Friday, March 30, 2007

If You Pay Attention

Two weeks ago, a friend showed me a magazine article she thought, correctly so, that I might appreciate.

The first mentioned a new spin on the Jonathan Pollard case. Pollard, an American Jew, served as a civilian American Naval intelligence analyst who passed intelligence to Israel in the mid-1980s. Pollard was indicted on one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States, and he has been in prison ever since.

The big question that swirls around the case is, “Why has his punishment been so harsh and unrelenting?” Other convicted American spies have served far less time for much more egregious crimes.

The article, which appeared in Mishpacha Magazine, suggests that the reason for such a harsh punishment is that Jonathan Pollard is serving as an example to the rest of American Jews.

The fundamental message is this: “You Jews are welcome guests in our country. But you must never take advantage of our kind hospitality by spying against our interests. If you forget that you are guests and begin to act like you belong here, your punishment will be swift and harsh.”

While most American Jews will miss the point, it is a powerful one, not so different from the message sent by Germany to its Jews in the 1930s. If you forget that you are different from the other citizens of your host country, WE WILL REMIND YOU!

And it won’t be pleasant.

What is it going to take to get American Jews to start paying attention?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Talking Like You’re A Bible-Thumper

When I was growing up, I called religious people “bible-thumpers”. Of course, I was always referring to Christians, because I didn’t know any religious Jews back then.

Fast-forward 35 years and I’ve kinda turned into a bible-thumper myself. Which is to say, I’m always looking for evidence of Gd’s Hand in my everyday life.

Yesterday, I got a whopper of a view.

A month ago, I wrote a proposal to move forward, in association with a Jewish organization, with an idea I had. After several back-and-forth conversations about my proposal, I was told yesterday afternoon that, for various reasons, mostly having to do with timing, my proposal was not being accepted.

“That’s okay,” I told my husband. “I see myself as Hashem’s kli (vessel). If He wants me to move forward with this idea, He will open another door.”

After dinner, I opened my email. In it was an invitation from another Jewish organization inviting me to submit my proposal to them.

I find that kind of immediate hashgacha pratis (Divine intervention) to be an incredible spiritual pleasure. Gd really is paying attention to me. And it’s something that happens much, much more often, and more openly, in Israel.

A dear friend is visiting from Israel right now. She made aliyah nearly six years ago, and every time she tells me a story about her life, I long for that kind of access to spirituality. In Israel, ordinary people talk about spiritual ideas in the most ordinary places. The cab driver, the repairman, the clerk in the grocery store all talk about Gd and His Torah completely unselfconsciously. To be religious, to want to be closer to Gd, to want to understand the world through a meta-physical lens is not a mindset to be embarrassed by or to keep hidden in Israel. It’s part of the culture. It’s just so much more readily accessible there.

From Jerusalem, Gd really is a local call.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Clocks, Watches and Email

Sometime in the summer of 2005, I got a brainstorm. I decided that I wanted a two-faced watch so I could always know what time it is in Israel. While we were in Israel that summer, I dragged my husband and kids to the Adi Watch Factory in Kvutzat Yavne, near Yeshivat Kerem b’Yavneh. Let’s just say it’s off the beaten track. Back then, we hadn’t yet rented a car so we had to take buses. Despite the fact that Hebrew is my husband’s first language, we misunderstood the bus driver’s instructions and missed our stop. We ended up at a mall in Ashkelon. So we took a cab which drove us to the Adi Watch Factory, hidden in the midst of Kibbutz Yavne.

Into the factory store, in pursuit of a two-faced watch we went. They had one. It cost hundreds of dollars. An Israeli soldier drove us from the watch factory store to the main road so we could get the bus back to Jerusalem. A typical adventure in Israel, but no watch.

Back in America, I bought one on eBay for 13 bucks.

It gets a lot of attention. I love telling people why I have a two-faced watch. Some Jews think I’m nuts to care so much about what time it is in Israel.

But some get it.

About a year later, my husband went into RiteAid and bought himself one for $29.95. They are real conversation starters and highly recommended as an inexpensive, everyday way to stay connected to the Holy Land.

In a related way, I just figured out how to add a clock to my blog page. Considering I’m completely self-taught when it comes to computers, I get such delight when I figure out such a thing. The clock is set for Israel time. So if you’re not going to buy yourself a two-faced watch, at least you can think about Israel time each time you visit this blog page.

I also added another new feature in response to your inquiries. You can now sign up to get an email whenever I update the Bat Aliyah blog. At least that’s what I think will happen. Sign up now and we’ll find out together if it works.