( The late Rabbi Menachem Froman with the Dali Lama )
This afternoon i had scheduled a meeting with the principal at an Arab-Jewish school , i was looking forward to this interview because i wanted to work with children of diverse backgrounds and exactly this combination, Arab and jewish, and i also was told that with an incompleted teaching certificate ( due to one course and twenty years when i had lived abroad) rejected with my much invested thesis my labor of love and my much completed and ignored by the Israeli ministry of Education M.A. in Education from Lesley in Boston, USA; i could not work at a regular school anyhow, which was fine by me as long as i get to work in a school where teachers were motivated to teach more than to prepare for exams but to teach how to live a life of meaningful knowledge and for me the most important meaningful knowledge in the middle east is striving for peace, on all levels,personal and political.
The bus driver was very helpful and recommended the local ice cream and a pretty young teenage girl had spoken about a recent murder of two young women that she knows from the area . horrified.I had heard a news item this morning on the radio ; the two women were murdered while driving in a car, the motive is still being investigated. The young teenager had said her father was a Moslem Arab and her mother Jewish . She was happy with that and lived in both world well, she said. The Israeli bus driver chatted with her and realized from talking to her that he knew her father and had liked him . The energy was upbeat despite the news of this morning.
A woman dressed in typical modest Moslem black dress and veil had overheard me asking the bus driver where the school was and had kindly pointed out the school to me .
At the entrance to the school stood a guard who refused to let me in since he said there was no one there . I called the principal , an Israeli, and she had apologized , she had an unexpected meeting and had to cancel, i insisted on meeting this week since these are the last days of the school year , in two months start the summer vacation and i needed to secure a position till then or i will be forced to accept” left overs ” or the dreadful substitute positions no one wanted, and i took on last year having not had enough recent experience in the Israeli school system.
The principal had called me back while i was on a busy road so i had sought refuge in a peaceful air-conditioned middle eastern restaurant , welcomed by a friendly smiling Arab waiter .
The menu was Humous, which i dislike, but having not many choices, i went for a dish with special middle eastern beans and humous and had asked that the flat bread be warmed up.
The interior was very clean , i think this place was new or else renovated and very well kept, it felt like walking into a palace . I had a seat by a large window where i could look out at a beautiful intersection of old buildings with red roof tops and green middle eastern pine trees .
Two arabs sat at a table in front of me speaking words, of which i could pick up one or two, based on a very rudimentary knowledge of the language and i wondered why i knew so little, since my late father had been a fluent speaker of Arabic and very fond of the culture , at another table a middle aged man with silver hair spoke Israeli Hebrew to an elderly woman while they ordered a large assortment of various salates.
As i walked down the street afterwards on my way to the bus station and home, i recalled that my fondest family memories were of eating in an Arabic restaurant in Jaffa where my father received a warm welcome and would show off his fluent local Arabic .
My father had learned Arabic from having lived with Arabs in Israel before and after 1948. He had only good memories to tell, or perhaps would tell only the good memories and mentioned several figures , Zarifa, was one figure he had told stories about , inventing perhaps funny stories of her wit and ability to overcome obstacles with clever solutions . Another figure was a man called Abu Leban, i think he had made up , who would rule the village with wit as well.
Friday afternoons my father would settle down with small brown bags filled with oven warm variety of nuts , sunflower and pumpkin seeds he would place at a small table as he would turn on the T.V. to the Arab film of the week, and i would often watch with him . He would point out the main characters and the plot with great joy and this was a special time i had enjoyed spending with my father who had not lived very long past my childhood.
All those joyous memories of sitting at the restaurant with my father had flooded my mind as i watched young teenage Arab boys with their heads shaven riding bicycles on the busy road .
A thin middle aged woman with dyed very light blond hair had sat next to me hugging a plastic bag . A conversation had started, i dont recall who initiated but i think i had asked her whether she lived there and she had answered , ” no but my mother unfortunately lives here”..”to which i had answered “why unfortunately?” and she had said , “because there are many Arabs here” she added that when there was a difficult time with them, they had blocked the roads and shook the bus, she showed with her hands, and said “it was frightening..”
Her facial experssion was one of fear and i thought to myself “primitive ” …but did not say anything ..”i interviewed for a teaching position here”, i had told her , unable to contain my excitement at the idea of working with children of a different culture and yet a culture that was the majority of the middle east after all, and where we were all living .
The woman with the bleached yellow hair had rushed to catch a bus, not saying anything and i did not regret her departure, in fact i had felt a deep relief .
Just as she had left a tourist bus with the banner “Taglit-birthright ” ( “Taglit means “Discovery” in Hebrew) had appeared and i thought to myself “birthright”, what does that exactly mean?
The program “Taglit” took young Jewish youth who lived abroad to Israel for a two week trip showing them Israel and educating them about Israel , history, Geography, politically no doubt too, in an effort to attract more newcomers.
As a returning citizen i viewed this program in a bitter cynical disappointment, disappointed that my country had spent so much money on people who did not live here while struggling to help holocaust survivors who were already living here for several decades or other people in need..i struggled with the support that young Jewish people of well to do countries such as the USA, Canada or European countries had to visit Israel and to emigrate while locals , both Jewish and Arabs did not have enough support , in my humble opinion anyway..
The news of a Hamas rocket attack
The Israeli air force struck over 30 targets in Gaza in response to two rocket barrages fired toward southern Israeli communities Tuesday. The first barrage consisted of 28 mortars, with one shell falling in the yard of a kindergarten. Hours later, several projectiles were launched from Gaza and parts of a rocket fell near a school in Sderot.
Most of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Five Israelis were wounded.
Over the past few days, Israel has been bracing for a response from Islamic Jihad after the Israeli military killed three of its militants and a Hamas member in strikes on the coastal enclave.
6:14 P.M. Israeli military shells observation post in the central Gaza Strip, Palestinian reports say
5:45 P.M. Israel Navy stops Palestinian flotilla attempting to sail From Gaza
The Israel Navy stopped a flotilla of Palestinian activists who set sail from Gaza Tuesday to protest years of a naval blockade by Israel and Egypt on the Gaza Strip
After having heard the news and while reading a book on the bus about a brutal murder of a 13 year old Jewish teenager who had been stoned to death along with his friend while hiking in caves near his home back in 2001. The book is called “The blessing of a broken heart ” by Sheri Mandell , the mother who tells about the life and murder of her son, Yaakov Nathan, (blessed memory) in great courage and so I end with a quote she had written at the beginning of her incredibly brave soul full voyage of recovery ;
“Who prepares nourishment for the raven, when its children cry out to God, confused without food?”
-Job, Chapter 38, verse 41.
I know this sounds incredibly naive and out of touch with reality, but i am thinking that to teach Arab and Jews learning together in an elementary school is peace work , and i think of a quote in the new testament which is
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”
I think about a great Rabbi Menachem Froman who had come from the same settlement in the west bank as the murdered boy.
I will end with quotes by the Rabbi who had remained naive in his faith and belief in peace no matter what
” For many years, I have said that I have two proofs for God. The first is that media fills the void of the world with so much nonsense and despite this a person keeps a little reason – this is a sign that there is a God.
[Second:] is that the religious community appears the way it does and speaks about God the way it does. Despite this there remains people in the world who believe [in God] – this is a sign that in truth there is a God.
The purpose of the Zohar is to reveal the answer to “know… to where you are heading” (Avot3:1) then you wont fear death, on the contrary you are strengthened from it.
In truth, the world is filled with tragedy; existence is laden with many inner contradictions. The difference between me and Rav Kook is that Rav Kook triumphed over them with a harmonistic approach an I triumph over them with humor. (115)
The Zohar is not the Torah of the righteous but for the masters of return. Why? Because someone who has not fallen – who has not “glanced and been stricken”, one who has not “cut down some of the shoots”, one who has not tasted the taste of heresy – does not learn Zohar. Only someone who visits the abyss can reach the secret (sod).
Who is permitted to enter the empty void? One who does not wait for answers, one who does not wait for decisions of halakhah that decide what he is to do. Only one whose religiosity is built on silence. One whose emotions of cleaving to God are at times such that he does not know what is incumbent upon him to do. A person like this becomes a stronger believer from the times that he calls out the question of “where is the place of His glory?”
One whose faith is built on emotions of grace in which he only experiences that “there is a God” – that his cleaving to God comes from an answer to questions, then it is forbidden for him to enter the empty void, his religious world would collapse there.
164) The uniqueness of the Zohar as opposed to other works of kabbalah is that the Zohar deals entirely with the left, the side of the other side (sitra ahara). It does not remain in the sublime mercy of the right side. Rather it seeks embodiment by partnership with the forces of evil, only in this way can something be whole. This is exactly the opposite of Maimonides. The entire purpose of Maimonides was to negate corporeality, while the Zohar is the book of corporeality and partnership with evil.
Therefore, the Zohar really loves sacrifices. Today in synagogue we do all sorts of spiritual activities such as praying and intention – but where is the meat? Where is the corporeality? The Zohar says that a sacrifice is peace and there is not peace without the left [side]. We make peace with enemies otherwise it is one sided as when there is only the right side. The [right side] is the essential part but without the accompanying [left] part there is no wholeness. So too with a sacrifice- there is confession, which is perhaps the essential part of sacrifice but without the meat and blood it is not a sacrifice. The Zohar is the opposite of Maimonides.
It is customary to say that it is forbidden to study the Zohar before one marries, but how is it possible to get married without learning Zohar?
When I learned in Merkaz Harav, we continuously returned to the divine grasp of Nahmanides who said that to live in the land of Eertz Yisrael (land of Israel) was a mitzvah, in contrast to Maimonides who did not count this as a mitzvah. The entire settlement movement is based on this position of Nahmanides. But perhaps, Maimonides is correct.
Anyone who reads “And it shall come to pass that if you keep the mitzvot” (“Vehaya im shamoa tishmeu mitzvosai asher…”) sees that living in the land is a gift of God, the land is a reward for keeping other mitzvot. There is no other command placed on people.
What can brokenness create? It can produce a revelation of the shekhinah that fills the thankful heart.
The principle power of a person is to acknowledge his weaknesses and to turn to God. This is the great power of a person.
The Rambam [probably he meant Maharal or Ramhal] said that the truth is grasped by contradictions because I live a life of everything and its opposite. I am wide but also narrow. I am required to be focused and grounded but to have a rich world, scattered but to have fear of God. It is impossible to know consequences: Does wealth brings fear of God or the opposite? Every mitzvah and every action need two wings of love and fear. Between these two poles is formed the electric tension of life.
Rabbi Menachem Froman “my follwers will laugh from this”
And i will end by a quote by Rabbi Shlomo Carlibach, the dancing singing Rabbi whose wonderful daughter Neshama, i had had the pleasure of meeting one winter at a yoga ashram where she preformed at an inter religious forum and this is what she says about accusations about her father and about life in general;
“I can only watch and assess our broken world. As my father himself said, we have to laugh with one side of our heart and cry with the other. That his life, music and actions prompt both laughter and tears will likely not cease in our lifetimes.
We, as human beings, try to strive for closure. That’s a natural inclination. But to try to find peace and closure with something that will never be clear nor closed has been – and will likely remain – painful and confusing. My choice is to stand here. To not run away.
And this is why we need to sing and hope even more than before. Finding songs to propel us is essential, now more than ever. If there were no songs, we would sing anyway. We’d find a way. My father’s music has been a salve for many and a trigger for others. In the end, those who feel healed by the music I bring – my own and my father’s – will be blessed by that. In the end those who feel that they did not want to include it in their repertoire will not include it”
For all those victims of violence on both sides we need to acknowledge the pain of all people who are victims of violence and to nonetheless never ever give up the struggle for co existence even amongst the hateful violence of those who wish to end co existence and to end diversity in the middle east and the possibility of Arabs and Jews living side by side in peace as the bible predicts will happen one day and that day can be any day but can only happen through peaceful intentions and actions that will serve as a balancing force to the violence.
We owe it to all those hurt in violence of the conflict to do everything possible to live in peace together , we need to prove to the haters that we will have the upper hand, because we were not created to fight kill or die but to live in peace!
After all is said and done, more is said than done.. lets do good, lets bring peace in our life time !