On the 50th Anniversary of the Six-Day War

What I didn’t know in June of 1967 was that this month and year for Jews around the world was the moment of great triumph, the moment of saying to Hitler and his legions, you lose, you lose, you lose. Pride moved like a fever throughout Kingston Estates Swim Club, from the Jewish mother with her iced tea to the Jewish mother seated with mahjong tiles spread out before her, from the Jewish father at the plate to the Jewish father in right field, the perfect arc of the deep fly about to deposit the softball right into the pocket of his gloved hand.

I was thirteen. It was my mother at the mahjong table, my father at bat. It was my summer, my swim club, where my game was tetherball and I drank vanilla milkshakes half-listening to the announcements on the loudspeaker while proudly wearing my green, deep-end band around my wrist. I was a suburban kid, a middle-class assimilated Reform Jew—Israel was a smudge at the edge of my map of interests, concerns.

My eye was set on Robin. She was my promised land. She was the country in which I would prove to the world, the kids on the block, that I wasn’t a Jew; I was a man.

As I write this, it’s coming on June of 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of my ignorance—let’s say my ignorance of Jewish history through which I drifted until, in July 1976, I landed in Tel Aviv, and found myself already written into a book, thousands of pages of which had already been completed, a few of which had hints of me but without naming me or situating me in a trap that I would either need to escape, proving how clever I was, or a trap that I would need to transform into a home, my home among my people.

Among my people, I am one who didn’t fight in the Six-Day War, but was called to Jerusalem nine years later, to the romance of Jerusalem, the freedom of a young American Jew who hadn’t suffered a pain any greater than the heartache of several failed love affairs—if that’s the right way to characterize a girlfriend here and a girlfriend there, the explosions of young bodies in public parks and VW Bugs and creepy motel beds.

But that’s a story for another time. [Read more…]

Jerusalem Risen and in Ruins

Israel surprised me.

It met me in Boston where I had traveled to attend a conference.

I hadn’t planned on its being there. Laurie was going to join me later in the week. I was looking forward to her visit, looking forward to her seeing her enjoy the rather luxurious conference hotel—tenth floor corner room, windows facing north and east, the east facing window delivering up a stunning view of the spires of Trinity Church—and the luxury of time to see the city while I attended conference sessions.

But a day before Laurie arrived, Israel showed up. [Read more…]

A Story More Durable Than Flesh and Stone

Yom Rishon (l’Shabbat): the first day toward the coming Shabbat: Sunday on the Gregorian calendar.

And the psalmist asks, “Who may ascend the mountain of Y-H-V-H?” And the psalmist asks, “Who may rise in God’s sanctuary?”

Yom Sheni (l’Shabbat): the second day toward the coming Shabbat: Monday on the Western calendar.

And the psalmist says, “In your temple, God, we meditate upon your kindness.”

Thus, we progress, from day to day, from psalm to psalm, from below to above, from mundane to sacred. Stitching together the liturgy the rabbis create, or receive, a story and pass it on. A story to counter the story of loss, ruin, extinction.

[Read more…]