Sunday, July 6, 2014

Finding My Chai in a Coffee-Loving Nation

When wrote my introductory (and essentially only) post last year, it was an early August morning, and the only reason why Israel was on TV was because the station was airing a SodaStream commercial (this was pre-Scarlett Johanssen’s SuperBowl situation, so it was a positive advertisement).

Unfortunately, this is not the way Israel has made the morning news in the days after I returned to the United States.

When my Delta 747 landed in Israel, it was a nation full of June and the joys that summer brings—TLV Pride, Israel Festival and Jerusalem Light Festival, Layla Lavan, just to name a few.  When I left, it was a nation full of hope, brought together by the united faith that things could work out.  Now, just days later, it is a nation burdened with questions—of others and the world and, perhaps for some, of themselves.

But when I hear [Insert Whatever News Anchor’s Name HERE] mention Israel and the current conflict, my heart sinks back my time there.  I don’t want to call it a vacation, because it was more than that.  It was more than museums and tours and Bad Hebrew; I spent time living on the land, living with the people, and living for myself. 

From June 11 to the 28th, I was living Israel.  A common symbol for “living” or “life” in Hebrew is Chai--חי (think back to “Fiddler on the Roof” and Tevye’s musical toast, L’Chaim, he is toasting to life). One could say I found my chai in Israel. I found it in the coffee of Aroma.  I found it in the baked goods (and, well, coffee) of Roladin.  I found it under the umbrellas (and the iced coffee) at the beach. I found a way of life that that is similar to the way we swim in the sea: Like the every-present waves, you will bounce and bob, but you can also be carried to shore you if you just float.

Taking this a step further, there is a numerological aspect called germatria, where each letter of the Hebrew Alephbet has a numerical value (aleph is worth 1, bet worth 2, gimel 3, and so on). Chai has its own numerical value, which is 18.  In Jewish culture, giving gifts in increments of 18 is common based on this value given to chai, to life.

(Did you count the length of my trip?  See how many days?  18.  Weird, huh?)

For 18 days I was given the best gift from Israel: The gift of existence.  And now, as clashes and mortars and violence crash onto the American Media scene, I want pay forward that gift of existence—because the American media’s Israel is not my Israel, and its not the one I want you to know.   I want you to see Israel for the land it really is—and how you can find your own existence, so if you choose.

Because regardless of what’s been broadcasted, then and now, there is one definite, unarguable truth I have taken away from my time in Israel: Am Israel Chai. 

The people of Israel live. All people of Israel, in all corners of the country. They’ll show you how, too, if you let them. 

Let me show you how to let them.

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