Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012.07.29 Dream On?

I dreamed a lot as a kid, day and night, always about things I wanted to do or be or accomplish. I was lucky enough to have enough happiness, enough creativity and imagination, and enough intelligence to dream—and read many books.

After the fairy princess/ballerina/moviestar phase,  I settled into the dream of having children and being a mother. The children made my dreams. Then I discovered no one paid for motherhood or gave it much recognition, so I thought it would be better to be a man. That one didn't last long, but I did invade the sanctuary of an all-male profession, priesthood, and discovered it wasn't that much fun to be a parish "Father"—too lonely.

Every dream I've had I've worked hard to help along, revise and tweak, and get help with.

We all dream dreams. It's what keeps us alive and vital. Even on my death bed I bet I'll be conjuring heaven and dream of meeting God and Jesus.

America was founded on a dream: liberty and justice and land, land, land. It was once bright and shiny and inviting— available to all citizens. Now it has turned to pablum spooned out by the unawares, the power-hungry, the ignorant, and the too-busy-scraping-basic-livelihood-together-to-notice.

Liberty has turned into license and arbitrary violence. Justice is an illusion because there is no peace on our streets. And land has morphed into private property that includes trophy homes and gated communities where we get isolated and insulated and mistake it for individual freedom. 

The Occupy Movement of 2011 raised awareness about classism and increasing economic inequity, which means less mobility. Less is available to a greater number of citizens than ever before. 99% of us is falling fast out of the amenic middle class. It scares me to read about it but I am able to live comfortably enough not to really feel it.

Paul Krugman in his NY Times commentary on Jan 16, 2012, Martin Luther King day, wrote: “Mitt Romney says that we should discuss income inequality, if at all, only in “quiet rooms. There was a time when people said the same thing about racial inequality. [They said it about gender inequality, too, and still are.] Luckily, however, there were people like Martin Luther King who refused to stay quiet. And we should follow their example today. For the fact is that rising inequality threatens to make America a different and worse place — and we need to reverse that trend to preserve both our values and our dreams.”

Has our so-called dream become a lie?

Maybe we need to focus less on owning homes and more on being at home together.

Loneliness is a first sign of the waning of a dream.  Are Americans lonely? 

I'm lucky not to feel loneliness much, in part because I'm an introvert, and in part because I have a spouse I like. We convene the day and the evening together.  And my dream of getting a memoir published, though dim, isn't extinguished. 

Also I have a church community, a bunch of people who come together weekly to pray, sing, learn, and gather around a table to eat blessed food, after which they gratefully move to another no less sacred space to drink coffee or lemonade and eat "tapas."

The Christian church has a dream, of a God whose spaciousness knows no bounds. We learned it from Jesus. We try to practice the vision, yet sometimes we are too isolated in our own ways and community that, just like the nation, we forget to dream beyond ourselves. To complicate matters the church has gotten allergic to much if any mention of sin, awareness of the dreams of others. 

Israel, like America, had, still has, a dream. Call it a home of your own.  It's less about ownership than it is about identity, meaning, self-governance, and healing a long history of displacement, persecution, execution, and being scapegoats. I asked a young rabbi once why Jews kept getting blamed, almost no matter what happens.   “It’s because we’re exclusive, think we’re special,” he said.  Well, my God, listen to the braying of some Christians!  And some Americans!

But once Jews got their homeland in 1948 their homeland security politics have run wildly beyond security.  Palestinian land has been seized; refugee camps are established with curfews and locked gates; moving from place to place requires going through checkpoints, some of them now “flying” (you don’t know where they will pop up); mountaintop surveillance station feeling like”big daddy;” Palestinians who dream of a return to their land,  elected a terrorist regime Hamas: and worst of all a Wall of Separation, the amen to mutual loneliness. I saw it and wept.

I asked a local politician, a liberal one, about U.S. Israel/Palestine policy. I received a firm reiteration of our alliance to Israel and a justification of military power tactics as "maintaining a qualitative military edge."

Are we as appallingly ignorant of the spaciousness of our own dreams as we are of Israel/Palestine's?

The feeling of threat, whether real or imagined, kills the soul and with it the land.  Sin is as organic as love; it multiplies.

