Archive for July, 2008

Lost Harvest

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I’m getting so much spam lately here! I know it’s probably done by robots. Some of them want to advertise their own stuff and I don’t mind that if they leave a compliment, haha, I’m easy going, but those who just leave URLs (undoubtedly mindless bots) will just get marked as spam. Bye bye! They never make it. People using other people’s blogs to advertise is so lame, there are so many other ways to advertise. Ah well enough of that, to my most pressing gripe of the day.

Today I enjoyed delicious figs and the torment of a strange kind of guilt. Over the hill to the north of our neighbourhood, between our neighbourhood and Adam is a vale planted with Jerusalem Sage, at least 100 olive trees, perhaps 20 fig trees as well as sweet almonds, I didn’t even start to count those. They’re on our side of the fence/wall, which means if they belong to someone in Hizmeh (most likely), or A Ram they may be unable to harvest their trees. The almonds and olives aren’t ready yet but the figs are coming into season and they may go to waste.. some are already splitting, exposing themselves to bugs and birds and are useless. If the owners were going to get them they’d have managed by now. I really hope they’re appealing to every authority they can and in a diplomatic way and won’t give up because these are their trees and they should be able to have access to harvest them. We can see what is probably the continuation of their land on the other side of the Ramallah bypass road – there are more olives over there.

We did not wish to be greedy and took fruits that will be useless within a day or two but are ready, and wonderful right now. I made a ‘pri haetz’ and ‘shehechianu’ and enjoyed but part of me really wanted to be able to toss them a few hundred metres to the rightful owners. Alas I have as much access to them as they have to their fruit. This is just not right, I want to find some way to deal with this.

Ironically this is the shmitta year (fallow year) and as far as Jewish law is concerned fruits and vegetables are ‘hefker’, they belong to anyone. There’s no need to tithe this year (which exempted us from any concern about the intricacies of those laws re these fruits esp. those we took home. Of course shmitta does not apply to Arab owned crops and the ownership now is highly debatable. Is this conquest, reconquest, theft? The land is one thing, the trees another. It can get complex. I want to ask Rav Kaganoff a shaila in terms of truma and maaser with these fruits in the future but my immediate concern is the oncoming harvest. All those olive trees are going to be worth a lot, and a significant financial loss if gone to waste.

What’s it going to hurt us if they come through the crossing and pick, even though they’d have to shlep all the way to the checkpoint near ‘Windsurfer hill’ on each side of the fence?  No-one else will claim those olives, I doubt anyone in our neighbourhood knows the first thing about olive farming and most don’t even know they’re there, they’re out of sight unless you go over the hill.

I’m going to see what can be done, I can’t in good conscience leave the situation as it is.

Reflections on inner peace, joy, love

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I’ve not been writing here as much as in my nature blog for a number of reasons. My nature blog is a regular documentation of the wildlife in the area. I feel it as my personal obligation to keep track of the wildlife in Eyn Porat/Yaar Mir simply as my contribution to observations of biodiversity. Part of my grand ‘love affair’ with the biosphere itself, so to speak. Feeling at one with nature has been an important part of my consciousness pretty much all my life. This gives me a very imminent sense of Divinity, something akin to some branches of Buddhism, a form of paganism and not much different from ‘Hassidic Judaism with all its controversial gnostic influences.

From our standpoint here on earth we really cannot tell if the truth is pantheism or panentheism since we cannot in any way know the transcendent but by a leap of faith. We can be confident about the imminent however. We can sense the spirit that pervades all things when we allow ourselves to get into the right frame of mind- call it expanded consciousness or “gadlus ha’mo’ah’ ” as it’s called in ‘Hassidus. In that sense we feel wonder, our perceptions are broad, encompassing, forgiving, understanding and free of negative emotion. We can also tap into that sense of universal consciousness.

We can get just so much from nature, we sense wonder, fascination, beauty, the interweaving of life but to get beyond that we need to purify ourselves and I think that’s the greatest challenge in today’s cluttered, encumbered urban society with all it’s potential blockages that can numb our sensitivities. Sometimes it comes from just too much input that makes us just want to shut down to protect ourselves from overload, so that we can no longer feel the import of new information. So many young people seem to shut down like this to some extent. It’s understandable, it’s a survival mechanism. Some turn it into cynical game playing atheism, others into the existential anguish of Emo, others escape into irrational warm fluffy notions, but however people sense it, each is in danger of moving from the deeper truth of the universe and losing themselves in the mess that modern life has become. Ironically a good part of that truth now is exactly the fragmentation which exists all around.

The Breslov ideal of self purification has appealed to me for years. Reb Nachman himself engaged in severe ascetism in his youth but caused harm to himself on this road and later realized its foolishness and damage. He arrived at ‘hitbodedut’ which is a form of intense prayer, very intimate, very personal. A ‘wrestling’ with God as much as Yaakov wrestled with the angel. We have to demand like a child because we have to really want to purify ourselves, to exorcise the blockages that clog the pure flows within us. Yes, this can be done by force of will with the help of heaven. We beg for ‘da’at’, for insight, cry for it, reach for it, and we implore that the impediments be removed. This will work if we want that enough.

