Shalom from Jerusalem. I have been living here for six weeks now. It's giving me a lot of sympathy for God. Being Ellul now, every morning, the Moroccan shule 50 meters from my apartment in Abu Tor begins slichot/shacharit at 4am. Shortly after, the muezzin from the nearby village of Silwan calls the residents there to prayer. Then the church bells from the Old City to the St Andrews Church of Scotland toll. Everyone here is crying and screaming to God. She must be a very good listener. I have visited the Kotel a few times. Cynics sometimes say that praying to God is Israel is like speaking to a wall.
I understand what they may mean. But it is Ellul, with Rosh Hashana fast approaching and I need to find a language in which to communicate. The king is in the field. Now is my opportunity. But for what shall I ask?
Every year I ask for peace, for the wellbeing of my community, friends and family. Doesn't everyone? But "Next year in Jerusalem" is now.
Rosh Hashana in Israel is like Grand Final day in Melbourne. For those who follow the event, the lead up takes a whole year.
The popular radio station galgalatz(think Fox FM) is asking for votes in the lead up to its annual top 40 countdown on erev rosh hashana, the supermarkets are already advertising their specials for the chaggim, Shules are sending out emails reminding the faithful to book seats for the main events.
There is talk that someone may top last years bid of 10,000 shekels to open the ark at one shule. I feel that this year, I should pray for something more specific.
Our tradition says that God's house once stood on the mountain next to the one where I live. Perhaps this year, with front row seats at the Kings former palace, my prayers may be answered.
This is not my first time in Israel. Something I have noticed on this visit compared to previous sojourns in this land is that the gaps within the Jewish community are widening. The antipathy between those on opposite sides of the political/religious spectrum is palpable. The differences in opinion are so wide, that the bridge to reconciliation seems filled with enough troubled water to end Australia's drought.
What do about the Kassams coming from Gaza with increasing frequency? The Syrian/Iranian threat? The construction and route of the security barrier? The challenge to the authority of the High Court from the Knesset? The widening gap between Jewish and Arab Israelis? The neo nazis in Petach Tikva? Returning Gilad Shalit home? The people in Tzahal who won't obey orders from their commanders? The people who now refuse to serve in the army at all?
The same people are offering the same options. Few inspire hope. Few seem to be bringing any of these issues closer to resolution.
So this year. I'll be praying for the following:
I pray that we will find a place in our hearts
A place that is hidden deep down
A place that is optimistic That is sweet and innocent
That has tasted no bitterness and war
I call this place Eden.
It's just north of Caulfield or Emek Refaim
There, one loves his neighbor more than he hates him
There, one honours the difference in the other
There, fear does not rule
There, one is wise, because he learns from all
There, one has time, because nothing is more important than the person looking into his eyes
There "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
They shall never again know war;
But every person shall sit Under their grapevine or fig tree
With no one to disturb them" (Micah 4:3-4)
The trees and bees have been working hard this year. On Wednesday night we will be enjoying their apples and honey.
May their sweetness be the beginning of a journey to a teshuva shleima that allows us to love the world anew, or in the words of Hannah Arendt:
"Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which., except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world."
I'm here to learn how to educate children. Sometimes, it's tough being an optimist in Israel. I pray that I will keep being one.
Shana Tova U Metuka