Israelis are, once again and understandably, afraid. So are Americans. So are Palestinians. So am I. I pray daily that God, who created land and leased it to humanity as blessing, will transform the hearts and minds of leaders and people ( it doesn’t matter which comes first)  from fear to humility.
Either dreams are not a good idea at all, except in sleep, or we need help to listen to and respect the dreams of our neighbors, far and near. 

Our Jewish next-door neighbor, the one who is a beautiful singer and who has never been to Israel,  came over to sing a Christian liturgical chant she’d prepared for us as a send off on our Israel pilgrimage.

Yes!  Dream on. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012.07.25 HItler. Another Perspective?

When I traveled in Israel I thought I might get a glimpse of my maternal grandfather’s heritage. I got some flavor for the land and its contentions and troubles as well as its mystique. Jerusalem actually does gleam like scripture says. It sits on a hill 2500 feet above sea level and in the sun looks as if it has a halo.

If I thought the land belonged to me I too might try to take possession. The problem is that too many people think God meant it for them— and God meant it for everyone!

People I guess fight over what they hold most dear and desire most strongly. This land is doomed to be shared.

Janet Flanner who wrote for the New Yorker Magazine is best known for the Letters from Paris column, but she also provided commentary during World War II. She wrote about European politics and culture, published a piece about Hitler's rise to power in 1936, and covered the Nuremburg trials in 1945.

She once said that of all the work she did for the magazine, she was most proud of her 1936 piece on Hitler.

In her profile, titled "Führer," she wrote:
"Being self-taught, his mental processes are mysterious; he is missionary-minded; his thinking is emotional, his conclusions material. He has been studious with strange results: he says he regards liberalism as a form of tyranny, hatred and attack as part of man's civic virtues, and equality of men as immoral and against nature. Since he is a concentrated, introspective dogmatist, he is uninformed by exterior criticism. On the other hand, he is a natural and masterly advertiser, a phenomenal propagandist within his limits, the greatest mob orator in German annals, and one of the most inventive organizers in European history. He believes in intolerance as a pragmatic principle. He accepts violence as a detail of state, he says mercy is not his affair with men, yet he is kind to dumb animals. ... His moods change often, his opinions never. Since the age of twenty, they have been mainly anti-Semitic, anti-Communist, anti-suffrage, and Pan-German. He has a fine library of six thousand volumes, yet he never reads; books would do him no good — his mind is made up."

I can only say three things.  In a book called “For Your Own Good” by psychologist Alice Miller I read that Hitler’s mother was a Jewish housemaid; and 2) As a spiritual practice I must name gross distortions of human goodness, even if I know that’s not all there is.  Hitler was “kind to dumb animals” for god’s sake. Hitler was also a sociopath.  3) The power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians is unjust and oppressive, and the U.S.  is part of the problem.

I never knew my grandfather who died in 1924. Still, maybe some of his relatives, and mine, died at Hitler’s command. What I wonder would he have said or felt?

As a Christian priest I should forgive. I’ve not forgiven the old pervert who abused me when I was eight, unless you count forgetting and healing as forgiveness.

I doubt that Jesus forgave from the cross while gasping and dying, but those who knew him in life knew it would be like him to forgive—and also like him to ask God to do it for him.  I don’t know if anyone forgave Hitler or other perpetrators of arbitrary genocide. 

Some things only Godde can forgive. 

And some forgiveness is a forever process. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2012.07.22 Writing the Whole Arc/Staying the Course

I have trouble sticking to the direction when I write. I love to riff. I write as if I were a jazz musician going off on tangents that may be relevant but take a reader off the path of the narrative/melody.   It’s a bad habit I’m trying to curb because not everyone likes or can follow all that jazz. 

Mary Magdalene, a biblical hero of mine whose day it is on our liturgical calendar, stayed the course. Her life choice was to follow Jesus of Nazareth. She’d benefited from his healing gifts and, instead of running off to do her own life (something I know I would have done after I remembered my manners and said thank you) she hung out for more. 

She soaked in his wisdom and, from what we can tell, Jesus held her in esteem and held her dear.  She was present and named for all the big events of his life including his death, and the church honors her as a saint and the first messenger of the good news of resurrection— even though few parishes remember her day.  Why?  Oh, don’t ask.

