42 – Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Museum

Finding music is an unexpected gift. Stop-and-Smell-the-Roses moments season the day.  Click here if below is black:  https://vimeo.com/235023646

So many days have Moments of funfilled surprise and wonder, along with Sadness, even suffering, that sparks thought…revelation, and growth. Balance. 

Is it like a balanced diet?

Sadness doesn’t have to result from learning or seeing sad things. While not the Chocolate of life, others’ sorrows nourish me with courage to LIVE well.

Because of the worlds’ history, war museums abound, and the suffering represented couldn’t be further from my own life’s dramas. Still, I choose to go. To hear their stories, and respect their lives by remembering. To look at baby shoes, wire-rimmed glasses, a silver-handled hairbrush.

Learning about them, I learn about myself, and am changed.

Driving north of Haifa, along Hwy 70, is the Ghetto Fighters’ Museum. I’d not heard of it, but the sign called to me from the highway, so with each passing I’d mentally re-add it to my list of “to-do”s. Finally, last July I visited. It was more than worthwhile; it was timely.

After an hour or so on my own, I happened upon an English speaking tour guide brilliantly leading a group of 40 or so American Jewish 16-20 year olds. I’m not sure about the etiquette of these situations, but am not too proud to tag along at a respectful distance. I was absolutely her most engaged listener, although the students were attentive, even participating.

At first opportunity, I introduced myself and complimented her skill. There was a time in my life I’d try to listen without getting “caught” and would certainly not have introduced myself, fearing it was inappropriate. Perhaps it is, but most seem to appreciate a compliment, and hopefully my low profile is not distracting. Someday, we – you and I – should compile a list of things we do now that intimidation or timidity forbade years ago. Could the earth bear such a list?

I can’t help but think how different my life would have been


“Collectors Car”   from 70’s? Tell me if you’re an officianado


Here’s the museum’s link:  http://gfh.org.il/eng/?CategoryID=229

One of many take-aways from that visit was learning that Holland was not the great rescuer of Jews that I’d thought. Anne Frank’s story tells of food and supplies being provided by loyal, brave Dutch gentiles. Corrie tenBoone’s Christian family was murdered for hiding Jews. Post-war testimonies of surviving Jews told of help from good Dutch people in assorted venues. It seemed that something exemplary had occurred in the Netherlands.

However, decades of research has revealed that the voices – the lives – of disproportionately many many more Jews were silenced by the “good Dutch people’s” overwhelming cooperation with the Nazi regime. Disappointing as it is, the evidence is that Dutch citizens, police, and government cooperated with the Nazis far more than initially presumed.


I finally found the answer to a question that has nagged at me since learning of the Holocaust as a child: Why did the Jews cooperate?

Surely I missed the answer in countless movies and books and museums and lectures… But, instead of wondering what’s wrong with me that I didn’t “get” until now, I rejoice that finally the answer resonates within. “You’re learning and growing. Good job.” I tell myself, rather than chastising, “what a dummy.”

With Dutch cooperation and brilliant strategy, the Nazi leadership introduced their evil restrictions to Holland’s Jewish population. Gradually. Beginning with minor freedoms (is there such a thing?), the Jews adjusted to new laws imposed by the regime, one prohibition at a time. Each new one surely the last.

The frog doesn’t jump out of the kettle if the water is heated slowly.

Systematically, they lost their place in the life of the community until basic survival became everyday’s challenge, with humiliation on the street and betrayal by friends and neighbors. I can only imagine the hopelessness.

Finally instructed to pack supplies of diapers, clothing for several seasons, essential household items, and valuables, most Jews complied and reported to the trains as assigned. Grieving their losses of home, livelihood, liberty, and dignity, they accepted “relocation” by the German Occupiers. Little did they know they were being relocated from LIFE.


When is knowledge complicity?

When should I intervene, or look away?

A parent’s harshness seems brutal in the subway. When is it abuse, and what is my role?

Two girls pocket (ie, steal!) candy in the market. Is it right for me to speak up? To whom?

