Saturday, January 26, 2013

Celebratory Hugs

It's been a big week in the world wide political arena.  This past week we saw the swearing in of a second term for the President of the United States, Barak Obama.  A few days later Israel was brought to the polls in an early election.  Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party may have lost seats in this election, but they're still the biggest party in the Knesset.  BiBi will remain Prime Minister.  

Monday evening I found myself flipping through channels on my TV, hoping for some live coverage from the White House's inaugural ceremonies.  What I found instead was ANOTHER school shooting, this time in Houston, TX.  So I kept the American news on my TV, muted with images of another school campus on lockdown.  I opened my laptop and looked up the inaugural ceremonies on YouTube instead.  Another overload of TV and internet to get the latest and most updated information from as many sources as possible.  I was profoundly impressed with President Obama's inaugural address.  He is undoubtedly an incredible public speaker.  Although I abstained from voting in the last Presidential election, I was proud to hear him speak about so many Democratic issues that are so important to me.  

“The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”  
"Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.”  
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”  - President Barak Obama
My sisters, my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends all live in America.  They have worked hard and long hours trying to make it in the land of opportunity.  I hope that as America moves forward into this new term of office that they remember to take care of our predecessor generations with Medicare, Medicade, and Social Security.  I hope that we continue to look towards our future generations and work towards better education, safe schools, and protection of our environment.  I pray that my sisters and friends will continue to be able to have control of their own bodies and continue to be able to break through glass ceilings.  Although I'm nervous about the future of America and Israel's friendship, I pray that we can find peace and understanding in our time.  I pray that the American people continue to stand up for Israel's right to exist as they have done since our Declaration of Independence.  

Pick a card, place it in the envelope, seal it, and drop in the box to be counted.  

Tuesday I was greeted with a surprise day off of work.  In Israel, election day is a day off work for nearly everyone.  The country doesn't want you to work... they want you to get out and vote.  So I did just that.  I woke up and walked over to my local polling station (which happens to be the elementary school I teach at) and proudly voted in my first Israeli election.  Waves of people were rolling into the school all day, looking to vote and then to enjoy the rest of the beautiful sunny January day... OFF!  I personally voted and then enjoyed the rest of my afternoon by jumping off a cliff.  To put it in other words; I voted and then went repelling in the canyon connected to Tekoa.  For me, it was definitely all around a memorable day.  As I returned home that evening I once again turned on my TV and my laptop for live coverage of election results as the polls were closing.  In the end this new Knesset is nearly split in half between right wing and left wing parties.  The next week will bring in more clarity as Prime Minister Netanyahu attempts to form his new coalition government that will serve the next four years.  Only time and a lot of negotiations will bring clarity as to what that will look like.

 I voted and then went repelling in the canyon connected to Tekoa.

I have said this before and I will say it again; as far left as my American politics usually go my Israeli politics go just as far right.  I'm therefore hoping for a strong right wing government for the next four years.  I hope that BiBi will include Bayit Yehudi (the party I voted for) in his coalition government.  Israel needs to focus on internal issues as much as it needs to focus on world politics.  Rising cost of living with low wages has made it continually more and more difficult to make a living here.  I, for example, work 2 to 3 jobs a week just to make ends meet and I make no where near enough to think about purchasing a car or a house any time in the near future.  Although Israel is making huge strides towards using natural resources instead of foreign oil, we still have a long way to go before our wallets feel a difference.  Fortunately I live in a place that encourages sun and wind energy, grey water filtration systems, compost, recycling, etc.  I pray that the future of Israel is a green one, an affordable one, a peaceful one.

As my week moved towards the end I was honored to attend my cousin Chen's army swearing-in ceremony at the Kotel-Western Wall Thursday night.  Hundreds of people gathered in support of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends in this hour long ceremony.  Chen is a special guy, and he has worked incredibly hard to attain the status and privilege of an elite combat unit in the Golani Brigade.  This 18 year old young man, standing proudly at attention was given special recognition for his hard work and focus thus far in his training.  Entering the army surly turns boys into men and girls into women.  Each soldier was presented with their weapon and a copy of the Torah-Tanach at the end of the ceremony, which was incredibly moving to see and be a part of.  As the entire audience sang Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem) I couldn't help but be in awe of the enormity of it all.  Here we were in modern times, standing in the courtyard of where our Holy Temple stood singing Hatikvah and watching a new generation of soldiers begin their journey in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  

This huge week has been humbling and thought provoking.  As I have said before, we are on the cusp of huge changes in the world.  A newly inaugurated American President.  A newly reelected Israeli Prime Minister.  A new group of young men and women sworn to protect and serve in the IDF for the next 2 to 3 years.  

 A great family picture with the Kotel-Western Wall in the background.
Celebratory hugs!

With so much change in the world it is nice to take a moment out to focus on something else.  This Shabbat was a time of renewal and celebration.  It is the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the birthday of trees.  It never ceases to amaze me that in the midst of turmoil and rising tensions, we as the Jewish people take a day and spiritually thank nature.  We plant trees and gardens and thank Gd for our fruits and vegetables, the air we breathe, the circle of nature's life.  The custom is to eat fruits for which the land of Israel is praised: "...a land of wheat, barley, [grape] vines, fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and [date] honey"  Deut. 8:8  So after spending a weekend cooking and eating from the new year's harvest I'm ready to come back to life and see what the coming weeks, months, and years have in store for us.  Tu B'Shevat Sameach -  Happy Spiritual Arbor Day.  Plant a tree!!

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