The first time I came to Israel was in 1982.  Why?  After I divorced, I had gone back to college at a ripe old age to get a Master’s degree in Social Work.  I hadn’t discovered by that time that I really was meant to be a teacher.

As it does to many Jews, Israel had always called to me faintly.  But I wasn’t ready to commit to living there until I could see it for myself.  A visitor from Israel had once told me that anyone can be a volunteer on a kibbutz.  At that time, I was a young mother with no plan to ever see Israel, except perhaps as a tourist.  But something inside me felt excited about volunteering on a kibbutz.

Finally, the summer school break of 1982 at the age of 39 was my chance to sign up to be a volunteer on a kibbutz for two months.  That would give me the opportunity to see Israel for myself, as well as experience the purest form of communism — a kibbutz.

It was indeed a great introduction to Israel, and gave me what I needed to make the leap to becoming an immigrant in 1983, entering a program for American trained social workers who needed to learn the social work system in Israel, as well as studying Hebrew 5 hours a day.

My coming to Israel only slightly preceded the historical secret night airlifts of Ethiopian Jews from refugee camps in Sudan.  In a matter of hours, these Ethiopian Jews were whisked from an isolated all-black third world existence into a very different world connected to them only by being Jewish.

There were many differences between Israel of that time, and America.  However, in 1983, something was missing for me in the Jewish homeland — black people.  I was used to black people in my world, especially after I lived in integrated New Orleans for three years.

As a new immigrant, the government not only housed us, taught us Hebrew, but also brought us to meaningful events to teach us Israeli history.  One of these events was in the magical city of Jerusalem in 1984.

Picture this if you can — a large stage with a stone column rising on each side from the stage into the sky.  In between was the incredibly dramatic all-natural Judean desert.  And then a large group of Ethiopian immigrants arrived to take their seats.  They had particularly beautiful faces, their blackness accentuated by the all white cloth wrapped around their bodies.  I decided in that moment, “I want to work with them.”

By chance, I started to go to a center to learn Hebrew that was shared with newly arrived Ethiopian teenagers.  Most had braved the dangers of walking out of Ethiopia into Sudan without their families.  In our mutually baby Hebrew at that point, I got to know some of the teens studying there.

How to get a paying job working with them?  A little miracle helped.  I was sitting in an office of Youth Aliyah, the Israeli governmental department in charge of the Ethiopian children, when the person I was telling I wanted to work with Ethiopians received a call from the director of a boarding school in a northern city called Maalot pleading for help with newly arrived 42 new Ethiopian teenaged boys.  And that’s how I got my first job in Israel as the housemother to newly arrived Ethiopian teens.

Not only did I enter a job with a low level of Hebrew, but I had to immediately adjust to an orthodox religious boarding school that nothing in my Jewish upbringing had prepared me for.  And I was there to mother extremely stressed teenaged boys who had been catapulted into a modern world, a Jewish culture that was only partly familiar to them, and a white world.

Complications of all sorts were everyday experiences.  Not all boarding schools reacted the same.  But the native Israeli boys in our boarding school resented the new students and all the free clothes, books, etc. and perhaps most of all, the attention the Ethiopian students received.

Although all were teen boys, the two cultures clashed in how they fought.  Instead of fists, the pattern became that the Israeli kids would goad an Ethiopian kid into throwing rocks, which was his natural form of defense in Ethiopia.  Throwing rocks crossed the line for Israeli kids and the boarding school staff who considered rock throwing unfair fighting.

My personal biggest thrill being with the Ethiopians was that they had come from a totally black world that had never been dominated by a white country.  (Italy had tried and failed.)  As Ethiopian Jews, they had been hated by the Ethiopian Christians, but their skin color was a source of pride in a predominantly gentle all-black world.

They had told me at the boarding school that they felt closer kin to white Jews than to non-Jewish Ethiopians.  I feared for their future outside Africa.  And then there was the day that one of my cutest kids said in Hebrew, “I want to be white.”

That was in 1984.  I accepted Israel citizenship after 3 years in Israel, left Israel in 1989 for a variety of reasons, and then returned briefly for a visit on my 50th birthday.  Fast forward to January 1, 2018, when I returned once again at the age of 74 to Israel for 3 months.

I returned to update my knowledge of the many changes in Israel, and to volunteer with Ethiopians in the city of Netanya along the Mediterranean Sea coast.  I knew from a friend sending me regular Jerusalem post newspaper clippings about the Ethiopians that their life in Israel had been more than difficult.  I wanted to see them for myself after more than 30 years later, and do something meaningful during my stay.  By then I knew that the most helpful thing I could do would be to tutor English to Ethiopian kids.

