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Splish Splash!!

8 Jan

For all of its technological innovations Israel has yet to see, en masse, the value of weather stripping or double pane windows, the lack of which causes an incessant rattle of windows and drafts of unknown origin. Such alterations in construction could save drastically on energy bills, which obviously is a major benefit to the wallet, and an even bigger benefit to the environment.553711_681890543936_1102758261_n

Powerful sustained winds have battered most of Israel for the past 36 hours, with more wind and rain expected to arrive over the coming days. The strong gusts have also brought along significantly colder weather, and even the ‘S’ word. That’s right, snow! Plastic chairs have been tossed about like toys, tree limbs violently separated from their trunks, some of which have unfortunately landed on businesses and automobiles, fortunately the injuries were minimal. Often lowering the trisim (shields) on residential windows can serve as a barrier for the biting winds, but even they were hopeless to stop the massive rush of air. Awesome is the power of the wind, painful is the hail driven into the forehead as the result of the gusts.

This morning I was fortunate enough to have been soaked three times before breakfast. That said, rain in Israel is a truly a blessing, although flash flooding can be extremely dangerous especially in areas which are unaccustomed to large amounts of rainfall. Nonetheless, very few people are complaining about the falling droplets, even if it does result in the soaking and re-soaking of any area not protected by a waterproof exterior layer of clothing. When there are leaks however, causing it to rain inside, the tolerance is significantly decreased as each drop hitting the collection bucket lands with a taunting ‘drrrip.’   Inconvenient? Yes. Am I complaining? Not really.

Massive puddles, which might at this point qualify as small lakes, are accumulating around storm drains blocked with leaves or mud. Every puddle beckons children and yeshiva students alike to hop in for a splash, it dares you to investigate the depth of the water as if to say, “How good are your boots?”. Many in yeshiva are fortunate to be equipped with waterproof or water resistant boots, neither of which are effective if the puddle rises above the ankles, causing and instant immersion of the foot in cold water, eliciting a groan and perhaps a choice word.

From the roof of Yeshivat Har Etzion, the buildings of Jerusalem, 20 KM away, are visible on a clear day. Although I cannot speak for other areas, the fog in Gush Etzion is nothing short of spectacular. To have the view in the direction of Jerusalem reduced from the 20 KM to a mere 20 meters, obscuring even the neighboring settlements and Arab villages, is nothing short of eerie.

It seems appropriate to teach the following word: שלולית   “Shluleet”   Puddle

Through the Silence

24 Dec
English: Mostar - church and mosque

English: Mostar – church and mosque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moments after the departure of Shabbat this week, I walked slowly, even delicately, in the direction of my yeshiva dorm almost as if I did not want to make any noise that would shatter the lingering quiet of Shabbat. Having just said ma’ariv (evening service), I knew that Shabbat was over for me and the the week was beginning, albeit in earnest.

With my prayer just concluded, another suddenly began. One by one the mosques in the Arab villages surrounding Alon Shvut began the call to prayer, the sound waves emanating from the minarets. Each muezzin, whether recorded or live, expertly pronounced every syllable of the adhan. Together they formed a surround-sound, stereo-esque sensation deep within my ears. As a result of the broken silence it would have been relatively easy to be frustrated with the overwhelming waves of sound. However, I realized that it is only because of the much-diminished Shabbat traffic on the local roads that I was able to hear so precisely the words echoing from the neighbors. On my way to the dorm I passed the yeshiva’s dining hall where the students within were cleaning up en-masse from the final Shabbat meal, in preparation for the new week, before themselves returning to the beit midrash for their own ma’ariv.

Here we are, located in an area of political controversy and historical religious significance. Each group carries a national narrative to which it clings. Those factors sometimes result in feelings of tension and distrust. Even as we live different lives, our lives are linked by common periods of prayer. Each invokes the name of God multiple times daily at prescribed times that are at least somewhat dependent on the combination two celestial bodies and their times of rising and setting, a commonality that easily goes unnoticed.  More often than not, the sounds and rhythm of daily responsibilities mutes the possibility of recognizing common practice, and in fact, it was Shabbat itself that facilitated my discovery of a truth that I suppose had been known only intuitively.

I paused on my walk, frozen in my tracks, not paralyzed, but wanting to preserve the moment, to cradle it for as long as possible. Usually t’fillah is thought of as a means of connecting the human to divine. Perhaps it can be a vehicle for linking humans to humans. With that thought I walked off into the darkness, the new week in its infancy, with the hope that others can share my epiphany.