More Than Adequate
My hotel, the Prima Royale is perfectly adequate. It is not glitzy or imperious. The carpets in the rooms have been walked on for oh, say, 20 years or so. It has a perfectly adequate breakfast. And the rooms, although a bit on the small side, are perfectly adequate, too. The shower is cramped and the elevator is tiny, but they are, you guessed it perfectly adequate.
When I first came to Israel last month, I was with the Centennial Mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. And, as is usual with such trips (like I run for Temple Sinai), the accommodations are mind blowing (thank you, Federation!!).
For now, I have gone from mind-blowing to adequate. Which is fine. I am not on tour. I am on business. To pay for 15 nights of business, well, the David Citadel in Jerusalem is a budget buster. I would rather get down to my business here.
My business? Study, learn, see. Experience, breathe, listen – especially to those I think are wrong or crazy. Wrestle with texts with colleagues. Hear cutting edge insights. Walk the streets and observe, just look at everything, take it all in.
My touring always takes me to the Old City. My business practically never does. Last night, I heard the amazing folk/jazz musician Evyatar Banai (of the famous family of Israeli musical Banais) at Zappa, a jazz dinner club on Derech Hevron. Next week, I am visiting an Army base to talk seriously with the commander about the issues of faith and military practice and the uneasy accommodations they make with each other.
Here in Jerusalem, where I stay up too late each night and rise very early with the sun, I have decided I require a decent cup of coffee each day. Sometimes, two. I have to plan this carefully. It can get very expensive, very quickly! And I can only afford the adequate, as I said.But coffee making here is an art. It is worth the occasional splurge. See the picture to the right? Nice pine tree, nu? And somehow, the elegant visual and the generous dose of caffeine keep me up and alive and ready to give the day all the attention it requires, which can be considerable.
Coffee doesn’t turn you on? How about a vision of an Israeli future free of dependence on oil? Look at the car below..
This is a Renault. It is simply unlike any French car you’ve ever seen. It is completely electric. When you buy it, the company comes to your home and installs a charging post. It get 160 kilometers per charge (about 100 miles). This may not be adequate for America or Canada, but for Israel, it is pretty good.
Each time the battery must charge, it takes 7-8 hours. But what if you’re on the road? Within two years there will be more than 3 dozen stations all over Israel where you drive in, your engine’s battery is automatically removed and a new one inserted. Total elapsed time? 12 minutes. About how long it might take to fill your tank and buy a bag of chips at the local convenience gas store.
This is a country anchored to good coffee and completely visionary about the future. What if you say to me that the future is clouded by threats from politics, foreign threats and internal divisions? I would say you are right. The problems are real. The risks are high. It is why this country is filled to the brim with visionaries (some a little close to the edge for my tastes) who imagine what the world might be like tomorrow instead of despairing over the crisis of the now.
But the now is pressing. No way around it. All the brilliant innovation and wonderful cafes in the world cannot mask the real challenges faced by this country. As of this writing, there is a concerted campaign by some to isolate Israel – a vote will take place today or tomorrow at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on divesting its resources from three US companies that are seen to harm Palestinians in the West Bank. It is very appropriate for the PC (USA) to care about Palestinians living there. I and many Israelis do as well. But I and most of my friends totally reject this approach. We think it is a step backward, not forwards.
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: THE RESOLUTION TO DIVEST FAILED YESTERDAY (THURSDAY) BY A VOTE OF 331-333 WITH TWO ABSTENTIONS. THERE MAY BE AN ATTEMPT TO RE-INTRODUCE THE RESOLUTION, THERE MAY NOT. THERE IS ALSO A RESOLUTION CONCERNING THE USE OF THE TERM “APARTHEID” REGARDING ISRAEL VIS-A-VIS THE PALESTINIANS. WE WILL SEE HOW THINGS SHAKE OUT IN THE END.
So in the face of all this, what should we do as Jews, we who are committed to interfaith harmony, the pursuit of justice and peace for all concerned in this region as well as supporting Israel as a democratic, Jewish state?
Anger at our Presbyterian friends is pointless. They have decisions to make according to their deeply held beliefs. I will be seeking more dialogue, not less, more partnerships, not fewer, more difficult conversation as opposed to sharing campfire songs.
Why am I not outraged and distraught? Because I believe in this place. I believe in justice and peace as well, maybe in my children’s or grandchildren’s generation. I believe in the good hearts of thoughtful Palestinians and Israelis, Presbyterians and Jews. Call me naive. It’s okay by me…
Do not mistake me. I consider this entire issue as framed by our Presbyterian friends wrong-headed and hurtful. But we are not dependent on others for our values. We read the Bible as much as the divestment folk do, probably even a little more.
I will not disrupt longer sought and cherished relationships over the heat of this moment. We will do what we do best – learn, share, teach, listen and reaffirm our deepest principles and values we believe as liberal Jews. And we are in it for the long haul. No matter how long it takes. Israel for the Israelis. Palestine for the Palestinians. Security and Justice for all. No matter how long it takes.
What I really want to do is come back, rent that electric car and drive to the West Bank for a terrific cup of coffee. Maybe just not this trip.
But it can be done. Remaining true to principles, morals, values beliefs is the key. We call those essential features of our faith Torah.
And in this, we, you and I, are more than adequate. So much more than adequate.