Too much, much too much, time has passed since I last wrote. Of course much too much stuff has happened since my last entry, but that's life no matter where you live. I've written blog entries (in my head, anyway) about the immigrant experience, how everything, down to where to buy toilet paper, has changed, and the love I feel for this land, but for reasons I'm not sure of, the words in my head never made it to my laptop. Clearly, that changed today.
Life has certainly been exciting 'round here. I live in this great little city (when you're from NY and Chicago, 80,000 people makes it a 'little' city) that has managed to get air time in Switzerland, Iran, India, New Zealand, across the US, and I'm certain everywhere else on the map- maybe even Antarctica! I so don't want to belabor the issues (and they seem to keep growing like a fungus) about my new home of Beit Shemesh, since anyone who can read knows a little something about the insanity that's unfolded here.
So I was thinking. The "I do Judaism better than you" war re-broke out at the same time my youngest contracted pneumonia, my puppy contracted tick fever, I started taking a more intense interest in my health, we had our first Chanukah in Israel, and I visited an army base with a group that seeks to remind our beloved soldiers that they are valued and not forgotten. I tried to see if there was any common denominator amongst these things and came up flat as a pancake. If I got really creative I suppose I could link the pneumonia and tick fever; I mean they both looked like crud, both became very needy, and both need medicine, but that doesn't cut it. And I suppose I could connect visiting an army base to Chanukah and our perseverance over the Greeks who tried to destroy us and anything Jewish. And then I could probably make a case for the yin yang-ness of fighting for Judaism while watching others unintentionally- or not- seek to destroy it. But none of these connections worked for me.
Until, I realized, they're ALL about connectedness. We all want to feel valued, loved. We all want to know that we have something to look forward to when we open our eyes in the morning, and that opening our eyes is in and of itself a very hopeful thing. We all want to be held, to be cared for, to be pampered occasionally, to be part of a cause that is much bigger than us. Maybe "all" of us don't feel "all" those things, but I do. Stroking my son's cheek and making him his umpteenth cup of hot cocoa, holding my shivering puppy and calling the vet- those are things that made me feel quite connected. No parent relishes seeing their child sick (or making so much cocoa that I'm convinced I should just grow cocoa beans in the backyard), crying in pain, or coughing uncontrollably. And no matter how much of a pain-in-the-rear that fluff ball can be, seeing our pup shiver and crawl into spots we didn't know she could crawl in to while doing her best impersonation (indogination?) of a catatonic patient, connected my ability to love and nurture. Lighting Chanukah candles for the first time as a family in this beautiful Land connected us to our history- geographically, religiously, spiritually. Taking greater interest in my health reminds me that I'm connected to my husband and children and that if I don't take care of myself, exactly who do I expect will? And while I know that my family would, they don't deserve extra burdens that I could have prevented. Like that old New York telephone commercial reminds us, we are ALL connected.
And what of the trip to the army base and the religion wars taking place in what is otherwise the lovely city of Beit Shemesh. The army base visit on the last day of Chanukah allowed me to realize that the young men and women of the IDF are one of the reasons I can sleep soundly at night. They risk their lives on a daily basis to ensure the safety and security of this Land and the people fortunate to live within. It was clear that the soldiers valued our desire to connect with them and in turn, each other. They strengthened me and us, them. That connectedness is something I feel seeping through my pores and energizing my soul. And that connection will help me in my self-care journey and G-D willing, help create a domino effect of kindness and giving.
And the religion wars. What is there to say, seeing as how every news outlet has an opinion, every resident of Beit Shemesh has an opinion, and Jews round the world are formulating theirs. I think that somewhere along the way, connections were lost, broken. We forgot that we are all one people who were given one Torah by one G-d. We also forgot that there are so many different ways to be Jewish and that despite those differences, we're still one people. Tzniut (modesty) is seen as one of the key issues of the war in our city and dare I say, in the Jewish and secular worlds. Tzniut is a driving force of how we dress, how we interact with the opposite gender, and how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Our sexuality is closely tied to all these things and in the proper settings, connects us with our spouses and in turn the generations G-D allows us to create. I think that greater connectedness in the proper realms is one of the issues that lay at the heart of the matter. And, I think, the focus on women and girls as provocateurs on buses and ads and on our way to school and work, highlights the lack of intimate connectedness in the proper, Torah sanctioned, settings. Connecting with your spouse and being physically present are hugely important matters that I believe play a significant behind-the-scenes part in the recent goings on.
I also believe that there's been a tremendous internal disconnect. When I'm happy with who I am and what I represent to myself and the world, I have no need to prove who I am. That positive energy will radiate from my smile, my stance, my presence. When I know who I am I don't need to tell anyone else who (I think) they are. And when I'm connected to myself and my true essence, I'm that much more connected to my family, puppy included, and the world at large. When we know who we are, we don't have to hurl insults, or assault people in the name of what we've determined is the "right" way. We don't have to hide behind cloaks, real and imagined, or yell and scream at others who don't believe I am who I purport to be.
Our connection to our true G-Dliness needs repair. If I respect you and you respect me, we connect and that brings us closer to each other, to our community, and to G-D. Get a whole lot of that connection stuff going and the world really becomes a better place. I don't live in a fantasy world, though I've been told often that I do. I am choosing to be positive and see a future for myself and my family. And when I encounter folks, and I know that I will in many forms as not everyone will get my little "get connected" memo, who seek to tell me I'm less- than because I'm a Jew, a woman, a Zionist, an American, a Social Worker, or anything else I strongly identify with, I must remember that under it all, I know who I am. That's not to say I won't get angry and that's not to say that my abilities to reign in my own upset will be at their max. But it also doesn't mean that I need to try to prove to them who I am. And for better or worse, I am connected to them, and them, me.
I choose to stay positive but I will also choose to defend my children and others should attacks become violent or exploitative. Hell hath no fury like this momma when her babies are threatened or harmed. And frankly, hell hath no fury like a community who feels attacked and abused because they look, act, or practice differently. Perhaps we can take that energy and invest it into actual respect and zero tolerance for anything less. We must always stand up for what we believe in and who we are- no doormats allowed! But I believe in my heart of hearts that we have to remember that we are ALL connected; and that if we don't see it, those who seek to destroy the Jewish people surely will. When the Jew haters of the world unite, they won't care who's yelling about Tzniut or women's issues, how any of us are dressed or what we think of each other. A little connectedness and recognition of the ties that bind could go miles... if we let them.