The world seemed shocked by what had happened in the camps but (too) many powerful people knew.  I found this TedTalk fascinating  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2PQCNQH2lY

The unspoken truth is that much was known about the death camps years before Russian and US soldiers took the famous photographs. Who could admit they knew and did nothing, under the guise of “minding our own business”?

It was more comfortable to say they had no idea, but now we have too much evidence otherwise. Certainly not in entirety, but 10s and 100s of thousands murdered should have been enough, to do more . . . so, I recycle to WHEN should I speak up? What is my role with a stranger?


Refocusing on Holland, many wonderful Dutch people risked their lives by hiding and helping Jews, assisting escapes, taking-in children, etc. But too many Jews were betrayed by their neighbors. The Dutch police and other authorities’ participation with Nazi regime edicts resulted in a far greater percentage of Holland’s Jews being sent to camps than any other nation.

This link has more specifics: http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp412.htm

Having admired the courage of the Corrie ten Boom story since I heard her speak as a college freshman, I resisted reconfiguring my impression. I’d still rather think that the sacrifices of Corrie’s family and other good Dutch people earns the reputation for the nation. But, resist as I might, the facts prevail. Their good deeds and sacrifices are still HUGE, but they were a too-small minority.

I must be truthful with Truth, I’m doing my best to be honest, both before the mirror and God.


Assorted documentation included films of disturbing interviews. I’ll give you Only one example, lest you fear having to endure more than you can bear of this painful topic, and leave in search of clips of Robin Williams or Lucille Ball.

⇒One former Dutch police captain answered questions about conducting round-ups with a shrug, “We were following orders. . . it was a nasty job.” My heart screamed at his abdication, “Where is your humanity?!?”

Yet again, my response compels me to the mirror. “Where is YOUR humanity?” May God reveal my attitudes to me. And, make my heart tender where it’s sharp, stronger where it’s weak.


Finishing the Ghetto Fighters’ Museum, since I had a trip to Warsaw scheduled for the first week of September – working title is “September Songs – blog 44” – I soaked in as much as possible of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Here it is in a nutshell:

Team 1: Several hundred Jewish resistance fighters, mostly teens and young adults affected by years of malnutrition and deprivation, wield sticks, Molotov cocktails, and too few WW1-era guns with insufficient ammunition  AGAINST

Team 2: Several thousand well-equipped and nourished troops of the German Army.

It took a month for the Germans to overcome the defenders, and that only by burning down the area, building by building.

The young Jews faced the reality of the death camps and chose to not go as lambs to the slaughter. Their courage fills my empty tank for the ridiculously incomparable tiny feats that my days sometimes require.

Had she been alive to read “ridiculously” in the above paragraph, my wise friend, Penny, who spent over half of her life as a quadriplegic, would have gently chastised me. It was she who taught me better than anyone else that each person’s sorrows are their own, very genuine sorrows and that there is no place for comparison. Even so, how can I but compare?

May we find the courage to spend our lives on the Good

16 ~ First Election and Hello Dolly

 

16 ~ First Election and Hello Dolly

I wake up thinking of you more often than not.  How will I bring you with me to a moment in time, to a thought.  I do my best to frame my heart and experiences in a way that speak meaningfully to you, hoping you GET it, hoping to give you new ways to think, to know, perhaps to pray.

WP_20150321_001WP_20150305_001

The photos and videos reflect a few of Spring’s greetings throughout Jerusalem.  My eyes are happy to find brilliant tumbles of blossoms and enjoy these occasional days of warmer weather.  One day even warranted sandals!  The roofers have reexamined my apartment roof and another “repair” is planned, followed by the painters, and perhaps I’ll have the pure luxury of truly nesting.  I’ve posted a musician whose strange instrument’s melancholy sounds called to me from an underpass of the large reserve/park near my home.  A soccer game of men translates pretty well. The various bands are from the Jerusalem Music Festival in the Old City, a smorgasbord of styles and I caught a few to give you a taste.