Here is brief but wonderful advice about such undistracted purpose of life. I will tape it to my computer desk, my fridge, my forehead.  It comes from one of my favorite actor’s Judi Dench in her 2012 memoir, “And furthermore.”

Dench, as a young aspirant learned to speak Shakespeare from the great British actor Sir John Gielgud. She writes: “I have always said to students that if you really want to know how to speak Shakespeare, Sir John and Frank Sinatra will teach you.  Because one used to present the whole arc of a speech, and the other presented the whole arc of a song, without any intrusive extreme emphases.”

That wisdom hit me up side the head. Let me not forget. Let me be so in love with my story that I do not sacrifice its arc for my tantalizing distractions. Let me write in rainbows—the whole arc.

And let me not stray from the arc of divine goodness but write it with clarity and as much brevity as I can muster, so my  ideas and stories won’t drown in the rushing pace of this culture—or that of my distracted mind.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012.07.18 A Gift That Gave

 I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish, was a spontaneous gift from a stranger on an airplane flight from Tel Aviv to London. We struck up a conversation across the aisle when lunch or breakfast or whatever meal it was (on airplanes they blend together like time zones) arrived.
I asked her about the book she was reading so intently. She showed it to me and said she’d give it to me when she finished it. I was reading Jesus Freak (Sara Miles) and she was reading I Shall Not Hate. How do such connections happen!! Nimisha is Hindu, a clinical psychologist living in London who  travels to Gaza five times a year for two weeks to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder among Palestinians.  “I hear horror stories. That’s why I watch dumb movies on airplanes,” she said. “Well, after I finish this book.”
“This book is for everyone,” she said when she, in a short time, passed it across to me.
I thanked her and began to read. The first thing I noticed was that the author was a Palestinian who had grown up in a refugee camp in Gaza and that there was a praise-filled Foreword by a Jewish  Israeli physician, Dr. Marek Glezerman, chairman of the Hospital for Women and deputy director of Rabin Medical Center, Israel.  Glezerman expressed surprise that Abuelaish, though chronically humiliated by Israeli military border procedures (harrasments really) while traveling for his work, was not “the very angry man I expected to greet.”
On our pilgrimage we visited a refugee camp in Efrata North, south of Jerusalem, established  in 1949. We heard a young Arab Muslim, 24,  speak of his life there and his dream of returning home to West Jerusalem. He wasn’t angry either but spoke with a kind of derailed depression freckled with hope and good humor. He had 30 hours to go in the university in the camp where, tellingly,  he studied psychology and social work. “I’m afraid to graduate,” he told us. “What then?  My friend applied for a job in Nablus with 11,000 applicants!”  I asked him about his faith in Allah. His answer was simple: “When I choose the good way and pray first.” 
As a feisty Christian feminist westerner I felt humbled. How come neither this man nor Abuelaish haven’t given up on God?  I thought that until I remembered that I hadn’t either, although my trials have been minor.

Abuelaish is an ObGyn doctor who specializes in infertility medicine. He has a heart for families, mothers and newborns, loss.  He was born in a refugee camp in Gaza where life was harsh. But his mother was a “lioness” mother who never let up on him about study, study study. He obeyed and eventually received a scholarship award and went to study medicine. Life in Gaza remained restrictive, and travel back and forth to work required him to cultivate teeth-gritting patience.

Through unimaginable suffering and tragic loss Abuelaish persisted. I Shall Not Hate is his memoir. It’s his testament to his religious faith and to the friendships of many Israeli colleagues who helped him and value his work and person. I’m reminded of the New Testament  story of the friends who removed roof tiles to lower their paralyzed buddy on his stretcher down through a roof  so he could bypass crowds to get to Jesus for healing. And Jesus told him faith had made him well—his own and that of his friends.  
Chapter One, titled “Sand and Sky” begins: “It was as close to heaven and as far from hell as I could get that day, an isolated stretch of beach just two and a half miles from the misery of Gaza City, where waves roll up on the shore as if to wash away yesterday and leave a fresh start for tomorrow. We probably looked like any other family at the beach—...”  I was hooked.

