Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yom Hazikaron 5769 - Siren and Silence

יום הזכרון תשס"ט
Pierre Koenig 11:00 am. Talpiot

The siren sounds,
A busy street comes to a standstill.
A call to attention,
A call to unity,
A summons to remember.
The world stands still.
אם יתקע שופר בעיר
ועם לא יחרד?

And I stand and think:
ונזכור את כולם
My cousin Yitzchak Hirschberg, who died in מלחמת שלום הגליל
Danny Frei – Larger than life. How charismatic! How driven to help the Jewish people, How filled with energy, warmth! Killed by a terrorist (in his bed!) in Michmas
Yoni Jesner – my Talmid. What potential!
Yeoshua Friedberg – who served his country. Gentle person. Part of our Katamon "chevra". Picked up at a trempiada. Killed by terrorists. How did he spend his last moments, in that speeding car?
Daniel Mandel - fighter, soldier, officer, from my Yishuv. Parents still distraught
יזכור אלוקים
May God remember them.
(Why do I know so many people...?)

אבינו שבשמים
ברך את מדינת ישראל
הגן אליה באברת חסדיך
ופרוס עליה את סוכת שלומיך
שים שלום בארץ
הגן את מגיני ארץ קדשינו.

הלנצח תאכל חרב?

The siren ends,
It splutters.
Breaths its last breaths.
- silence.

Life resumes,
traffic hums,
people walk,
Continue their daily routine.

But I observe:
A burly taxi driver wipe a tear from his eye,
A young man embracing and comforting the young lady who he is with,
And an elderly man, still standing to attention ... a full minute after the siren is quiet. Still there.

Life resumes?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Doing and Teaching. Two very different things.

In a couple of months it is my son's Barmitzva. It's all very exciting for us as the big day approaches.

The other evening I had the privilege and pleasure to show him how to put on a pair of Tefillin. But when I tried to teach him, I got all confused! I simply couldn't remember the precise moves that one uses in order to tie them! I was so unsuccessful in my instructions as to the steps of donning the Tefillin without actually doing it myself that in the ebd, I simply got out my Tefillin and tied them onto my arm, and then my son followed my lead. I have to admit, it was quite bewildering. I have put on Tefillin every day of my life since I was 13. How could I find it hard to explain and instruct another person as to how to tie them? How could it be that I wasn't sure how to wind them when it was somebody elses arm?

But apparently there is a huge difference between doing something yourself, and teaching it to others. I manipulate the straps of my Tefillin so intuitively, that I am not even aware when I pull it back or quite how I wind them! I had to take a step back and actively, consciously think through each micro movement so that I could clearly communicate that knowledge.

I have always found teaching and communication to be a natural skill. I love them, and they come relatively easily to me. I always found it hard to appreciate that some people are really bad at explaining things, and cannot communicate clearly or succinctly.

It is amazing that certain things are so deeply rooted that they defy even our own awareness. We just do them. We are not aware of how we do it. Which things are in that intuitive category? What else is so automatic, so deeply enrooted that I am unaware of even the way I perform that act?

Religious sensitivities and Israeli Media

I rarely watch TV. At home, we don't have cable/sattelite, and so we have to make do with internet and DVD's. The only live Israeli TV that I encounter is while I am running at the gym.

I have to say that it is makes rather dismal viewing. The morning shows are quite boring. and the evening shows tend to be a variety of news, shallow reality shows, and "talk shows" (read "shout shows.") I don't know how our TV fares on the world scale, but it is pretty mind numbing.

But worse than that, our TV truly represents only a fraction of the population. Generally the anchor people are secular Israelis, generally Ashkenazi, thin, good looking (the women). Where are the Russians, the Ethiopians, the Haredim, the Arabs. I figure that Israeli TV represents about 20% of the Israeli population! (Yes, I do see Sivan Rahab-Meir on the morning show, and I know that there is Rav Beni Lau on Friday afternoons but that hardly appeals to the mainstream... anyway, who watches ch.1 anyhow?)

So imagine my surprise while running on the treadmill (Thursday morning) to see two interesting surprises.

The first was Avri Gilad, who is a great guy. He is funny and ecologically sensitive, and I like his atttudes on Galei Tzahal. He was interviewing the producer of a reality show called "The race to the Million" where couples do all sorts of challenges all over the world, and I guess that there is a NIS million prize. Apparently one of the challenges, in China, was to eat a concoction of all sorts of rather disgustung creatures; lizards and bats etc. Avri Gilad - not a Kippa wearing Jew, but clearly a proud one - challenged her again and again: "But we are Jews! Jews subjected themselves to inquisition rather than succumb to eating Non-Kosher, how can you do this?" He was quite relentless. The producer on the other hand, seemed unfazed and totally didn't grasp his concern. Anyhow, it was heartwarming to see how some secular people have an unabashed and deep Jewish sensitivity.

The other piece on TV was this ad for the cellphone company Celcom.

It depicts a girl from a religious kibbutz/moshav who has clearly moved in a rebellious direction, coming home to join her family. Again, even the scripwriters are clearly acknowledging an understanding of the complexities of religious and traditional families and their place in mainstream Israeli society.

Jewish tradition is growing in the mainstream media. We are seeing more kippot, more head-covering on women. This year, numerous leading music artists have recorded tracks and even entire albums, based upon Jewish themes. To my mind, this is just the start of a revival both of religion, and also the openness to see religious Jews enter the mainstream.

About time.

Yom Atzmaut Sameach!