Saturday, January 31, 2009

And So It Goes...

This Shabbos I went to visit a friend in college in Ariel. Ariel is, for those who do not know, in the Shomron (Samaria), and fairly close to Nablus and Ramallah. Going there from Jerusalem, we had to exit the officially "Jewish" territory, and go through the controversial wall built to keep out terrorists looking to sneak across the border. From the time I stepped into the taxi leaving my apartment, I entered back into what is truly "Israel". I had to once again rely upon Hebrew, and not speak English. I also had to drive through scores of crowds campaigning for Likud and Meretz, two Israeli political parties. Modern Hebrew (as opposed to Loshon Kodesh, or Biblical Hebrew) and current events tend to be played down in yeshiva, so it was a refreshing introduction into Israeli society before traveling to Ariel.

On the way to Ariel, our bus passed countless Arab villages, obvious with the prominent towers on the village mosques. The way to the Shomron is hilly, and the bus had to venture through many winding roads, which overlook valleys scattered with shrubs and boulders. During many parts of the trip, the billboards and signs were written only in Arabic. When we would drop people off in their settlements, we would have to pass through check points with armored patrols waiting for us, showing clearly that places like Maalei Levonah and Shiloh are not in the most safe of areas. Even Ariel had a check point at the entrance.

Overall, Shabbos was very relaxing. The local university is situated on the top of a mountain overlooking a huge valley. Across the valley are Arab villages, which look like stars at night. It was a very nice and easy way to spend Shabbos. I enjoyed seeing my friend, as we hadn't seen each other in quite a while. The only distraction was that everyone was dati leumi, or "national religious" (most like American Modern Orthodox). Being chareidi, I stuck out plainly, and when I used clear Ashkenazi (eastern European) pronunciation when I was called to the Torah, a few people snickered at this overt non-Israeliness. When I asked about the location, and whether or not students feel worried there, my response was, "Oh, actually I've never wanted to look at Ariel's location on a map. The less I know, the better I feel." And so it goes...

On the way back, a large group of "settlers" got on the bus in Shiloh. These settlers stand out because of their unique look: men with long, unkempt pey'ot (sidelocks near their ears), large knitted yarmulkes, and women wearing flowy dresses with large turban-like tichels (scarves used to cover the hair of married women). For both men and women, two things are the same: sandals and rifles. One of the settlers sat next to me, dressed in his army uniform, rifle on his shoulder, and holding a baby in each arm. The difference was interesting: me, black suit and hat, on my way back to a yeshiva that goes out of its way to speak of "eretz Yisroel" (the land of Israel) instead of "medinat Yisrael" (the state of Israel), and a chardal (chareidi dati leumi, or ultra-orthodox national religious) soldier traveling with his wife, two babies, and gun to report back to defending the medina (state). All the while the two of us are sitting next to one another, our bus wove through the hills dotted with Arab villages sporting Palestinian and Jordanian flags at the entrances.

I've heard people say that the relationship between the "Torah world" (world of ultra-Orthodox Jewry) living in Israel and the assortment of Zionist groups is the same as the relationship between the shevet (tribe) of Zevulun and that of Yissachar. In that relationship, one group sustained the world by devoting their lives to learning Torah, with the other shevet supporting them by earning money to support them. In the modern case, though, it is interesting to see how the ones supposed receiving the help are so withdrawn, and in most cases opposed, to those offering protection. As we see it, if all Jews would simply live a life according to Torah and true Judaism, the world opinion could not help but be in favor of Israel, and security would come simpy through the light of true Torah. However, the Zionists and soldiers say that since this cannot be at the current time, hey must do the job until then....and so goes the circle. The unreligious and misguidedly religious army exists to offer safety needed because so many Jews are unreligious and misguided.

Finally, after 90 minutes on the road, we arrived back into Jerusalem. As we approached the central bus station, I once again felt at home, seeing men frocked in black scurry behind strollers (dodging HAIL!! A rare sight in Israel.) on streets and sidewalks packed with those who have found a way to live in the medina without being part of it. Ha'lavai.


  1. I think this so far is the best I have read although all other entries have been very nice. At first it took my breathe away. You in harms way but this is you and who you are. I just want to say I am Thankful you saw your friend and back home safe. Love Mom

  2. I agree with Mom!!!

    I will comment later too tired!

  3. Hey BeeZee!

    Your post was indeed very well written. I felt like I was traveling through the hilly, winding, and somehow anciently-haunting terrain right along side of you.

    It is the last sentence you wrote what I found to be the most intriguing. “Ha’lavai”. If only.

    It is in that short word that you sum up the pages and volumes of debate that has ravaged the state of Israel (the “Medina”) since its inception.

    It is the people that are on a higher spiritual plateau that can say, and truly believe, that it is the merit of those that are studying Torah in Israel that are protecting the “Medinah” from all that seek her and her inhabitants harm.

    It is perhaps the simpler mans way of thinking to say that it is the gun on my hip and the bomber in the sky that is keeping me and my country safe.

    I recently had a conversation with my brother about the merits of learning (studying) Gemorah (Talmud) in an Iyun (in-depth) fashion, versus a Bekiyus (perhaps a more perfunctorily, or cursorily) style.

    There are advantages to both; namely, you cover more ground when you don’t ponder the minutia of every detail however you do walk away with a better understanding of the mechanics of the issue when you go over everything with a very fine toothed comb. That in turn allows the student to perhaps better apply the knowledge that is gained to a more practical or purposeful application.

    Is it the actual law that counts? Or could it be the thought process that is involved to establish that law that is most important? After all laws, at least good laws, that are to withstand the tests of time, need to be able to adapt to the times.

    I guess you can look at it from the following point of view as well:

    There are those that don’t want to think very deep, or dwell too much on as to what is sustaining the Medinah. Be it from a geopolitical point of view or simply a defensively (?) strategic one. Either way a soldier with a rifle regardless of his shoe preference is a comforting site and enough for one to say “Good! I am being protected”. Or, "Israel has a brilliant government and can work up the required international sympathies of friendly western nations to supplement what is lacking in both financial and political clout (tact?) in the global arena."

    On the other hand there are the deep thinkers the “Iyun’ers” that would subscribe to the theory that one soldier with a gun leads to another and another on both sides of the board and that in turn leads to war. It is not the soldier that keeps the Medinah sustained it is the students, the troops armed with holy books, perhaps on both sides of the aisle that is keeping the very delicate semblance of peace in the middle east, and in turn the “Medinah”.

    Clearly your in depth thinking and brilliant remark ‘Ha’lavai” has you categorized as a student of “Iyun”.

  4. This blog made me cry, the thought of you in danger scares me so much! That having been said, I am so incredibly proud of you for doing this! I also, on a completely other note, saw someone with lime green hair today and it made me think of you... Be safe and miss you!