Abuelaish had brought his two sons and six daughters plus cousins, aunts and uncles to the beach to find peace in the midst of grief at the premature death of his wife Nadia  from leukemia just two weeks after diagnosis.  Little did Abuelaish know that in a short time his home would be the target, mistaken but never apologized for, of a fatal shelling during the 23-day siege of Gaza (Dec., 2009 into 2010) in which more family members would die. The sustained attack was designed to intimidate Hamas, retaliation for their suicide bombings.  But instead it murdered innocent people. Under a photo of himself in a graveyard Abuelaish wrote: “No caption can express a father’s loss.”
Feelings of agony, rage, terror, love, patience, and hope course side by side through this book but never overwhelm the story, nor the author’s peace and friendship platform.  The prose is clear and direct—accessible. No facts, no matter how painful, are sentimentalized, minimalized,  or sensationalized. This is the work of an ordered mind that manages to stay sane in the midst of insanity. He never blames Israelis for their government’s actions.

Medicine is his practice, healing physical illness and souls as it creates a level playing field of need and compassionate care.  Strong Muslim faith is his stronghold. “For the three weeks during the war, we lost our belief in humanity, so God and each other were all we had left.”    AND.......  friends on the other side.  “The tank pointing its guns at my house ...  looked like the angel of death.  I called Shlomi Eldar.” Eldar, his friend on the putative other side, managed to engineer a military inquiry into the matter and also set up  an interview on Israeli radio. The story went viral and that crisis was averted—until the next one.

At one point Abuelaish ran for public office in Gaza as an independent, thinking it might be a way to work for change.  His campaign platform stressed the same issues (poverty, health, education) as the Hamas platform. But Abuelaish’s campaign included raising the status of women. Abuelaish lost.
 In 2009 he won the Niarchos Prize for Survivorship. How ironic there is such a prize. It is given by the Survivor Corps an organization that works to break cycles of victimization and violence. Nomika Zion, an Israeli woman, shared the prize with Abuelaish. She and other neighboring Israelis, act and lobby in solidarity with Gazans.
Zion (I love the irony of the name!) accepted the award and spoke against the glorification of war. “I am frightened that we are losing the human ability to see the other side, to feel, to be horrified and to show empathy. It’s our obligation to make our leaders talk, to compel them to tell us, for a change, a different story.” Abuelaish in his acceptance speech  encouraged action and to think forward together. “The dignity of Palestinians equals the dignity of Israelis . . .” Does that sound familiar?
Having finally to make the hard decision to leave Gaza,  Abuelaish got a job and moved his family to Toronto where his children could experience safety and hope for a future.  But he plans to return to his native land and continue his healing mission to encourage an internal shift from hate to respect, on both sides at grassroots levels. He isn’t the first to have such a dream.

The very first activity his younger children performed at their new home in Toronto was to take down a section of the fence between their house and the neighbors so the kids could run back and forth.  “How prophetic that I witnessed what I had been dreaming about for years for our two neighbors, Israel and Palestine,” Abuelaish wrote. 
DAUGHTERS FOR LIFE  is the foundation Abuelaish has started. It is dedicated to change the status and role of women through the provision of scholarships for high school and university education.  Ultimately he hopes his foundation will create a credible voice for female values throughout the Middle East.  I just made a small gift online. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2012.07.15 Planning End Times—Or Not

I’m taking a break from Israel because I need one for now. Too intense. Also, it’s Sunday—and in the simmering 90s, hotter than the hinges of hell they say. There is no hell and if there is it surely doesn’t have doors with hinges and knockers. 

I don’t think much about hell or heaven or death much—at all. Too intense and I feel too vital. But if I do I start to cry because I love life too much to die. 

Nevertheless, to be sensible, Dick & I made our first foray into planning ahead so our children won't have to make decisions for us when the time comes when we must live less independently.

We’d like to stay where we are as we age and we’ve picked out our hospital. City R us. 

A colleague wrote, Bravo to you both! She and her siblings had tried unsuccessfully to argue her parents out of retiring on one coast when all four kids were on the other. But........ “They had community and history, something that would have been missing in any of our four regions, and they could still come visit. So choosing a place that has other folk you like, if possible, is a solution that really has worked for them.  Now, of course, it means schlepping cross-country for each of us, repeatedly, but I suspect it's a fair price to pay for their contentedness.” 

