Sunday, July 31, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach
TEL AVIV — Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.
Most had never seen the sea before.
The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws.
In the grinding rut of Israeli-Palestinian relations — no negotiations, mutual recriminations, growing distance and dehumanization — the illicit trip was a rare event that joined the simplest of pleasures with the most complex of politics. It showed why coexistence here is hard, but also why there are, on both sides, people who refuse to give up on it.
“What we are doing here will not change the situation,” said Hanna Rubinstein, who traveled to Tel Aviv from Haifa to take part. “But it is one more activity to oppose the occupation. One day in the future, people will ask, like they did of the Germans: ‘Did you know?’ And I will be able to say, ‘I knew. And I acted.’ ”
Such visits began a year ago as the idea of one Israeli, and have blossomed into a small, determined movement of civil disobedience.
Ilana Hammerman, a writer, translator and editor, had been spending time in the West Bank learning Arabic when a girl there told her she was desperate to get out, even for a day. Ms. Hammerman, 66, a widow with a grown son, decided to smuggle her to the beach. The resulting trip, described in an article she wrote for the weekend magazine of the newspaper Haaretz, prompted other Israeli women to invite her to speak, and led to the creation of a group they call We Will Not Obey. It also led a right-wing organization to report her to the police, who summoned her for questioning.
In a newspaper advertisement, the group of women declared: “We cannot assent to the legality of the Law of Entry into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right. They are not permitted free movement within the occupied territories nor are they allowed into the towns and cities across the green line, where their families, their nation, and their traditions are deeply rooted.
“They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day.”
The police have questioned 28 Israeli women; their cases are pending. So far, none of the Palestinian women and girls have been caught or questioned by the police.
The beach trip last week followed a pattern: the Palestinian women went in disguise, which meant removing clothes rather than covering up. They sat in the back seats of Israeli cars driven by middle-aged Jewish women and took off headscarves and long gowns. As the cars drove through an Israeli Army checkpoint, everyone just waved.
Earlier, the Israelis had dropped off toys and equipment at the home of one of the Palestinian women, who is setting up a kindergarten. The Israelis also help the Palestinian women with medical and legal troubles.
Israel’s military, which began limiting Palestinian movement into Israel two decades ago to prevent terrorism at a time of violent uprisings, is in charge of issuing permits for Palestinian visits to Israel. About 60,000 will be issued this year, twice the number for 2010 but still a token amount for a population of 2.5 million. Ms. Hammerman views the permits as the paperwork of colonialist bureaucrats — to be resisted, not indulged. Others have attacked her for picking and choosing which laws she will and will not obey.
The Palestinian visitors came with complicated histories. In most of their families the men have been locked up at some point. For example, Manal, who had never been to the sea before, is 36, the mother of three and pregnant; five of her brothers are in Israeli prisons, and another was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife.
She brought with her an unsurprising stridency. “This is all ours,” she said in Tel Aviv. She did not go home a Zionist, but in the course of the day her views seemed to grow more textured — or less certain — as she found comfort in the company of Israeli women who said that they, too, had a home on this land.
Another visitor lives in a refugee camp with her husband and children. Her husband’s family does not approve of her visits (“ ‘How can you be with the Jews?’ they ask me. ‘Are you a collaborator?’ ”) but she did not hide the relief she felt at leaving her overcrowded camp for a day of friends and fun.
The beach trips — seven so far — have produced some tense moments. An effort to generate interest in a university library fell flat. An invitation to spend the night met with rejection by Palestinian husbands and fathers. Home-cooked Israeli food did not make a big impression. And at a predominantly Jewish beach, a policeman made everyone nervous.
So, on this latest visit, the selected beach was one in Jaffa that is frequented by Israeli Arabs. Nobody noticed the visitors.
Dinner was a surprise. Hagit Aharoni, a psychotherapist and the wife of the celebrity chef Yisrael Aharoni, is a member of the organizing group, so the beachgoers dined on the roof of the Aharonis’ home, five floors above stylish Rothschild Boulevard, where hundreds of tents are currently pitched by Israelis angry with the high cost of housing. The guests loved Mr. Aharoni’s cooking. They lighted cigarettes — something they cannot do in public at home — and put on joyous Palestinian music. As the pink sun set over the Mediterranean, they danced with their Israeli friends.
