Sunday, December 04, 2016

When Zionism Looks Like a Basketball Game

The modern State of Israel is a complete miracle. With all of its complexities, problems and issues, it is a miracle that we've come home after 2000 years and that we are a thriving and free democratic society. 

When most people think about Israel, an image of the Kotel comes to mind; of the Old City Walls; perhaps of Tzfat and its mystical blue doors. This week, however, I was introduced to an entirely different image that represents the State.

Here it is:

And here it is:

Um, you might be thinking. What the heck do pictures of basketball games have to do with the miracle of Israel? 

A lot.

Recently, I attended my first Hapoel Jerusalem basketball game, and the energy in the stadium was absolutely mind blowing. Of course, fans around the world go crazy at soccer games. And there is energy and fun to be had at all sporting events. But the energy here and the love of the team and the players felt unparalleled to me.

I happen to cry just about every time that I hear our national anthem, Hatikva. Hearing it at a basketball game, with everyone holding up their Hapoel scarves, was incredible. 

Before the game, I asked Josh if it would look silly for me to wear the scarf. He said, "You have no idea where you're going." Everyone had on something Hapoel and half the crowd used their scarves throughout the game to show their love of the team and their enthusiasm.

They have a section at the game for the particularly energetic fans, the Malcha Brigade, and they jumped and sang the entire game.

I was kept laughing throughout the entire game by my neighbors at the game. The guy behind me takes his basketball very seriously and spent the entire game telling people to sit down or move. He told the security guard in front of us to please move over. He yelled at the mascot, "Yalla! Lion! Move out of the way!" And he even yelled at the opposing team's players as they were warming up in front of us. Now, they were from Slovenia and didn't know a word of Hebrew; but never mind, as the guy was yelling, "Yalla! Players! Warm up somewhere else."

Yalla! Lion, sit down!

Yalla! Player in green. Can you warm up somewhere else?

The game was a blast from beginning to end. As the brigade section broke into a modern version of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold), waving their scarves over their heads, I couldn't help but think about Herzl, Ben Gurion and Ben Yehuda. How in awe would they have been to see the ancient language of Hebrew being used in its modern form at a basketball game and to see thousands of people coming together for something so mundane and profound?

I find that living here very often turns the mundane into the profound. This is exactly the point of our country; that we can live in a Jewish homeland and enjoy the regular, everyday events and activities that people enjoy all around the world. But do it here, at Home.

We have come so far in Israel in such a short amount of time; we have achieved so much. And while most people don't enjoy a Zionist take-away from a basketball game, I was left bursting with pride over what we manage to accomplish on a daily basis here. And in awe of what Zionism can look like. 

Sometimes, it looks like a basketball game on a regular Wednesday night.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Lessons Learned at the Lone Tree

My two oldest boys go to school 45 minutes south of our house in a program that I’ve written about a few times called Sussya. It’s a magical place that places a great deal of emphasis on molding the boys into upstanding, thoughtful, generous people. At the same time, they teach the kids all about Jewish history and modern Zionism by exploring the Land.

This Friday, Yehuda’s weekly trip took them to Gush Etzion. So the evening before, each kid called his parents to tell them that the kids would be available to say hi for 15-20 minutes…and could we please bring some goodies. We’ve been doing this for two years already with Matan, so we know how to grab the moments when we get them and how to bring treats for the kids. But with Matan’s class, we have a Whatsapp group (of course) so that the parents who live in the Gush can coordinate what to bring and when.

We don’t have such a group with the new ninth graders, so I was in the dark about how much to buy…and of what. I bought enough treats for each kid to have one pastry and a cup of juice, and I certainly hoped that other parents would be bringing more treats. 

When we arrived, we were the first parents on the scene, and the kids quickly starting to gobble the goodies that we had brought. We were standing a bit away from the kids, talking to Yehuda’s teacher and I started to get nervous.

“Oy,” I said to Rav R. “I didn’t bring enough. And now the kids are going to be hungry.”

And in perfect fashion, he said, “No! It’s great that there isn’t enough."

I looked at him like he was crazy.

"Listen, Romi! This is how the kids learn to share. They look at the bourekas, and they realize there isn’t quite enough and they think about how to divide it up, and what to do. It’s perfect.”

As I stood there, obviously doubting what he was saying, Rav R. continued, “No really,” he said with a huge grin. “I love when there is only one candy left in the house and I give it to one of the kids. She has to look at it and figure out how to divide it with her sister. This is what life is all about.”

And then a few more parents showed up with goodies and he said, “See! They came just as the kids finished your treats. And now the new treats will taste even better to them since they had just a taste of yours. The timing is perfect.”

It’s incredibly humbling to be among people who have such good hearts and such positive attitudes. I notice a similar thought-process among many of the teachers in their school.

I have so many lessons to learn from an attitude like this one. And I can only marvel that these are the types of giants among whom, and from whom, I have my boys learning.

Lessons learned at the Lone Tree boureka stop.