So that’s our one plan. So what if we don’t have lots of friends here yet. No offspring has complained. Did we tell them all? At least none of them has to schlepp cross-country. Unless they move—their problem.  

So far I’m doing better than my mother, a must at all times. My sister and I had to make that nursing home decision for her. She acquiesced but......     I wished she’d planned or even said anything about it at all. Not a word, not  her style.

“So how is it here, Mom?” I finally asked imagining the worst.   “Oh, it’s not bad,” she said, then told me how she had a good woman friend. “Just my age. We sit in our wheelchairs and watch all the old men wobble by,” she laughed.

Mom didn’t seem fussed by the mushy tasteless food or the odors. She had no sense of smell, and doesn’t taste exit with that?  She actually seemed content.  Of course one of the staff let on that “Verbal abuse” was written all over her chart. 

The good thing about Mom was that she never made us feel guilty because she made a mockery of everything. She even showed off with pride all the Bingo prizes she’d won—a champ despite advancing macular degeneration.  I still have one of them, a little glass red heart. It’s so tacky I love it.

I urge planning ahead. It’s a control issue to laud. It’s also a loving thing to do. You’re also supposed to talk about all this with your children or someone.  All you need is a listening mutual conversation.

So far we’ve not talked about anything and have visited only that one place. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012.07.11 In the Beginning.....

Packing is not our forte. But all journeys begin with packing.

Every day in Israel the marching orders were the same: water/water/water, hats, name tags (the College isn’t suspect) and sound systems. Also sunscreen recommended.  And every day one of us forgot one item or another, usually water, because we all knew that the bus driver had some for sale on the bus. But at least daily outfitting was clear and simple.

I have to be honest, it's never been easy for me to travel light like Jesus recommended. The day before we left I rushed down to Harvard Square just in case Eastern Mountain Sports had something lighter than my safari vest and maybe pants with a million pockets. I hate to carry huge bags and backpack. I thought if I had enough pockets I might be able to swing my arms free. I also hated the ersatz wallet hanging around my neck or strapped around my belly cinched beneath my tee shirt in the front making me look mildly with child. Despite my resolve I obviously was not leaving vanity behind as much as I’d intended. 

But LO!  EMS had everything including underwear advertised to dry in mere hours that you could stomp on to dry if you liked. They guaranteed that you could go on a 3-week trip with three pairs. True. (But underwear doesn’t take up much room anyway.)

I found crop pants with pockets big enough to hold my water bottle and Kleenex, even my faded Nantucket red brimmed baseball hat if I squished the brim. I hate hats too.  Best of all, these pants had an expandable tie waist. 

Dick agreed to carry money and passports around his own dear neck so I was all set. Everything crammed into one small bag even two floaty dresses in case I porked up or there was the requisite Anglican cocktail hour of wine, or sherry, and cheese.  I did and there was.

Toiletries traveled in a smaller bag and a beach bag held a raincoat (England was part of this trip,) a satchel for gifts we might bring home, and sneakers I never wore tied together for safety.  

In a last minute wave of irresistible sentimentality, I grabbed the “babies” and stuffed them into my bag—stowaways, but not Palestinians. The “babies” are two miniature hedgehogs named Ganley, not prickly as real hedgehogs are, but round and plush and cuddly. They sleep with us. This kind of thing sometimes happens as you get a little into dotage, and/or when you feel about four years old emotionally because you’re not at all sure you are really old enough yourself to be making such a big trip. 

Honestly we looked like Tommie and Tillie Tourist posing as sophisticates at 5:30a.m. waiting for our taxi. Dick may not (will not) agree with all this humor but when I confessed that the “babies” were on board he grinned.

Getting out of the US was more stressful than we’d expected not having traveled internationally for many years.  We got through the patting down and the Xrays, me worrying that I looked fat,  but there was some question about the size of the extra large mousse in my cosmetic case. It was the only vanity item I had, save for one lipstick and an ancient eyebrow pencil my daughters die laughing over.
The inspector questioned me and said he’d have to confiscate the mousse. “Ok,” I said sweetly.  He smiled and put it back in my case.  “We learn to read faces,” he said.  Goofy ones!

We grabbed stuff and rushed off—leaving the contents of two other trays behind. One contained my purse and the other the laptop. Rushing back to grab our items, we spotted the man who’d queried the mousse. He was laughing out loud, probably reassured he’d read our innocence correctly.

