Magazine article Tikkun

Older-And Wiser?

Magazine article Tikkun

Older-And Wiser?

Article excerpt

EVERY TIME I TRY TO WRITE ABOUT ISRAEL MY mind wanders to Barack Obama, My weekly force-feed of Ha'aretz's Gideon Levy's heart-breaking reports from the occupied territories is sweetened by rereading Obama's speech on race in Philadelphia, My anger over an Israeli government held hostage to religious parties and settlers and the most nationalist, racist, benighted versions of Judaism, fed by the worst of the American Jewish neocons, finds temporary surcease in Obama's line about the prejudices of family members and preachers whom we can't help loving even when we strenuously disagree with them; in his reminder that some of us Jews also had aunts and uncles who referred to the 'shvartes' with the kind of fear that his own white grandmother exhibited.

My wandering attention is possible because, unlike many Jews who came to this country as stateless nonpersons, I did have another home. I came to Israel out of choice, at a time of hope in America, before Vietnam, before the Kennedy and King assassinations. But there was hope in Israel too-before the Gruenzweig and Rabin assassinations, and most crucially, before the Six Day War.

Israel and I are nearly the same age; she was fourteen when I came as a young student When I petitioned the dean at Wellesley to spend my junior year abroad at the Hebrew University, she hesitated but gave me her blessings to join my fate (how did she know?) with "that valiant little country in the Middle East."

Israel and I have grown old together. We're not attractive young women any more-though she's got Tel Aviv and I've got an Audi. But if twelfth-century poet Yehuda Halevi were alive today, he'd hardly be fantasizing about walking "naked/and barefoot among your desolate ruins," or soaring "on eagle-wings/if only to mix my tears with your dust," to "kiss and cherish your stones" and savor your earth as "sweeter than honey to my lips. …

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