 

Written on March 26, 2018, by the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel

Breathe in

Breathe out

I have read that it is healthier to live by the sea.  You breathe better.  And I certainly drift into a dreamless sleep, and then drift back into consciousness.  It is the most wonderful sleep, and I am very grateful for it.

Sleep without care, sleep without worry.  And today the gentle wind made my sleep by the sea all the better.

I did not agonize over this being the last time I’ll sleep beside you.  No trauma over having to leave your soothing gentleness and the state of sleeping grace you somehow transport me into.

I came to Israel — and I found …. peace and simple gratitude for how you make me feel by purifying my mind.

Lihitraot.  (Goodbye)  Ahava. (Love)

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

Written on March 25, 2018, next to the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

I was sorry to leave you last time all grayish and wettish.  Today, when I saw the sun and the bluegreen of your water and the solid blue of the sky, I felt happy to think of saying goodbye to a more normal you.  You see, I’ll be away a long time now — maybe forever.

But, being close to you today, I can tell you are all riled up.  The sun is warm, but the wind is strong and cold.

Are you telling me we need to accept what we cannot change, what we cannot control?  Perhaps, but that’s probably anthropomorphizing  just a bit too much by putting meaning where there is only chance.

Your voice is strong today too as the white waves roll in.  No delicacy in you today.  Is there some message in that?  Prepare for the unpredictable maybe?  Or, are you just pleasing yourself and not caring about connecting?

Ah, you are most likely simply responding to subtleties in nature I have no understanding of.

Just be you, and I’ll appreciate you as you are and thank you anyway for being with me these past 3 months.  For sure I’ll miss you, but not expect you to miss me.  We are kin, but we are not one.

While I walk, I wonder why the noise of the sea soothes me, but the noise of a crying child or a motor bike revving up drives me nuts.

Then, as I pondered why I am so sure there is a mind/body connection, and less clear about communication between humans and nature, chance brought a friend onto the same path by the sea as I was on.

We sat by you for quite a long time, watching the sunset and animatedly discussing a wide range of topics.  You faded into an accompaniment to two humans speaking the same language enjoying being together by the sea.  Diversity between humans and nature has beauty, but so does warm conversation between two humans, accompanied by nature.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

 

Written on March 24, 2018, near the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Are you angry at me because I’m leaving Israel in a matter of days?  Your waves are moving fast and loudly.  The sky is a cloudy mass.  The sun peeks in and out.

I came today with a bittersweet sense of our time together running out.  Over these past 3 months, I have seen you in many moods — both mine and yours.  Your company has meant a great deal to me.  We are certainly not equal, but we are both offspring of Mother Nature.  That makes us kin.

Since I cannot take you with me, I will only take the sense of you.  Will that be enough?  It will, after all, have to do.  But I will miss you terribly even so.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

Written on March 20, 2018, by the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel

Breathe in

Breathe out

I sit by you as day is about to turn into night.  And then I think about tomorrow night when I will be totally engulfed by stars in a place that has very little light pollution to diminish the impact.

I remember the feeling best from long ago when I went hiking in the Sinai, slept outside, and woke up in the middle of the night with endless stars as far as I could see.  Hopefully, I will have that feeling again in Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert.

The sea touching the earth.  The stars touching the heavens.  And then, in between, are we humans who just can’t seem to figure it all out.

There are humans.  And there is nature.  We are somehow connected.  But, oh, how better off nature would be without humans.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

 

Written by the Mediterranean Sea on March 17, 2018, in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I almost didn’t come to you today.  Shabbat (Saturday) is a busier day by the sea, and I prefer having you to myself.  But, as sunset approached, I heard you calling me to see just how beautiful you would be at this sunset.  How I appreciate your color, the clouds crowding you, and the sound of the waves lapping the shore.

Yes, endings are important too.

I am facing the ending soon of my 3 months in Israel and who I am now compared to how I was almost 3 months ago.  As well as the ending of curling within the snake-like sculpture to take in this view of you.  And the ending of visiting you in only a 10 minute slow walk from where I live.

Slowly, quietly, subtly, the sun melds with the gray.  Ah, now your ball is no longer visible, but the clouds still keep your beauty and color a bit longer.  And you continue to light up the sky even as you die this day.

I like your ending — would that my ending will also brighten the sky as I say goodbye.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

 

 

Written by the Mediterranean Sea on March 16, 2018, in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Dear Sea, you are very blue today.  And your waves are very noisy today.  The blue of the sky makes a very definite line between sea and sky.