Ms. Aharoni was asked her thoughts. She replied: “For 44 years, we have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my life I have been an occupier. I don’t want to be an occupier. I am engaged in an illegal act of disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right.”
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
All of the walls in the rooms of the house
Are the usual shape and size
I'm just a person who can't be for certain that I'm gonna fit inside
Oh, I've been tryin' and tryin' but it makes me tired.
So I went to the circus and pulled back the curtains
Thought maybe I'd find some room
But all of the clowns and the elephant sounds disappear like a red balloon
Oh, I wonder if I could ever tell lies from the truth.
You are the water
I am an iceberg
Under a big blue sky
All of the people are lined up and labeled
Like cans at the grocery store
But still we are waiting and watching and making and wanting and taking more.
Oh, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
You are the water
I am an iceberg
Under a big blue sky
You are the water
I am an iceberg
Under a big blue sky
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
the difference between "keeping the peace" and being a peacemakerstrength and weakness as explained by Paul Tillich and experienced recently by methe weight of affirmation and the idea that maybe that is true definition of "glory"sustenance of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil vs. being fed from the tree of life
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!
For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!
Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.
May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, yes!
(Galatians 6, The Message)
Friday, July 15, 2011
First, from the Internet Monk:
Let’s be honest. Brennan Manning isn’t an exegete or a expositor. He’s a Catholic. He’s a mystic. He’s a story-teller. He’s sloppy. He makes no attempt at neat Systematics. He quotes other writers, some of them a bit off the farm. He repeats the same ideas and stories in almost every book. He never seems to be anything other than weak and in desperate need of help from God. His prose is occasionally excessive and sometimes obscure. He can be frustrating, puzzling and disturbing.
And Brennan Manning is, for my life (and the lives of thousands of other devoted readers), simply the most indispensably authentic writer on the God of Jesus Christ I’ve ever encountered. Brennan knows Jesus and can bring you right there like no other writer of our time.
One thing I can say for every critic who finds Manning “a waste of time:” They are not longing, in the midst of the wreckage of their own souls, to hear, existentially and constantly, the assurance of God’s absolute love and affection. I can say this with some certainty, because no one can compare to the ability of Brennan Manning to stop you and embrace you with the astonishing love of God.
Yes, I do believe that. And it has made all the difference...
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
A hero, a serpent, a lost coin
Most days I could be any one
And all the time that we're wasting
Wondering whose side we are on... I don't wanna lose you
she who has been loved much has so much to givemercy is the fragrance of the broken
Monday, July 11, 2011
It was unusually hot the morning our family participated in the Run Too Overcome 5K (an annual event that raises funds and awareness for the exceptional children’s departments of our local schools). My husband, our four children, and I had made an eager start, but we’d barely reached the 1K mark when Luke (our oldest, who has Asperger’s Syndrome) hit the wall. It wasn’t physical exhaustion; Luke has grown used to long hikes and bike rides with the family. But several factors combined to make this an especially intolerable experience. To begin with, it was Saturday morning - his day “off.” It was hot. And we were aimlessly (from his point of view) walking through town on roads meant for cars, in the middle of a great visual sea of people. This might have been tolerable, but there was no motivation, no purpose that had been well communicated to him. And so, with no end in sight, he lay down on the pavement and refused to move. In some ways, he was unable to move. He was done.
Over an hour later my husband and other three children, who had finished long before, stood with the crowd of people waiting at the finish line. Luke and I held hands as we made our way toward them, keeping a slow but steady pace. I can’t recall precisely what transpired in the interim, but at some point along the way Luke experienced a tipping point where he decided he could do this after all. And so, he did. I let go of his hand and jogged in, which made him the absolute last person to finish the event. He walked under the checkered flag, completely unimpressed by the cheers of the crowd, and – without the slightest pause- walked straight to the car.
A fun morning? Not exactly. But the point is, he did it.
Perseverance. The more I get to know people on the spectrum I’m convinced they know more of the true meaning of this word than do any of us. They endure so much we can’t even imagine. My son now tolerates many things that used to send him into a panic. Does that mean these things don’t bother him anymore? Not necessarily. Adults on the spectrum explain it's less accurate to say they are no longer sensitive to such stimuli; rather, they’ve learned to cope. I admire that so much!
