Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012.07.01 Israel With Love

To wrap up our 2-week whirlwind stay in Israel we used our free time to take a taxi  to Ein Karem on the outskirts of Jerusalem to get a dose of beauty, always soul-food.

We and two people from the St George’s course, both parish priests, a man from Newfoundland and a woman from Australia, went to the Hadassah Hospital. The hospital’s synagogue houses the Chagall stained glass windows.

Marc Chagall an orthodox Russian Jew and artist designed and executed the windows. Each one represents one of the blessings (biblical) that the patriarch Jacob gave to each of his 12 sons, each now representing the 12 tribes of Israel.  It’s history and biblical mythology/parable to me, but here there is a high degree of biblical literalism.  Either way worthy or remembering for the God who gives blessing and creativity.

We were welcomed into the synagogue by a pleasant friendly woman who explained the  20-minute tour. You sit in seats arranged in a square of three sides. One must never have one’s back to the torah scrolls on one side so we had to circle back round so as not to pass by the Torah. The presentation was a careful explanation of the symbology of each window and then when music played you did the musical chairs number so to face the next set of 3 windows. 

The colors are vivid and the imagery rich. I had a sense of the universal in the midst of the particularity of this nation’s biblical history. Each window is dominated by a particular color and symbols that bespeak the tribe’s identity. 

My beloved Dick, aka Sim,  is actually descended from the tribe of Simeon. (Some of the Jews of this tribe ended up in Italy in one of the many dispersions.) Simeon’s  window is red for blood —a warlike tribe, the most contentious of them all, except maybe Benjamin.  My Sim can be a bit hot-blooded at times :)

Hadassah is a women’s Zionist organization of America founded in 1912. Zionist good works and zeal are not new.  Today the Hadassah Medical Center is a teaching hospital and a huge complex with what seems like a mall in the middle of it:)  Very American.  Their mission is that medicine is to serve as a bridge-builder, healer of illness and relationships. There are Arabs, Jews, Muslims all working, teaching and training there together. And all patients receive equal treatment regardless of race, religion, etc.   

Our Palestinian taxi driver told us, in broken English as he dropped us off, that everyone worked there together. He smiled with great pride and pleasure.  It made me feel good.  If left to the average man and woman and child there would probably be a better chance at peaceful living.

In the 1967 war some of the windows were damaged. Chagall came to restore them and said, “You take care of the war and I’ll take care of the windows.” At no cost.  He left a bullet hole in one of the bright blue glass pains—I typo’ed the wrong spelling. It should be pane, but maybe not.  The bullet hole remains as a sign of remembrance, reminder of how fragile human resolve can be when it comes to loving your neighbor as the one God commands. 

I felt an uplift and thought again that the arts are able to offer images in words and pictures, drama and music, and good speaking,  that transcend the ugliness that often accompanies human discourse.

After farewell and stuffing suitcases we all left the college and the befuddled Jerusalem with full hearts and confused heads. 

Jerusalem the city of tears. Jerusalem seems to have a full measure of beauty and an equal measure of misery—and all over the one God they share and can not share, the God whose desire is always to have mercy.
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One night in Tel Aviv in a luxurious hotel facing a beach and the blessed true-blue lightly salted (that is, not loaded like the Dead Sea) Mediterranean.   The Mediterranean takes me back to 5th grade geography and ancient world studies.  So swimming in the Mediterranean felt like a thrilling dip into time itself.

Tel Aviv today, however, represents modernity if nothing else. It’s as religiously secular as Jerusalem is religiously religious—each having its own rituals. 

Tel Aviv caters to the international community. I love hearing all kinds of languages sounding in the lobby and restaurants.  The resortish area looks a bit like Miami, high-rise hotels stacked up sideways along the beach area and more tourists than God has critters.  Having fun in the sun, which is hot but not punishing thanks to the sea, the sea, the beautiful sea. 

The beach sand is silken, so welcoming your foot sinks straights in, cozily wrapped, a safe kind of feeling like a kitty settling into a soft lap for a purr. The sea is salty, bathtub warm, and oddly refreshing, its small waves bouncing you from all side. Delicious. 

Littering the sand are many small objects—not shells but cigarette butts.  I want to be horrified and righteous—until I remember that there is no such thing as an unmixed blessing.