of me around..."

One thought I'd make a good rabbi. A gypsy rabbi. That'll be a first.

I invited another resident of our town to speak because I wanted them to get another perspective of how the majority of people think around here. I'm definitely not in the majority. After he spoke and talked about how awful it was not to be able to pray on the Temple Mount because it is the Jews' holiest site (not the Western Wall as most people think) and expressing wishes that the 3rd temple will be rebuilt right there, someone asked him about the Nakba. Before he arrived, part of my lecture was that we are ignorant of one another and most Israelis don't really know or care about what Palestinians call the Nakba (the 1948 catastrophe where they were forced to leave or voluntarily left their villages inside Israel - after which most of these villages were totally demolished).

"NAKBA??" he walked towards the questioner. "Why is it a Nakba? Because Israel was created?" He seemed to be fuming.

I smiled because - hey - I'm right on. This guy has no clue what it means.

The person explained - "It's because in 1948 many Arabs had to flee their homes and this created many refugees...."

But he didn't continue.

The speaker actually said he would like to come to one of my interfaith meetings, which would be great because then he'd get some more knowledge in, and he wouldn't have to feel so defensive when someone mentions the Nakba or other things Palestinians go through. We certainly know what we go through - the constant fear of terrorist attacks when in crowded buses and streets and cafes - but we simply do not know the fear of the Other. And this is what we have to be brave enough to face as well.

The next day was the 3 hour Sulha gathering in Jerusalem. I tried to pull in others to the gathering, but it was quite difficult at this time. I met up with Hubby and his friend just in from Toronto and a young man who was his driver and friend of this guy's family.

Hubby had already prepped him about my peace work. They were totally not into it.

The young guy, a cute 22 year old, explained to me his difficulties when he served in the army while going into Ramallah for an operation searching for terrorists.

"There was a man there with his kid. He was holding a gun towards us. We're given orders that if they have a gun on them, we're allowed to shoot. Look, it's either us or the guy." He paused. "So I shot him"

I didn't ask - what did the little kid do? What did you do about him? I just said "That is absolutely awful." How awful to have to make life and death decisions like this when you're no older than 18 or 19 years old yourself.

And with that sad thought, I walked towards the Sulha gathering in Jerusalem's Gan Sacher park where you couldn't help but notice the large circle of people sitting quietly in a meditation for peace. Arabs from the North had come in droves with their families - some traumatized by the Katyushas. I invited some Arab teens to stay in my home and they thanked me, but I think they still want to return to their families later in the evening.

We spoke in a listening circle for an hour - everyone spoke from their heart about their anger, sadness and hope about today's situation in Lebanon and Gaza - after which we listened to some prayers. Standing in a circle, we sang together one traditional prayer in Hebrew (Ein K'eloheinu - "there is no God but our God") and Arabic (la illa il Allah - also - "there is no other god besides God") in a particularly beautiful melody, which is still ringing in my head this morning, and my soul was happy to be in the midst of an oasis of peace in a public park in Jerusalem where many curious onlookers looked but didn't join. Seeing is believing though and I hope they went back to their families to tell them about seeing this unusual large group of Jews and Arabs sitting peacefully together.

And as the evening ended, I had a spiritual revelation of sorts. Remembering that these are the 9 days before our ancient fast of Tisha B'av when the Jewish Temple was destroyed 2,000 years ago, where even the 9 days take on some aspects of mourning, many Jewish sages have said the reason the temple was destroyed was because of baseless hatred between Jews. Then there was the split of the Israeli kingdom to become separate kingdoms of Israel (North) and Judea (South) around 500 or 800 b.c.(and am too lazy to look up the exact date) and the subsequent destruction of the first Temple on the same date of Tisha B'av.

An Orthodox Jewish onlooker spoke to me about our group and said "The North and South of Israel are really divided" - the North is feeling the war, and the South feels nothing. Not to mention all these refugees trickling into Jerusalem from the North.

Perhaps God is somehow "dividing" the North and South of this country again so we can do a "tikkun" (repair) of an ancient wrong. And I think somehow we are doing this tikkun, as many many people from the North are being hosted by people from the South - people here are opening up their homes. I see public notices in newspapers of people willing to host Northern families. I get daily e-mails by the dozens about this not to mention Jerusalemites going on holiday who are giving their empty homes over to Northern families until this situation quiets down...

Somehow - this, together with the Sulha, makes for a really good tikkun.


Anonymous said...

While speaking about the western wall, I discovered this site where it is possible to send its word in the stones of the kotel:

hunts4him said...

Your efforts for peace are comendable,Interfaith meeting? Jewish Muslim,Christian? I have a blog at contact me I'm Interested in international peace efforts.I'm trying to create a dialog between citizens of Israel and America,for the purpose of developing friendships that will mutually strengthen our Countries at a grassroots level.
Shalom Troy

jerusalemgypsy said...

Hey! Israel and America are already at peace. We're buddies. But I think we have to make friends with others and extend our "clique" - Good look with the dialogue groups!