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Summer 2012

May 14, 2012

Spring gives way to summer, the green hills are going yellow, the gentle face of Israeli spring, bursting with possibility as nature rebirths itself, is now tough, harsh, forbidding. For months, our stony landscape was softened by rain and mud and bloom, but now the boulders’ rough edges, framed in thorns and dry weeds, poke out like a thousand claws, reminding us that this is a hard place to live. Dawn and dusk can still serve up some gentleness in summer, but the light of most days is oppressive.
At Passover, more than a month behind us, we celebrated liberation. But we are past the miracle of the Red Sea’s parting, now slogging our way into the desert, some of us, like our forefathers, even longing for the security of slavery.

As I walk through the Jerusalem forest, I reluctantly acknowledge the demise of the verdant landscape. Here and there pockets of green remain, but the hot days speed the creeping victory of the yellow. Each year, I chide myself for not being more philosophical about the passage of spring into summer. Each year, however, I mourn this moment. And this year, in particular, I worry about the bitter promise of the oncoming heat.

For some years now, most Israelis are disgusted by politics and politicians. This week, disgust reaches new depths. A man, who called his rival “liar” in public and swore never to join the liar’s government, shook the liar’s hand as he joined his government, pledging support for his policies (whatever they will be) during the next 18 months. This morning’s paper reports a quick poll demonstrating that 75% of the public believe the new “coalition” is only Netanyahu and Mofaz serving their own personal interests. Only 25% believe they have done this for the good of the country. No illusions here.

It’s been a tough week. We buried 36 year old Gadi Vichman of Beersheva, stabbed to death by teens when he went outside to ask them to keep the noise down so his children could sleep. I too regularly shout to the late-night basketball players on the court outside my window, and I’ve also walked out there when they don’t respond. I could have been Gadi Vichman.

Last Friday, the brother-accomplice of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin walked free from prison, never having uttered a word of regret, to the celebration awaiting him. On the radio, his lawyer unabashedly (and justifiably) claims victory for the Amir brothers, who killed the peace process.
Settlers are gearing up to confront the Supreme Court’s confirmation of the order to demolish a neighborhood built on privately owned Palestinian land. Meanwhile, more fields are set on fire, more 100 year old olive trees are chain-sawed in the night, as the settlers struggle to make the occupation permanent, seemingly willing to live by the sword forever.

Is it all grim? Could the move to incorporate centrist Kadima come to mean that Netanyahu will find the will to resist the rightist crazies in his camp and move seriously toward negotiations with the Palestinians? Will the recent death of his father help to free Netanyahu to become the man he could not be while Benzion was alive? Will Netanyahu understand the true legacy enabled him by his overwhelming popularity? Who knows?

My fear is that Netanyahu is popular because he is a swindler who gets away with it. That many of the people who vote for him do so because they admire his craftiness, wishing they could be as successful at screwing others and coming up clean. It is not Netanyahu I worry about, it is rather the large swath of mainstream Israelis that have come to value clever, cynical maneuvering over anything else.

Amos Oz has said that he misses the Israel that we could have been. Where are we Israelis hiding? Will we finally retreat into caring only for number one while blood continues to flow?

While most of spring’s wildflowers now fade, what flowers at this time is the deep red “Blood of the Maccabees.” The forest is full of them. Israeli legend has it that wherever this flower appears, blood has been spilled on the land. How many more of these flowers will grow? What will be, here in this wondrous place?
Hard to know, hard to know anything at this point. What I do know is that on Shabbat, we at the Sulha Peace Project will again greet a busload of Palestinians at Neve Shalom. We will talk and listen to each other, and we will drum and dance, deepening our love, as we buckle down to confront the endless, ruthless summer.
Yoav Peck
Helichrysum sanguineum, Red Everlasting, Red cudweed, דם-מכבים אדום 

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