September 30, 2008

L'Shanah Tovah, Have a Happy New Year: May we all be like a head and not a tail.

With cousin Gila and Tal-Or, her eldest grandchild,
at a family wedding in Jerusalem (March 2006)
Meet first grader Tal-Or who lives in the West Bank settlement Tekoa with her parents, sister, and brother. Tal-Or loves arts and crafts, playing with her friends, helping her mother set the table, and cutting salad. Rosh Hashanah begins this evening and it has been on Tal-Or's mind, as her email message to Gila shows. My English translation follows the Hebrew.

שלום לכולם,
צירפתי סיפור לברכה של ראש השנה.
שכולנו נהיה לראש ולא לזנב ושתהיה לנו שנה מתוקה
סיפור לראש השנה
כתבה: טלאור-מאירסון

בראש השנה היתי אצל סבתא. אמא הסיעה אותי ראשון והלכה לקחת את אבא. ראיתי איך סבתא עורכת שולחן. ראיתי איך היא מניחה תפוח. ראיתי איך היא מניחה דבש. ושסבתא רצתה לשים צלחות היא אמרה, דניאל רוצה לעזור לי לשים צלחות. אמרתי לא. אז סבתא באה אלי ואמרה, דניאל צריך לעשות מצוות לפני ראש השנה. שאלתי למה? אמרה סבתא שתהיה שנה טובה-ו-מתוקה. בסדר אמרתי. וסבתא אמרה, ילד-טוב הביא לי צלחות עוד הרבה דברים. ואז שגמרתי אמרתי גמרתי וסבתא באה ואמרה, איזה יופי דניאל. ערכת ממש יפה. ואז שמעתי דפיקה טוק-טוק. רצתי לפתוח את הדלת ומי עמד בפתח? אבא ואמא. נתתי להם חיבוק חזק ואז אמא שאלה, מי ערך את השולחן? עניתי, אני-אני בעצמי. אבא אמר לא יאומן וסבתא אמרה, יהיה לנו שנה-טובה ומתוקה.

Shalom all,
I attached a story as a Rosh Hashana greeting.
May we all be like a head and not a tail, and may we have a sweet year.
A Story for Rosh Hashana
by Tal-Or Mayerson

On Rosh Hashana I was at Grandma's. Mommy drove me there and then went to get Daddy. I saw how Grandma sets the table, how she places an apple, how she places honey. And when Grandma wanted to set the plates she said, Daniel wants to help me set the plates. I said, No. Then Grandma came over to me and said, Daniel needs to do Mitzvot [good deeds] before Rosh Hashana. I asked, Why? Grandma said, That we might have a good and sweet year. OK, I said. And Grandma said, A good boy brought me plates and many more things. When I finished I said, I finished. And Grandma came and said, Terrific Daniel, you really set the table nicely. And then I heard a knock-knock. I ran to open the door and who stood in the entrance? Daddy and Mommy. I gave them a big hug and then Mommy asked, Who set the table? I answered, I did, I did it by myself. Daddy said, Unbelievable, and Grandma said, May we have a good and sweet year.

NOTE: Gila later called Tal-Or, and learned that Daniel is just a name, no one in particular. As to the story itself, Gila said to me, I think that whatever we want to read into it is fine.

My previous Rosh Hashana posts

September 29, 2008

Israelis for Obama

In this three-minute video, among the talking heads — the woman at the Wall I have worked with; the former deputy speaker of the knesset I went to grade school with. Israelis for Obama: Seeking peace and pursuing it vigorously, within and without.

Love from me,
an Israeli-American for Obama

Update | Bearing in mind the video message and target audience, in the interest of discussion, see Israelis for Obama - Now, the Movie and Israeli generals duped into supporting Obama. Check out the comments following each post, too.

September 28, 2008

My lunch special at Atlanta’s Mediterranean Grille

David and Luther hugging gladdens Helen

Because I just missed the bus to reach a meticulously planned lunch date, I broke my rule on not hitchhiking and flagged a shiny black pickup truck. My designated driver? A thirty-something Hispanic man, dad to a preschooler (which I surmised from the Little Mermaid sticker smiling from the dashboard).

Me:  “How far up Briarcliff Road are you going?”
He:  “Buford Highway, to pick up my three-year-old daughter from school.”

When papi learned that I was headed past his turn, he insisted on first taking me to my destination so that I reach it on time. Good deeds. Grace. Gracias.

A long, growing friendship with interfaith roots
Atlanta's Mediterranean Grille was the venue for the basic recipe: good friends reconnecting over lunch to share laughter, ideas, updates, and more questions than answers. Luther called it "table fellowship" (a religious meal tradition derived from the ancient Mediterranean Essenes and early Christian cultures of community in which worship and ordinary daily living were integrated).

David's family and I met Rev. Dr. Luther E. Smith Jr. and his wife, Rev. Helen Pearson Smith, nearly a decade ago when our faith communities met at Central Congregational United Church of Christ. In dialogs, short courses (for instance, on theologians Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Howard Thurman), potluck dinners, and co-planned and -led New Year's and Thanksgiving services, we inched toward wider scopes, deeper visions, and more wholesome communities.

Meeting my cousin, my neighbor
At my turn in the long line to place orders, I asked the genial fellow Semite for lentil soup and dolmas (rice and lamb-stuffed grape leaves) with marinated salad.

I then pushed through my hesitation to ask, "What country are you from?" "Palestine," his answer.

Hmmm, methinks. Is he among the Israeli-Arabs and others for whom the State of Israel is a temporary aberration, its denizens slated to be obliterated, and the land appropriated to become Greater Palestine under Islamist rule? Or, does my cousin/my neighbor mean that he is from the Territories — the West Bank, Gaza, or one of the many Arab towns and villages, parts of a future Palestine?

"Where in Palestine?" I gently pressed.
"Gaza," he said.
Me (relieved, sort of): "Oh. Uh, I sometimes live in Tel Aviv."
He (enthusiastically): "I worked in Tel Aviv, in the 1970's."
Me: “Nice. In food?"
He: "No, I worked in the hotels."

And there ended our friendly chat; it was all I could manage. I had plenty to chew on, and mercifully, behind me someone was waiting to place a lunch order.

My community is multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, multi-everything
Such encounters — papi, David, the Smiths, and the Gazan remind me that suspending initial judgment of others and remaining open to the possibilities of engagement often returns interesting, rewarding outcomes.

Next month, our group will rejoin for table fellowship. I will probably re-order the dolmas, and speak a bit more w my Gazan cousin, if he is willing. And, because he worked in Tel Aviv, his Hebrew surely is a lot better than my Arabic.