Israel seemed sanguine while we were there, its citizens carrying on in their normal mid-Eastern rush and brashness, despite the unease here in The States about an enemy media convince us is readying to pounce. Efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear warheads, we're told, are likely to include US involvement, though apparently our President would prefer if Israel did the dirty work.
All this nervousness and dread wasn't part of the Israeli mentality as we saw it. Living in a "bad neighborhood" has made residents constantly on guard and yet overtly relaxed in their everyday activities. We, as tourists, observed how they prepare for aggression but at the same time enjoy themselves, leaving the ultimate outcome to God.
My sister-in-law hosted our family for a lavish Shabbat meal, my brother-in-law the magnanimous host with luscious wine and contagious joie-de-vivre. Succulent vegetables and fruits we enjoyed came from within Israel, which is about the size of Vancouver Island off the coast of Washington State (and can fit into France 25 times), so "eating local" is normal. My sister-in-law said the green beans, asparagus and eggplant on her table had been in (or on) the farm just hours before she cooked them.
|Sweet tomatoes grown with brackish water in the Negev|
I would have stayed another two weeks, but had to rush home to prepare for the holiday of Shavuot. The name means "weeks," for the fact we count fifty days--seven complete weeks--from Passover, the growth process leading to the Jews' receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The holiday recalls a national experience--an entire people who had endured Egyptian slavery, witnessed the fury of the Ten Plagues, left for a mysterious land under miraculous circumstances and finally quaked together at the overwhelming sensory manifestation of God's presence. They personally saw, felt, and internalized the Almighty, and it was too much; Moses then ascended Mt. Sinai in their stead for the transmission of a lifestyle that Jews continue today.
Major stuff; the basis of a faith that has endured beyond any of their contemporaries'. And yet Shavuot just doesn't get the publicity of, say, Passover or Chanukah. Yes, Christians have heard of Pentecost, but consider it the time the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. Similar theme, perhaps: God interfaces with man--but not in the same way.
|Veggies at a neighborhood Jerusalem market|
|Buskers at 2010 Folklife Festival|
|Lawn hooping while performers on several stages played, 2010|