 

 

 

 

I voted March 17th for leadership that will give top priority to the security of Israel, rather than allowing other ever-important issues to become distractions from survival.  Economy won’t matter IF our borders aren’t safe, or Iran has a bomb, or there are more agreements made with people who don’t intend to share this land and have refused “2-state” options for decades. I was grateful to vote, as always appreciating the privilege of democracy. http://www.aish.com/jw/me/Iran-and-the-Bomb.html

israel vs arab concessions for peace

 

Moving on, I’ve grown acutely aware of my belonging-deficit at this point of this transition. I accepted an invitation to visit an audition/rehearsal of Hello Dolly at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and immediately found myself on the stage learning the steps for the opening song with approximately two dozen mostly 20-30somethings.  The aroma was eau de locker room, but otherwise it was 3 hours of pure fun.  The director and other leaders said I’d be entirely welcome, and complimented my energy level and adaptation. J “Why?” you ask, “Hello Dolly in Jerusalem?”  Quality English speaking performances are welcomed by Jerusalem’s substantial English speaking community. Will these talented, fun young Israelis and immigrants be my new best friends? Probably not, but there appears to be an all-for-1 sense of teamwork I’ve learned is crucial for me to thrive.  Besides the fun of singing and dancing and doing a show, I’d benefit from “belonging” even if only for a 3 month project.

I’m certain I would have a lot of fun with the Hello Dolly rehearsals and especially the 7 performances in June.  So that sounds like a fit, and to get on board, right?  BUT!  The schedule of three 3-hour rehearsals each week plus the 45 minute bus ride to and from the University plus the 7 performances in 10 days all occur during my remaining 3 months of 5 hours/day in language school plus homework.  It just might be too much to do anything well.  Priorities!  Drats.

The decision/commitment has to be made very soon, and I intend to be certain I can keep the commitment.  Performers rely on each other to know their part and do it, not flake out, and last minute changes create chaos.  My take away from the thrilling fun?  I need to find some outlet of fun-normal for me, especially while working so hard in language class.  I want to do it all, of course, and before opting out of this production (there will be others) I’ll visit another rehearsal or 2 to see how I do in class the morning after.

Were the production in Hebrew, the rehearsals would be the immersion I so need – a learning opportunity – and I’d be right on board.  But then they’d probably not want me because of not being able to follow directions, since my Hebrew is not good enough to function at that level! L Isn’t that the way things too often go?!?!?!   Regardless, I know I need to find some outlet for myFUN, whether singing/dancing or other.  If I decide to pass on the Hello Dolly project, I’ll commit to exploring more feasible opportunities around town.

It took several weeks to work this one out: walking to class every morning, I pass workers of all sorts.  Initially, they all seemed angry, whether shouting over the traffic noise or not.  Now that I’m catching snippets of what they’re saying, they don’t sound so angry.  Hmmmm, note to self: when we don’t understand others, they may only seem angry.  As understanding comes, we realize that’s not necessarily the case.

Laugh at yourself!

That lesson originally came to me for the first time not too many years ago, while watching the best singers in Denver’s Skyline chorus make mistakes and laugh at themselves.  I realized I had a huge missing piece, because mistakes or failure at that time were not a laughing matter.  I’d never judge you that way, and it’s terribly egocentric to expect more of myself than others.  CRAZY.

I also see my classmates laugh at themselves.  In this quest to speak Hebrew, I appreciate all I’ve learned and count it a great success, but still visit the fear-pit of failure or “they’ll find out I’m hopeless and kick me out”. At this point of life, I no longer set up camp in that pit.  Now I put down the shovel and look UP.

The lead teacher thought to encourage us with our expectations, “Be nice to yourself.  Let us torture you!”