I remember listening to Aspie Stephen Shore, a well-known writer and autism advocate, speak once. He explained the frustration of being "high functioning" because, as he put it, people tend to forget and assume you're “just like them.” Then, when you do have a problem of some sort, they become disappointed or annoyed. It is easy to forget that people on the spectrum expend a lot of mental energy tolerating a million different assaults upon their sensory systems and social boundaries. I’m starting to see this reality in Luke's life. He’s almost a teenager now. When he was in kindergarten it didn’t take a rocket scientist to notice, “Something is different with this one.” But now? Well, now it’s less obvious that he processes the world differently, which is what we all wanted for him. But in some ways that makes his life all that much harder.
I’m grateful there are people in Luke’s life who do “get it.” Surprisingly (or not?), those people have been his peers. I say “or not” because I’m coming to appreciate that when you take time to inform kids and answer their honest curiosities about autism, they most often respond with compassion, understanding, and tolerance. Last fall I’d had the pleasure of talking to Luke’s classmates the first week of school, to give them insight into the challenges Asperger's Syndrome presented for Luke. In the months that passed they came to appreciate Luke’s positive attitude and sense of humor, while also growing acutely aware of his quirks and challenges. He hadn’t had a perfect year. Some days were harder than others, like the morning he told his classroom teacher that he needed to talk to the principal. She allowed it, and so Luke walked in “like a man” (as the principal later described to me), cleared his throat and announced, “I want to be fired. I want you to fire me from school.” Of course it took everything in the principal’s power to keep a straight face and convince him, “I can’t fire you Luke, I need you here, man.” Luke sighed, thanked him for his time, and went back to class.
As the year came to a close the class was asked to vote for one student who would receive the character award for perseverance. They chose Luke! Then it was time to choose a grade-level representative from all the classroom winners. Again, they chose Luke. Finally the entire school had to choose one student who would represent them for the character trait of perseverance. They chose Luke!
Perseverance. Yes, he’d earned this honor.
Were we proud? I’m not ashamed to admit that we told everyone! No spelling-bee-winner’s parents could have been prouder. Academic achievements have their place, but perseverance is a character quality crucial to living a life of success and satisfaction. There is so much about this world full of people and noises and smells and changes and expectations that Luke is going to have to push through if he’s to stay engaged and find his way. Some days he will want to check out (don’t we all at times?). But when he feels that way he can look back to fifth grade and remember, “I wanted to check out then, too, but I didn’t, and my peers acknowledged that.” Oh yes, we are proud!
Now Luke has a T-shirt that says, “Got character? I do!” What’s fun for me (insert sarcasm here) is when he wears it out in public on those not-so-good days when he displays anything BUT good character. In those moments, that T-shirt is a good reminder for me to persevere. It reminds me to focus on what is true: that whatever difficult moment we're facing right now, such moments are becoming less and less frequent. It reminds me that this moment is likely the culmination of a million tiny frustrations to which I can't begin to relate. And sure, Luke will have to deal with the consequences of his choices, but the more important question is will I, his mom, his safe place, remember to “get it” and practice some perseverance of my own? Will I take deep, intentional breaths and walk through this difficult moment with my character intact, or will I check out - throwing my hands in the air and spewing hurtful words? If I’m to expect perseverance from him, I have to model it, myself. Needful reminders, indeed.
Luke recently had his fifth grade graduation. It was a surreal experience. I’d had so many concerns for the year, yet here we were: the last day. Fifth grade has had its ups (Luke became a regular superstar among the second graders for his “Stellaluna” performance) and its downs (he just had to know how the fire alarm worked!) But, as far as anyone knows, he didn’t climb on the roof of the school one time! When his name was called at graduation he walked across the stage, gave his teacher a high-five, and the entire fifth grade burst into applause. I was, of course, a blubbering mess of tears.
He’d done it. He persevered!
Yeah … he’s got character, all right.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Raise my handsPaint my spirit goldBow my headKeep my heart slow
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
II Cor 5:17-21
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.John 13:12-17