April 29, 2008

Why I blog

On my blog reading rounds this morning, I came across an interesting musing here, on Mining Nuggets. Tamar (yes, there is at least one other blogging Tamar) writes, "Once again, I question why I blog." She then explores myriad possible answers, and concludes not with an answer but with a question: "... should I just ... well ... kick the habit?"

In reply to her intriguing question, why blog? I simply opened a vein, and out flowed this comment, almost verbatim.
I blog to process my busy life and mind. With all that draws me to explore, challenge, change, consider, and do, I look forward to the discipline of sorting through the myriad inputs and my responses and to make sense of the mix. In identifying the parts and arranging them in a coherent order or design, I can put the experience into a usable, even more interesting shape. For me and for anyone else.

And I love the connections that happen through my blog. Meeting fellow bloggers or commenters offers me amazing company — classmates, colleagues, rich content — here, in my school without walls in a universe-ity of infinite links. I don't like walls, and schools are not buildings where someone else decides what's good for me to learn, and when.

So, why do you blog? Or, why not?

April 17, 2008

The orange on the Passover seder plate

Professor Susannah Heschel, a leading Jewish feminist scholar, explains the origin of this modern custom. Her father, the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, was a prominent scholar of Jewish ethics and a civil rights leader who participated with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the Selma Civil Rights March (1965).

“In the early 1980s, the Hillel Foundation invited me to speak on a panel at Oberlin College. While on campus, I came across a Haggada that had been written by some Oberlin students to express feminist concerns. One ritual they devised was placing a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder plate).

“At the next Passover, I placed an orange on our family's Seder plate. During the first part of the Seder, I asked everyone to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit, and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and gay men, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community (I mentioned widows in particular).

“Bread on the Seder plate brings an end to Pesach — it renders everything chometz [leavened bread]. And it suggests that being lesbian is being transgressive, violating Judaism. I felt that an orange was suggestive of something else: the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life. In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out — a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia of Judaism.”

Source: Miriam's Cup

Update | April 1, 2012  Visit my related post, In Tel Aviv: The orange on the Passover seder plate, which describes the Joint Passover Seder for Israelis and African Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel that I attended. There, “see” oranges on dozens of seder plates, “meet” some participants, and “listen” to excerpts from their Exodus stories, gripping all.

April 09, 2008

In Israel: sirens wail nationwide

Woman with Dead Child (1903) by Kathe Kollwitz,
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

(in the public domain in the USA)

Every war already carries within it the war that will answer it.
— Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945), Artist and Social Activist

This morning, in the largest civil defense drill in Israel's history, an air-raid siren sounded a loud dull wail at 10 a.m. nationwide (except in Sderot, Ashkelon, and other communities along the Gaza border). five-day exercise was launched Sunday in the face of increased tensions with Syria, Iran's efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, and possible chemical and biological attacks. Charming possibilities. 

Scenarios and simulations were enacted — among them, children carried "wounded" classmates to bomb shelters and emergency personnel rescued "injured" trapped in rubble. The public was asked to use the practice to locate the closest bomb shelter or protected room.

While Israel authorities insist the drill does
not mean that war is anticipated in the near future, hearing the siren's wail immediately brought a flow of tears and associations of pain, horror, fear, memories, anxieties. First to my mind leaped images of Noam Mayerson, my cousin — killed in the Second Lebanon War, in 2006. Next, I thought about my relatives (whom I never met) in Europe before, during, and after the reigns of terror of World War II.

my dear friend Shimon and his family in Ashkelon and fellow civilians in Sderot flash into focus. There, in Israel's southern region, within fifteen seconds of real warning sirens, real rockets land. Fifteen seconds to absorb the information, manage the terror, and seek and then find and enter a safe place.

While politicians and talking heads with jobs and leisure and 
without accountability pontificate and analyze other people’s experiences, these terse lines capture my attention:

What comes first, peace or security? Ostensibly this is the crux of the debate between the two and is like the question: whom do you love more, Mom or Dad? Peace without security is a lie. Security without peace is nonsense.
— Akiva Eldar, The lie of peace and the nonsense of security, Haaretz