September 18, 2015

When in Rome, splish-splash

Even when it's hot, these public fountains steadily pour out cool clean water to refill water bottles and splish-splash away.

September 01, 2015

Let the Jewish New Year and its blessings start | תָּחֵל שָׁנָה וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ

In Jerusalem's Makhne Yehuda shuk/market
honey for sale adds sweetness to the New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, falls on Tishrei 1 and 2 in the Hebrew calendar. In 2015, it begins Sunday evening, September 13, and concludes Tuesday evening, September 15. I first published this post September 12, 2007.

Dear Tamar, 

Let the New Year and its blessings start | תָּחֵל שָׁנָה וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ | Takhel shana u-virkhote-ha. * 

The Hebrew word Shana comes from the word li-shnot (to repeat) but it also sounds like le-shanot (to change). I think that's the main idea every Rosh Hashanah: it's our chance either to repeat our mistakes or to change, to keep the good or let it go. I hope your New Year will be filled with good choices. 
Shana Tova 5768

*  In this 13th century piyyut (Jewish liturgical poem) by Abraham Hazzan of Gerona (Girondi), Spain, each verse ends with a one-line chorus:

Let the year end with all its curses | תִּכְלֶה שָׁנָה וְקִלְלוֹתֶיהָ | Tikhleh shana ve-killeloteha! 

The last line concludes:

Let the New Year and its blessings start | תָּחֵל שָׁנָה וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ | Takhel shana u-virkhote-ha! 

Listen to the exquisite Syrian melody in the recording (Hebrew) of this piyyut,  Little Sister | אָחוֹת קְטַנָּה | Akhot Ktana.

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August 11, 2015

Remembering Jean Rice, beloved friend

Jean Rice (1946-2006)
at her Cape Cod home in Sandwich, MA 
She had been a radical nun whose lifelong hero (and mine) was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When Jean died, I wrote this post that I have republished yearly on her birthday. Who she was and how she lived inspire my better instincts daily. And I am missing her. The last winter of her life, fully grasping the implications of her health crisis, she sent her family and friends this message:

Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! All celebrations of life and vigor and weakness and being given what we need. Love to you, and thank you for the love you send.
— Jean

When my pal got the diagnosis that would cut short her amazing life, I could not imagine her (or any) life remaining rich in the final months. Yet it was. Nor, despite a deep friendship more than thirty-plus years with this human force for good did I dream that our "palaver" would continue until weeks before her death and beyond. (We relished using the term, palaver, to describe our chattering with abandon on all matters from wild to mundane.)

Our palaver continues 
This morning in Tel Aviv, I met a friendly puppy named Six "because on a list of rescued animals from which he was adopted, he was number six," his human explained. "Six shuns conflict. He senses kindness, which attracts him." Aha! A perfectly palaver tail/tale for Jean who devoured evidence of positive energy in a tricky universe.

Another example. Last week, I learned that my cousin in Jerusalem (a Bar Mitzva in five months!) had begun chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. I almost immediately reshaped this health crisis update into palaver. Jean, in her living and dying refused to allow grief to immobilize her or others. And her strength and stance steadied me, even after her death.

Pals continuous
Jean was a core friend fluent in the languages of art, philosophy, literature, elephants, children, friendship, memory, and soul. I loved and admired her, learned from her, emulated her. Often, she traveled thousands of virtual miles with me to seek, notice, embrace, honor, encourage, and help at-risk and marginalized people and communities.

In our last phone conversation a month before her death, Jean hurried to answer my questions on her mood and situation. She preferred to focus on what she insisted was far more interesting and important: my family in Israel and how they were managing during mounting crises in this region.

Jean inspired me to keep moving, to acknowledge my mistakes, and to let them go. I have tried to imitate her ways and stances and the richness of her life rooted in gratitude, generosity, and joy, and filled with laughter and compassion.

Jean's many lives defied losses. Grounded firmly in prosocial values and daily practices, she was ever ready to rethink, restart, and reshape plans and outcomes that were not what she expected, liked, or approved of. She was always rebuilding, firming up, reinforcing, and letting go, beginning anew.

The triumphs of her life are measured not merely by the length of her years, but by the marriage she co-created, the children she co-raised, the stubborn optimism of her life, and her legacy.

Jean's life was a gift and her memory is a blessing.

August 04, 2015

Visiting in Jurish: A West Bank town in mourning


I joined a MachsomWatch delegation that traveled from Israel to the West Bank town of Jurish to meet a group of high school students, the school principal, and the town council head. The students' math teacher, Reham Dawabsha, is the mother of the infant Ali who was burnt to death in a settler arson attack on the family home in neighboring Duma. Seventeen-year-old Sirine spoke about her love for Reham; and (in the video), expresses her grief and rage following the attack and the horrors of living under occupation.

Reham; Ali's father; and Ahmad, Ali's 4-year-old brother were critically burned and airlifted to three Israeli hospitals.

MachsomWatch is a volunteer organization of Israeli women against the occupation and for human rights.

July 13, 2015

In Beit Jala, the West Bank: Breaking the Ramadan fast

I joined the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF) for the Iftar (Arabic: break fast) evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Our chartered bus from Tel Aviv stopped twice to pick up people from the Greater Jerusalem area before crossing an Israeli checkpoint and continuing to Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town in the West Bank south of Jerusalem and opposite Bethlehem. PCFF, the high-profile grassroots organization with more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families that have lost a loved one to the conflict, fosters dialogue by revealing the shared humanity of grief, and advocates nonviolence and reconciliation between nations as a prerequisite to achieving a sustainable peace.

At the Everest Hotel & Restaurant, a historic meeting place for Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli Jews and guests from London embraced their Muslim fellows who had come from cities and towns around the West Bank for the event.

Dressed in black, one Palestinian woman wore a photo of her son on a thin chain that was clasped around her neck. An Israeli mother (she raises funds for PCFF) brought her young son (she had simply told him they were going to a party) and packed some table games for the long-ish evening). In conversation (in English) with young Muslim cousins from East Jerusalem, we discovered a shared pleasure: watching reruns of The Simpsons! Among the Palestinian children dressed up for the festive occasion, one lass asked me (in Hebrew), May I take your photo? In turn, I asked her dad to take ours with her brother!

Taking time out from her own active photo taking
 for this photo with her brother and me!

Last summer, PCFF, in its public awareness campaign, "We Don't Want You Here" — protested the escalation of violence and unbearable thought of yet another family joining the "dreaded club of the bereaved." They are working tirelessly to put themselves out of business.