You have no idea how much unnecessary food I piled in once we got safely to the lounge with all our stuff in tow.

Our voyage was bon, and we matured considerably en route.  When we arrived, bedraggled for our London overnight,  a lovely man named Fernando invited us, after official closing time, into the restaurant for a delicious plate of pasta, comfort food.  He told us some of his faith story—raised in Portugal as a devout Roman Catholic but not really believing much of it—and asked us to pray for him in the Holy Land. 

We did.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

2012.07. 08 West of Eden

When we left St. George’s College in Jerusalem the departure briefing was, well, complete.  We were told how to behave exactly and what to say  when and if we were questioned getting through security at Tel Aviv. For example, if asked where the college was located we were NOT to say East Jerusalem but rather near the AMERICAN Colony Hotel, or on Salah Hadin Street, or across from the Israeli District Court. And please no attempts at cuteness or humor.

We ditched our nail and mustache scissors and put our course certificates of graduation and the St. George’s ceramic tile (sharp-edged weapon?)  we’d all received in one envelope. Opting for transparency. We had nothing to hide except our nerves.

At the airport we were shuffled into a long line to go through security. We and one other man were pulled out of line. We didn’t know why. The young man security guard was very courteous and asked us where we had been, stayed, how long and were we alone, etc? Who directed this course? Dick said Kamal Farah. I was thinking the name of the American Dean of the college might have been less provocative than a Palestinian name, Christian Episcopal priest or no.  But truth will out, and Dick brilliantly added a detail—that Kamal had taught at HEBREW University. 

The man behind us said these interrogations used to be much worse.  I took that as a good sign. Proceedings continued with careful inspections of the infamous tile. The supervisor was called in on the case.  The tile passed.

Dick’s passport took more time.  Several times he was asked to take off his glasses while someone looked from his face back to the passport and back again. He gave his most endearing smile. They at last established he was who he is, just 10 years older. Thank God for age, not a usual recipient of thanksgiving.   A couple of light jokes about age passed between us and the inspector.  We were your age once, etc. etc.  It eased the mood.

My passport was questioned as to my name. Not same as husband’s?  Which was in question, the name, the husband, or my seemingly unattached status?   It took two tries but I finally identified my first husband's name and said my maiden name was my middle name.

The good part was that we were now free of the still lengthy slow line and proceeded to the Xray process ahead of others still in line. Dick’s bag was opened. What was his Rx mouthwash? For gums. I half expected the woman inspector to ask him if it worked.  

All carry-ons and luggage stamped and approved we left, casually sauntering to Executive Lounge. We wanted to run.  

Theories about being singled out: we looked older and shouldn’t have to wait in a long line?  Arbitrary/random tactics?  We looked innocent enough to be suspicious? 

What I take away however is the respect we were showed by the young man and the smile on his face most of the time.  More friendliness than we were led to expect we’d receive,  and a grace we returned. 


On the plane I met a beautiful woman who gave me a gift—what a grace-incidence.

We struck up a conversation and shared laughter when the young woman’s opposing seat-mate immediately raised the screen between the seats.   “I smiled at her but now she can’t see me. So I’ll smile at you,” the woman said to me.  I, sitting across the  aisle, returned the smile.

(The seats in business class are arranged in a way that one person sits facing forward and the other facing rear. They form a unit almost like a lovers’ curved S-shaped couch.  But an opaque barrier can be raised between the two, for privacy. You don’t have to look at your seat-mate. )

I spotted the title I Shall Not Hate on the book the woman pulled out to read. I’d seen it in a bookshop in Jerusalem and the title felt magnetic. “It’s a great book,”she said. “I’m almost finished with it. I cried a lot reading though. When I’m done I’ll give it to you. We all need this book.” 

I told her no need I’d get it…... but by the time the food started arriving she handed it to me in a generous way I neither could nor would refuse.  I began to read it. The author Izzeldin Abuelaish is a  Palestinian physician who began his life in a refugee camp in Gaza, not unlike one we’d visited on our pilgrimage. This is his memoir. His wife died young of cancer, and he lost three daughters to Israeli military shells on his home. He has treated patients on both sides of the conflict, has worked with Israeili medical people, and received help from them in his time of greatest need.  Abuelaish now lives and teaches in Toronto—and never forgets his beloved family home in Gaza.