And then comes the whirl of a fan under a colorful kite that takes the rider over the coast.  It’s quite noisy.  It doesn’t look like much fun to me, but perhaps I’m wrong and it’s really wonderful.

It’s March now, and the winter rains are behind us.  They have left behind very, very green grass and colorful wildflowers.

I don’t see any bubbles, but bubbles have been on my mind.  Of what use are bubbles?

There is more control over one’s life if confined by the contours of the bubble.  And control of one’s life seems particularly important and harder to achieve in today’s rapidly changing world.

Bubbles keep you safe inside, but restrict you from experiencing life outside the bubble.  While critical to the young, how important is it to seniors who aren’t sure why they’re still alive?

Inside — outside.

Control — at risk.

I definitely chose at risk during my adventurous years.  And even now, sameness still wears on me, forcing me to change the channel, eat something I’ve never eaten before, go some place I’ve never gone before.

Choices, choices — give me choices.

But perhaps not too many, not too fast, and not too expensive.  I’m of great-grandmother age now.

Perhaps a bubble where the sun can come in, and I can go out.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

Written by the Mediterranean Sea on March 15, 2018, in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

All is gray in the sea today.  Perhaps it is mourning the death of 76 year old Stephen Hawking.  But rather than mourning such a totally remarkable life, perhaps its grayness is simply marking his death.

I can vaguely see the light of the sun mostly blocked by clouds.  The clouds form a thick layer rather than the puffy pictures they often draw.

Stephen Hawking, for all his physical trials and tribulations, never lost his sense of humor.  Ah, perhaps keeping his sense of humor allowed him to be mostly a very active brain encased in a very disabled body.  He knew the sun would come out again.  Perhaps that was the secret to his survival.  He understood in ways 99 and 9/10ths of us never could how humans are inextricably intertwined with the ultimate mother — Mother Nature.

I don’t understand even a mere fraction of what Stephen Hawking did, but I do know that I am also inextricably intertwined with Mother Nature.

Rest in peace in whatever dimension you now inhabit.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

 

Written March 13, 2018, by the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel

Breathe in

Breathe out

Today I cross the road so I can walk along the sea.  And what do I see?  My eyes pop, and my mouth makes a wide “O.”

The color is different today.  It is multi shades of the color turquoise, a favorite color of mine that always makes me feel guilty because of the day a young me clumsily dropped the turquoise stone friendship ring my father gave my mother into the sand on the beach, and never found it again.

And the sun makes sparkles in the sea that reflect like twinkling stars of nighttime.

How can this sea keep thrilling me day after day, view after view?

I think of my most creative friend who told me that it is her creativity that wakes her up joyfully every morning, ready to pursue her many talents.  For me, less talented than my old friend, the sea awakens something wonderful in me too, lulls me to sleep, and soothes my aging soul.

In the vastness of the sea before me, one sailboat trying to catch the wind goes slowly by.  It doesn’t look lonely out there by itself.  It doesn’t look afraid of the breadth and depth of the sea it is on.  Does it have a purpose?  A destination?  Do I?

Now that I’ve seen the turquoise blue sea, and felt the wind upon my face, I am content not to live too long.

Long live the turquoise sea!

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

Written March 12, 2018, looking out at the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya, Israel.

Breathe in

Breathe out

How can it be that we are kin?  You, with your endless blue water, and me, with my puny human characteristics?  “They say,” and I do believe, that we are connected by nature.  I, the sea, the air, the wind, the birds, the land — we are all a part of nature.

Perhaps I could not bear to believe that I pass through this world for years with no connection to it — just floating by, and then into nothingness before and after me.  I have no proof of our kinship except that I feel it physically and spiritually.

I do not wish to be only another human among billions because humans are such a small, inconsequential part of nature — and certainly not the best part.  I am often ashamed of being human given all the meanness of the species.  I think of my friend, Ruth, whose worst three years of life were spent as a young teen in Auschwitz.  She endured and overcame unimaginable things to have what she amazingly was able to call “a good life.”

And then I read of quite normal, beautiful teens who commit suicide to escape bullying by other teens on social media.  And I can’t understand either the brutality or the fragility of teenagers who grew up in a world of social media.  I can’t put them together.

When I divorced, I felt opposing pulls of pain and the excitement of pulling together a new life for myself.  But now I’m old, and there are very few mitigating factors to ease the depression of deterioration.  How to sustain my spirit like my friend Ruth did through the horrors of continuing to live through evil times and cruel humans?

You, nature, are the only way I can balance the world enough to want to stay in it a while longer.  And then I will join you as an intangible, forever lasting, infinitesimal speck of dust.

Breathe in

Breathe out

Namaste

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