Sunday, July 6, 2014

Let's Settle Things

         I'm really trying to keep this blog funny and silly and light and fluffy. And 99% of the time it will contain self-deprecating stories of the jams I've gotten into and the ridiculous thoughts that float through my head (like why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?!) but once in a while, I'm going to give my view on something that can be seen as "controversial" so I add the disclaimer that this is my viewpoint only, shaped by my own experiences and in large part my Zionist- religious upbringing. So this post is going to focus on "the settlements" or as I glibly refer to them "biblical Israel", "Judea and Samaria", "the Gush" or simply "Israel." Some amongst you, I'm guessing (hoping!) a minority, may know them as "the occupied territories" or "the single greatest obstacle to peace." Semantics. The reason I'm even mentioning them is because this past Shabbat (thanks to the amazing Berg and Mark families) I had the great pleasure of spending the holy day in the evil settlement of Efrat. I'm sorry, did I say evil? I meant wonderful, beautiful and special!
     To call Efrat a settlement is a little bit of a misnomer as it's basically a city, with thousands of Israel- loving Jews living, working, playing and serving their country with a joy and pride rarely seen in Tel Aviv or maybe even Jerusalem! I'm serious- these "obstacles to peace" out in Judea are madly in love with the land of Israel- every part of it. So in love with it are they that a huge percentage of them left their cushy lives in the States to live a much different and low key life out in the Gush. So in love with their country are they that their levels of enrollment in active military service are unparalleled anywhere else in the whole country. So in love with their country are they that they eschew the relative ease of living in a big city like Jerusalem or Modiin for the privilege to live in ALL the land that G-d promised the Jews so long ago. That's love!
    Not only do these folks love Israel, they're also pretty enamored of their fellow Jews. While we've heard of the horrors of "tremping" or hitchhiking here in Israel, fact is, it's kind of awesome that it's a way of life to stop and give a ride to some Jewish kid you don't even know. How many of us in NYC have ever in our lives picked up a teenager and taken him to his destination? Not me! While at lunch on Shabbat, I heard of the way the community of Efrat banded together to take care of the soldiers stationed there while searching for the kidnapped boys. The community didn't just offer blankets and water. They made every night a celebration for the soldiers, complete with barbecues, every need met, and a huge screen set up so the soldiers could watch the Mondial (World Cup)! Can you imagine the love these people have for their fellow Jew? Wow. Word on the street is that many of these soldiers who grew up resenting these same people for living in the Gush as "obstacles to peace", really had to rethink that stance after experiencing the unmatched embrace of hospitality they were shown.
      Now, I'm not here to argue the case for those Jews who hate non-Jews. That is not me and that is not this blog. I'm here to tell you about loving our fellow Jews in this country as if they are truly all part of our own family. That's rare. And special. And beautiful. And I was lucky enough to experience it this past Shabbat in "the West Bank" and I hope to do it again, many times in the future!

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