Check out these notes taken by a classmate from Swedenenglish, swedish, hebrew class notes

sitting beside me this past week of class.  Take a moment to find English and Swedish!! in columns 1 & 3, and Hebrew in columns 2 & 4.  I watch her produce Hebrew sentences, and can “see” her process from one language to the other.  She speaks bits of several other languages as well, but as a new immigrant with her young-adult children, her current goal is mastery of Hebrew.  Amazing!  Her great but not perfect English notes include confusion of where and were and the like, and it hurts to think of this process for her.  It’s amazing, and makes my job look so much easier.

I savor the order of this new language of mine.  I know only some of you will relate to this, but it reminds me of what I enjoyed about algebra – complex, logical, and yet finite. Please remind me I said this when drowning in the 30,000+ Hebrew word roots.

 

Who do you love? Have you told them?  Please do.  It’s important.

 

 What do I miss?  (after #1, there’s no way to rank order)

  1. Deeply-knowing-and-being-known friendships, that take time to build (to me, this translates as being loved)
  2. Having Denver girlfriends over for monthly evenings of talking about who we are and how we live and love and God and men and food and travel and friendship and and and
  3. Performing – bringing joy to my audience
  4. Dancing
  5. Having comparatively easy solutions to problems: replacing lightbulbs, having hot water without remembering to turn on the hot water heater 20 minutes ago, the ability to read bills and documents and menus, not feeling like an outsider simply because I don’t know what people are saying

 

New joys?  (no order implied)

  1. Amazing fresh produce and great restaurant selections
  2. The welcoming I receive from many Israelis I’ve met – both those born here as well as immigrants
  3. The music and lifestyle and history and even many of the challenges surrounding the culture
  4. The friends I’ve made thus far
  5. Concerts at the Jerusalem Theater
  6. Torah and other Jewish history classes
  7. Learning to speak Hebrew and looking forward to getting involved in volunteer projects my heart loves

6 Friends and connection

Dec 16 – 20

Friends and connection

A friend visiting from Denver made time in her relentless business and family schedule to include me.  This friendship, and our conversations’ depth is surprising at many levels to me – dramatically different backgrounds somehow don’t keep us from being able to talk about our growth and faith, how we’re learning to trust God in new ways, lessons learned through seasons of great disappointment and disillusionment. I hope the fragrance of our lives will continue to make eachother more lovely, even in our too infrequent communications.

These days, I’m relying on infrequent communications. Because of everyone’s busy-ness and time zone and day-to-day to-dos, phone or detailed email messages have been nonexistent or minimal at best, compared with how often we interacted before. The Denver ladies who met at my home monthly, the meals and walks and such with others… long phone calls with dear OLD California friends… I’m trusting we’ve built solidly and when we’re together or on the phone that it’ll be like it is so often with dear friends: “as though no time elapsed.” What is the stuff of friendships that creates that dynamic, when other relationships fall away with time? And those friendships that were just beginning to take root…I hope the foundation is not too fragile to survive this distance.

Sleeplessness and the move: The acupuncture apparently jolted my nervous system back into alignment and I slept as-though-drugged (AKA: passed-out!) for some portion of the 20 minutes with needles in my feet, shins, neck and shoulder and forehead. I returned to my freshly painted, reasonably undusty apartment (isn’t dust is like ants? You wipe it away, and then from somewhere more comes). I slept well for my first night on the sofa, notwithstanding the lingering paint fumes. The next day’s Shiatsu massage addressed neck/shoulder tightness from the heavy lifting, cleaning, and sleepless of preceding days. Have you had Shiatsu? It’s very aggressive massage and I was sore for several days, looking for bruises on my upper back, but it seems to be effective.  Both the acupuncture and massage were without undressing, and different in approach from my U.S. resources, but then most everything is different here, so why not?!?

I do feel better, seem to be sleeping, have joined and am already enjoying classes and weights in the nearby (ladies only) gym. Miles and miles of walking just isn’t enough. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the biweekly personal trainer session included in the membership. The varied, frequent classes look like the list anywhere, with one addition: Folk Dancing. I’ll check that one out, and most certainly the Greek, Israeli, and other Folk dances offered at a local community centers. I haven’t found Ballroom yet, but have been told it’s there. I visited a “Sing along” but otherwise haven’t found any potential groups. That may have to wait until after language classes.