An Israeli Jewish physician, Dr. Marek Glezerman, chairman of the Hospital for Women and deputy director of Rabin Medical Center, wrote a Foreward proclaiming Abuelaish as one who could and would promote relationships between Palestinians and Jewish girls. It is his memory and dream. He has started a foundation to support the long hard work of building relationships based on truth not ideology. 

I haven’t finished the book but I must relate one incident Abuelaish recounts. Going back and forth to work weekly between Jerusalem where he worked and Gaza where he lived in the mid 90s was fraught with frustration for the good doctor. Initially the hassle came from both sides, Palestinian harassment from Hamas and grief from Israel border patrol on the other side.  The guards were rude and gruff.  He stayed patient. After a time they got to know Abuelaish, to “accept my existence,” he writes.  Enough to ask him for prescriptions for birth control pills for their girlfriends, because he specialized in infertility medicine.  

Once a security agent stopped him, not to dispute his papers but to ask a personal question. She was getting married and her menstrual period was due two days before the wedding. Did he have any advice for delaying her period? He did and took time to give her the information she needed.

As we prepared to de-board in London I thanked my new friend again for the book and asked, prompted by some of the themes of the book, her dark skin, and the specialized meal she received, if she were a Muslim. She is Hindu and works as a clinical psychologist who lives and practices in London but goes to Gaza for two week stints about five times a year to help with the treatment of victims of trauma who suffer from chronic post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“It’s such a little time to give really, but the stories I hear.  I Skype my friends every day for my own trauma.  And I watch dumb movies on TV.” 

I thanked this woman of faith for her ministry and thanked God, by whatever name, whose healing knows no bounds and no barriers, even opaque ones.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2012.07.04 Tender Icon of Hope

Worship in London on Sunday before we left for home was beautiful, although full as always with He's and he's and Hims...and lots of Fathers. 
The parish, All Saints Margaret St. does not let women priests celebrate. Clergy are working on it slowly but surely. Building rehab came first of course. And it is elegant.
I tell you, despite great music uplift and Eucharist and a good sermon,  I felt excluded from both humanity and divinity by the all-male language for things holy/godly.
And there was the gospel read from Mark, chapter 5,  in which Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus, president of the local synagogue,  and calls the girl "daughter" .......AND the hemorrhaging woman whom he also restores to health and the human community. TWO females included into community, religious and social.  So what is wrong with this picture in so many of our churches?  
I do think it will take a healing miracle of Jesus to bust up two of the two most recalcitrant idols in most liturgical churches: pews and language.  Social justice thrives outside the walls, but what about justice in the worship language?  OK, my soapbox again. 
I was myself healed from my ire as my attention was captivated watching a young family with 2 small daughters, maybe 4 and 2.  And a baby doll.  The 4year old cared for her baby and never complained. The 2 year old slept and only peeped when Mom tried to apply a brush to her knotted hair. She deftly avoided the brush by swiveling her head fast.  
The 4 year old in time asked her dad to lift her up so she could see. Her attention was riveted on the lovely statue in front of her of the BVM (not the latest car but, for those who might not know, the Blessed Virgin Mary.)
The statue represents Mary as Queen of Heaven all crowned and majestic, her right arm supporting Jesus, of toddler age. He holds an orb as if it were his ball to play with and his right foot and right hand swing out and point outward towards the observer. Go!  
The little girl began to swing her foot in and out, (imitatio dei,) a feat that looks easy in statuary but didn't quite work for Daddy's grasp.  Down she came but later Daddy took her up to see the votive candles in front of the Mary and Jesus statue and with great patience and care showed her how to light a small candle carefully, then place her coin in the slot.  She nodded vigorously and pointed up to Mary.  She knew something. God knows what:)
Flesh and blood icons are the best.
Happy and blessed American Independence Day. We are lucky. Despite my critiques I am patriotic.  America, home of the mostly free and the occasionally brave, my home.  We struggle still with the vision of equity and democracy
And pray for peace and inter-dependence for Israelis and Palestinians......... and for all those who have courage to serve their country and still ask dream of a war-free peace.    

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.
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.