Yom chamishi, 28 Kislev 5769.
These days, many people are feeling a sense of mission.
At a pastry shop in Emek Refaim, I spoke with a man who had written a beautiful children’s book. Gil Daleski is also a tour guide and a “healer,” which I have found to be the professions of an increasing number of Jews living in Israel. There is a lot of tension in the world that needs to be ameliorated, I guess; and there’s a lot of beauty and history in Eretz Yisrael to share.
That sense of mission again.
At his request, I stood and read the little book, called Is God Sad?. (There is a Hebrew version as well.) Not bad. This fellow without the kipah had written a lovely explanation, from a father to a daughter, about how G-d loves us; and even when He takes away someone we love, it is for the good, and so that our loved one can return to His embrace. (Hashem keeps giving me reminders never to judge a Jew’s attachment to his faith by his clothes.) Gil wrote the book; and his sister, Debbie Veinshtein, did the lovely illustrations.
We discussed our work, and our need to share the good in Israel with the world, to combat the lashon hara of those who speak ill of her. The discussion moved on to the attitude about Israel among our own people – and then onto attitude in general. He shared an interesting viewpoint.
“During the First Intifada,” he began, “you sent your kids off to school. You didn’t know anything, you didn’t know what would happen. They, or you…” His voice trailed off; and he indicated, rather than said, that either your kids or you might not make it home alive. “People had to live,” he shrugged. “So Israelis – I can’t speak about all Israelis, but a lot of us – we built this little room inside our heads, where we kept all the worry. Whatever might happen that was bad, we put in this room. And then – “ here he made a dramatic downward gesture with his fist, near the side of his head, “we shut off the power to that room. And we lived our lives with the rest of our brain. That’s how we live.”
I thought about how the Israelis, against all logic, do seem to live life absolutely. They dine and dance and design and create and build, while bombs are falling, while their government assiduously avoids its only job, the job of protecting its people, while they do not know from day to day if the keys to their homes will be handed over by their own government to a bloodthirsty enemy.
They simply put it all into the “worry room,” turn off the power, and go on about their lives, with a vigor and intensity we in America seem to lack. And I started to think about why, perhaps, there was a difference in how we relate to the world.
“I can’t speak about all Americans,” I said. “It’s a big country. But my sense of us is that we protect ourselves in an almost opposite way. In America, we are increasingly aware that the world is going crazy. We are stressed about our jobs and the economy, about making it through the global financial crisis, about our kids’ educations. We are aware that more and more of the world loves the Jews and Israel less and less. So how do we handle it? We build a little room in our brains. My husband calls it the ‘panic room.’ But the difference is that we don’t put our worry in there, and shut off the power. We go in there to hide from the worry. It’s a safe room, filled with entertainment and shopping and food and more shopping… While we are inside there, we don’t have to think about how scary life is.”
We discussed this subtlety for a little longer, aware that others might have different outlooks, but satisfied that ours helped clarify our individual missions a little. Attitude may not be everything; but perhaps it is our best weapon in a world gone mad.
That, and the knowledge that G-d loves us, and that He keeps His promises.
To contact Gil, call 052-389-6877, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.