Sometimes, often, it is necessary to do ‘tikun’, repair. We may need to repair a relationship, apologize, make amends, pay debts owed, fix damage. All these are necessary to remove the damage within our psyche. Truth within reflects truth without, we cannot neglect obligations we have generated by past acts. If we cause hurt we must heal before we can be truly healed within.

Then, finally, it is possible to attain ‘ahava raba’ (great love), a state of grace, ‘dveikut’, cleaving, in which we are totally fulfilled. We feel utterly in a state of joy, peace and love which reaches to the very limit of our consciousness. Even if we become impure again later we will know where we were and keep a memory of that pure light so we will know the place of our return and be motivated to get back. This state surpasses all other worldly pleasures, joys and loves because it has no flaw or limit at all, and it is possible for everyone. If an ordinary ‘sinner’ such as myself can manage it, it is certainly within the reach of anyone. One does not need to be absolutely perfect to attain it, one needs to simply want it and want to make our lives right.

Back on Schedule, Reflections

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Back on Schedule.

It’s great to be back on schedule!  For much of the school year I had got into the occasionally inconvenient habit of staying up most of the night and sleeping through the morning. This works while all the kids are at school but not during summer vacation!  It helps that during the week I accumulate something of a sleep debt which often guarantees that Shabbos night I’ll fall asleep early, especially without the temptation of computer activity. I’ll read some Robert Jordan ‘Wheel of Time’  until my eyes feel tired and general fatigue hits, then crash, and this is exactly what happened that Shabbos about ten days ago when we hosted our wonderful young archaeologist guest, Moshe’s new friend. 

Then it was ‘simply’ a matter of staying on that schedule.  The next two days I felt somewhat jet-lagged but thankfully that passed and now I’m back on track. Hurray!  

Apart from being up for the kids, (as well as the kids not having to worry about disturbing a sleeping mommy) there is the issue of renovations.  These are often done over the summer months when rain won’t interfere with construction and living along a terraced row the chances are high there will be thudding and power drilling some time in the summer, what I would call ‘the dentist from hell’. Not yet, thankfully, but better that my sleep is not disturbed by it if and when it happens, which it probably will.

My nature blog is still one of my great loves these days. Breeding season is pretty much over though many birds are vocal and apparently still amorous in some cases. Still, it’s a lot quieter than it was. Plenty gazelle sightings and a couple of scorpions lately, all dutifully written up in my log. I love heading out every day with the hope of finding something special to share. I just love to see the late afternoon sun strong on green foliage, there’s a tremendous vitality in that.

I’m spending much of the morning on the P.C. dealing with various facebook activities while listening to recordings of vocal performance talent competition, writing, taking part in iThink discussions and more writing. iThink can be very acrimonious but it is a great place for sharing points of view and gets broad exposure. This is probably the one place I’ve seen where dialogue between western and eastern youth can really flourish. There are plenty bigots and harsh words are written on both sides but there’s also increasing understanding and intercourse.  I’ve also been getting my memoirs up to date and deciding what else to post on my home pages on my main web site.  

Sarah, my 21 year old daughter, is home for the summer.  She had been staying in an apartment with roomies but needed a break from that for various reasons. She’s using David’s room now he’s off in the army. David is delighted that he finally got onto the computer course he’s been nudging them for, for months now. He’s really worked hard there, being a model soldier right from the start, taking on an extra combat course in basic training and excelling, according to his officers. Last few months have been more laid back but still demanding as he’s been rotated around the country from Kiryat Shmoneh to Kiryat Arba, and he has developed that slight cheery disdain of us mere sloppy civilians which military discipline tends to impart.

Sarah’s still working every day and has to get up early but Elisheva and Shira have no such pressures now high school is out. The boys are camping in the front garden again, they love sleeping out in the tent but have to be careful to come in when the sun comes up or they start to bake! Our garden faces east.  Moshe has been learning how to cook eggs and he’s approaching it like a chef. This evening we were goofing around till midnight talking in fake Italian accents as he whipped up another batch of egg with onion and tomato. I ate some with a little bread and lettuce for my ‘midnight supper’ – well I can afford to, for the past week or so I’m sitting in my target weight zone.  It varies.. especially right after Shabbat! 

We’ve been watching Morgan Spurlock’s 30 days series lately. Awesome show, much thought provoking material. We often pause it to discuss and make points  as we go along. This evening we watched the episode about his stay at a Navajo reserve. By the end I was blinking back tears, as was Spurlock. This episode strongly reminded me of Johnny Depp’s ‘The Brave’ over which I shed a fair number of tears.

We knew their poverty was bad but didn’t realize how bad. The lack of running water horrified us, living for decades shlepping water from a public well. Desperate need for employment opportunities and a dismal future for their beautiful cultural heritage that many there clearly still valued. Returning to the reservation gave them meaning in life, meaning they did not find beyond, in white America.  

However,  the poverty, the lack of jobs, being treated as second class citizens, – this has driven many to alcoholism and related behavioural problems. In some other places in the world similar conditions in some respects have led to a culture of terrorism.  Many differences to be sure, there’s a LOT more to it of course, but the parallel is striking. The only difference in outcome is that instead of trying to destroy white America these renegade  native Americans  try to destroy *themselves* out of sheer despair.  Tragedies, all such ‘solutions’, escapes and tragedies.