April 06, 2017

The Jewish Festival of Freedom and the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind

Bracha with her guide dog Dinka and me

My two-part post on freedom: Passover, or Pesach (The Jewish Festival of Freedom) that begins tonight at sundown and the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.

The sacred myth of the Jewish Festival of Freedom celebrates the escape of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Our original Independence Day, Passover marks the shift from a nation of Hebrew slaves to a free people, from a collection of tribes to a nation of law. Passover champions freedom and human rights relevant to any Jew whether particularist or universalist, and any person of any faith or none.

Today, 65 million people worldwide — each has a name, a face, a family desperately seek freedom from dictatorships, conscription, war, torture, hunger, want, fear, loneliness, and political and religious persecution in their homelands.

How is this calamity relevant to the Passover story? The Passover narrative teaches: “Like the native among you shall be the sojourner who sojourns among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

Facing this soul-numbing destruction and despair and feeling a terrible sense of helplessness, what can a free person do? Pay attention. Internalize the biblical injunction and notice contemporary parallels. Donate time, money, and resources to honor refugees' strength and resilience and support their rescue and relief across the globe and around the corner. Meet and get to know a refugee neighbor. Resist government policies and laws that block immediate rescue and aid. Offer sanctuary and protection. Raise consciousness.


At the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, an all-ages-friendly oasis of help, independence, and full-potential living, my friend Savta Dotty celebrated her 80th birthday with her Israeli family and friends. She requested, “In lieu of gifts, I would be thrilled if you make a donation to the Israel Guide Dog Center or to the charity of your choice: I am so grateful to have everything I need and it will enrich my life to know you are helping someone not as lucky as I am.”

What is in Savta's red-and-white striped bag that she is dipping into?

The Center’s founder welcomed us, congratulated Savta, then linked the Passover lessons on slavery and freedom to the Center’s purpose, mission, services, and facilities. Tour leader Bracha (Hebrew, blessing) explained that until congenital partial blindness severely diminished her freedom, she relied on a white mobility stick. When leaving her private spaces — psychological and physical threatened safe mobility, enslaving her to demoralization and limited opportunities, she turned to the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind to help liberate her, enabling a restored self-confidence and reenergized freedom.

With Dinka at her side, this mother and grandmother who performs Irish music on her guitar, translates technical materials from English to Hebrew and the reverse, and travels locally and internationally led us through the site. Bracha explained the philosophy and logistics of breeding, raising, fostering, and training the dogs; matching them to suit clients’ lifestyles, measurements, and requirements; teaching how to work with a guide dog; and supporting humans and canines throughout their partnerships.

At our final stop, Bracha removed Dinka's harness, and extended to us petting privileges and viewing the PUPPIES!

Nir loving on Dinka

April 03, 2017

Israel Museum: Unity in diversity

At Jerusalem's Israel Museum, I marvel at the unity in diversity of art and archaeology collections, including works dating from prehistory to the present day in a far-ranging collection of nearly 500,000 objects representing the full scope of world material culture.

An example. Behind me a giant white dome, the top of the Shrine of the Book Complex built as a repository for the first seven scrolls of the Hebrew Bible discovered in 1947 in caves around the archaeological site of Qumran in the Judaean Desert east of Jerusalem and descending to the Dead Sea. (Through 1956, extensive excavations have taken place in Qumran where nearly 900 scrolls and other artifacts were discovered.) The manuscripts, called the Dead Sea Scrolls, were written centuries before the birth of Christianity and Islam and housed and preserved in clay jars. The white dome represents a lid of each jar.

On the lower right, a mobile by the originator of the mobile, US artist Alexander Calder (1898 - 1976) who was also a painter, sculptor, and creator of mobiles, stabiles, and miniature wire toys.

Oh, and on the lower left, knockout knockoff Prada shades that I bought last Thanksgiving at a vintage shop on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC.