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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Schizophrenic Israelis

Well, you know that I had to spell check that one, eh?

There are a number of times during the year that I'm sure that the Jewish religion actively promotes schizophrenia. We have so many sad and/or somber holidays or rememberance days, followed immediately by days of wild rejoicing. The current month, to my mind, encapsulates the phenomena. First you have Pesach with seven (eight for all you out-of-towners)days of "there's nothing to eat in this house" (depressing, especially if you're the person responsible for stocking the kitchen and keeping the fridge full) together with massive meals and fun. Less than a week later comes Holocaust Rememberance Day when the air waves are full of reminders of that horrible time and nightmares are the order of the day. The following week is Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, another day of sadness and reflection on the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country (and us). And then, bang, Israel Independence day....fireworks, music, celebration, barbques, swimming, fun......it's kind of hard to get a handle on what you're supposed to be feeling on any particular day.

Yesterday morning, Memorial Day, I was walking by the cemetery in the morning. In Tzfat, the military cemetery sits directly next to the Old Jewish Cemetery with its ancient graves of Jewish rabbis, sages and kabbalists. Soldiers were already getting ready for the eleven o'clock memorial ceremony when thousands of locals come to stand with the families of the fallen soldiers and terror victims. The soldiers were setting out ice chests with hundreds of bottles of water which were to be handed out for free to the people who came to the ceremony. Tell me, is there any other country in the world that acts like such a Jewish mother? Not only water....they had bags of chocolate milk (in Israel, milk comes in plastic bags, and chocolate milk comes in little half-liter bags so that you can bit off the tip and suck the chocolate milk out). The soldiers set up right next to the entrance to the cemetery to make sure that everyone drinks enough. With all due respect to the combat soldiers, the pilots, the men and women who risk their lives for our country -- THAT's my army.

Last night was quiet, but today we went down below the city to an area with a natural spring to barbque with some neighbors. In a typical Israeli scene, the revelers next to us were a group of Chabad young men who coralled some of the secular boys who came to dip in the spring to offer them a chance to put on tefillin. Most of the boys actually agreed, and by the time we left, the Chabad boys and the secular boys were sitting together sharing a "L'chayim" (translation: a drink)

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