The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
Perhaps the one characteristic that unites people of all nationalities, cultures and creeds is a
fascination with weather, especially bad weather. Strangers at bus stops, friends in carpools, colleagues around the water cooler love to commiserate about plans ruined by rain, snow, sleet or wind.
Except in Israel. Four days into a recent visit, I experienced precipitation for the first time, as I had never been in Israel during the winter months. The Jerusalem -Tel Aviv area was drenched by torrential rains and battered by hail. To the north, snow covered the slopes of Mt. Hermon and freezing rain hit the surrounding areas. Yet although they were soaked, drenched, pelted and muddied, the residents of the Holy Land did not utter one word of complaint. Everywhere I went I heard the words, from secular taxi drivers to chassidic shopkeepers “Baruch Hashem l’egeshem.” – “Thank G-d for the rain” or “Zeh bracha min HaShomayim” – “it’s a gift from Heaven.”
Rain is appreciated, cherished and embraced in Israel, despite the soaked shoes, dripping hair and flooded roads. Israelis understand that short-term unpleasantness or inconvenience is necessary for long-term benefits. They are also aware that complaining about it is useless anyhow – so why bother?
For a people under daily siege – they are remarkably cheerful, energetic – and defiant. The
streets are full with passersby going about their business. The lineups in the pizza places are long, the seats on the buses are occupied, and the sidewalks are full of vendors, shoppers and children.
The media would like potential tourists to believe that they visit Israel at their peril. That
normal activities like eating at a restaurant or waiting for a bus are risky. These observation are
true, but based on recent news, buying a newspaper in Manhattan can be life-threatening as well, as a grieving family discovered when a loved one was hit by a taxi that careened into a newsstand. And going camping in California can be deadly also. Or taking the Staten Island ferry can be bad for your health. Or eating a hamburger that someone else prepared, or
passing a dog on the street, or walking under a tree, or going on a boat, in a car, in an airplane, or showing up for work or just sleeping in bed when an earthquake strikes or a plane falls out of the sky.
The only way a person can avoid death – is not to be born in the first place. Otherwise you are at risk for dying – anywhere and anytime.
King Solomon states in Kohelet that there is a time to be born and a time to die. In a dvar Torah I heard from Rabbi David Algaze of Havurat Yisrael, he asked the question of why King Solomon points out the obvious – that people are born and people die? Rabbi Algaze presented the story of a childless couple who tried all kinds of infertility treatments. One day,
they were advised to go to a rebbe for a bracha. A year later, they had a healthy child. The couple regretted not going to this rebbe years earlier. They were then told that it wouldn’t have helped – as it was not the time for their child to have been born.
This concept of destiny applies to death as well. There is a specific time when each person is slated to die (although tefillah – prayer, teshuva – repentance and tzedakah – charity – can extend one’s life.) That being the case – it is pointless to cower behind closed doors. Israelis are not afraid to be out and about and to live their lives. Not to do so would be to grant
victory to those who want to shatter our spirits as much as they seek to break our bodies.
If we are afraid to travel to Israel, which means the withholding of crucial tourist dollars for a country whose economic health revolves to a great extent around tourism – then we inadvertently are aiding the enemy in realizing their dream of undermining the State of Israel.
If making aliyah is not a feasible option at the time for all Jews in the Diaspora – the very least we can do is visit and financially support the country that belongs to all of us. Israelis are already shouldering the brutal physical effects of the war of attrition – how can we sit back and let them bear the economic burden as well?
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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/where-rain-reigns-hail-is-hailed-and-israel-is-real/2004/02/04/
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