I was reading about King David passing the Kingdom to his son, Solomon, who is later invited to ask God for whatever he wants. Traditionally, Solomon is considered a wise king, having asked for wisdom instead of riches or other silliness, but the thing that caught my eye in reading this time is that BEFORE Solomon asks for wisdom in that encounter with God, David commends his son’s wisdom. I have a vivid memory of the 28 year old me facing how desperately clueless I was, and brazenly asking God for wisdom – for a portion of what He gave Solomon. I’ve been pondering why we want the virtues or talents we want. I find that the more we learn of something, the more we realize how far we are from knowing much at all about it. In Solomon’s case, he had already demonstrated wisdom, and so perhaps having some made him want more, realizing he was only skimming the surface of a deep, deep well.

On the other hand, haven’t we all known people who try desperately towards ambitions for which they lack the basic “gift”. No amount of mentoring or study enables them to reach their ambition. I’ve certainly prayed to do things, or be someone, only to later face the reality those dreams were far from my core talents. A simple example is that I could practice and play the piano hours on end, and never have the true talent of others. The learning and practice, however, later helped me develop my singing voice, which was also a dream, unfortunately squashed when I was young. Even as a late starter, the singing opportunities have been a blessing and have brought richness into my adult life for which I’ll always be grateful. So, learning something for which I had minimal talent(piano) enabled another skill that had a bit more potential. Lesson learned: learn lessons because they’ll apply to areas that might surprise you later. Learning is most often generalized to many areas of life. We could have lively discussions of lessons learned through careers, “good” and “bad” bosses, challenging close relationships, FAILURE, etc. Returning to the subject, which virtues or gifts do you now or have you craved? Where are you in that continuum from “mission accomplished” to “guess not”?

 

My neighborhood is filled with lovely Chanukah candles, many on the streets, outside the homes. The families gather around and light their candles, read the prayers, sing, let the children rabble-rouse a bit to burn off the sugar of the traditional, filled-donut treats. On the 2nd night of Chanukah, the kids on my street were playing a game or something wonderful around 9:00 and I was wondering if it is part of the tradition, and what time they are roused for school in the morning. I’m hoping an Israeli can explain whether kids stay up late on the 2nd night of Chanukah, or was it simply unique to my neighbors, that night. Learning this culture is full of sorting out the “norm” from idiosyncrasies.

Thursday evening I went to watch Chanukah music and dancers for a special “Olim” night – that references those who have recently immigrated to Israel, which includes me! I’ve been trying to attach the 7 minutes of videos to this site but no luck yet. I’ll keep trying.

Establishing a rhythm: My days include excursions plotted geographically with errands, to explore new areas’ and shopping for particulars as well as price comparisons; buying almost always mandates negotiating for lower prices. It’s kind of fun. The last few days’ projects was visiting the agencies I need to set up my language class and change of address, but was complicated by having been misdirected, was turned away from closed offices because of Chanukah, and, get this: I waited for my turn at the Central Post Office with a number of ‘190’ when the number currently being served was ‘107’ (TRULY!). There were 5 clerks working, so I ran a few nearby errands rather than just sit the entire time, and when it was finally my turn, learned the entire effort was unnecessary because of procedures changed years ago.

Every day something happens that reminds me to wonder again how people do this with bunches of kids and jobs. I miss my friends and routines. Even as hospitable and warm that my new friends are, I get lonely. But then, I suppose so do the folks with loving spouses and all the beautiful children, right? Loneliness is a bigger subject, but I’ll give the teaser that I think everyone gets lonely at times… I believe it’s a yearning of our hearts, not for chocolate or the other vices as it often manifests, but for a far deeper knowing and being known than any human can provide. Should we talk about that?

I love being here. Will war start up again? When is probably the better question. Stay informed: http://www.timesofisrael.com/

Email me if you have something you want to hear more about in an upcoming blog.