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 at 10 a.m. today, sirens wailed 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

As part of the largest civil defense drill in Israel's history, a siren resounded this morning everywhere in the country (except in Sderot, Ashkelon, and other Gaza border communities).

Fortunately,
this weekend I read about the five-day exercise that started 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.

Besides the siren, scenarios and simulations were enacted —
among them, children carried "wounded" classmates to bomb shelters and emergency personnel rescued "injured" trapped in rubble.

So, I was forewarned of the day, time, and purpose of the siren, which
rendered bearable the 90-second loud dull wail. (The public was asked to use the practice to locate the closest bomb shelter or protected room; and I forgot to do that part.)

As the wail pierced my concentration (while pressing hard to meet a project deadline), I ran from my room to assure my French-speaking Swiss roommate in the living room. "Don't worry. It's OK, just a practice drill." Her blase response: "I know; I just read about it [
online, in a French newspaper]."

(My other roommate, an American,
was sleeping off a punishing night shift, from 11 p.m. last night until 7 a.m. this morning. A volunteer for Israel's national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance, and blood bank service, Magen David Adom, she did not need assurances — this time.)

While Israel authorities insist the drill does
not mean that war is anticipated in the near future, hearing the siren's wail instantly brought tears and a flow of associations — pain, horror, fear, memories, anxieties. First into 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 during the reigns of terror of World War II (and before and after).

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

While politicians and talking heads with jobs and leisure to pontificate and analyze other people’s experiences, without accountability, 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