Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Warning: this may offend

Home of the…   Returning to America from Israel meant returning to my freedom of movement, thought, and deed. Not that I didn’t enjoy that in Jerusalem. In a limited sense, I did. But I was much more careful in Jerusalem. Had to be.

While on an important Rabbi’s beautiful flower decked patio on the third or fourth floor of a spacious yet intimate apartment in a building overlooking a small but “illegal” Arab village surrounded by a much larger Israeli promenade, I heard the Rabbi explain that his street was the one most likely for a car to be stolen. Calmly he explained that Arabs would steal the cars and disappear them (my take on what he actually said). They couldn’t be blamed, he told me, because they were in a constant state of occupation.

Because I was only one of about a ten guests, I didn’t attempt to begin what seemed a necessary debate about that. Lunch was about to be served; peace and goodwill trumped everything that Passover week.

Although the Rabbi and I never spoke again, I did see him again. We nodded when we passed in the hallway of his place of employment. My nod was in deference to his position; he was in charge there. I didn’t want to stop him to ask if he would like to see the images I’d taken of the central bus terminal where guards with machine guns and metal detectors examined every person and every package that enters. Such precautions are necessary because too many Israeli buses have been blown to kingdom come by those who hate Jews and Israelis.

That gruesome fact has transformed into a minor inconvenience not unlike, for me, the closing of Internet cafes on the lengthy Sabbaths (from 4:00 p.m. Friday until at least 8:00 p.m. Saturday). That disconnect from my world wasn’t intolerable as much as it was an imposition since I didn’t have a choice about being a part of that closure in Jerusalem.

That said, I felt safe there, somewhat straightjacketed, but safe. Even so, even though I’d found myself lost too many times in not-so-friendly East Jerusalem, I didn’t look like a person of interest in that city. As my experiences proved, the bad guys didn’t recognize me as one of their targets.

Back in America, that changed. As a 24/7 freewheeling freedom lover, I could have been caught in any of a number of different tragedies depending solely on the luck of the draw. I could have been at the Boston Marathon; I could have been on a campus where a deranged gunman lived out his sick fantasies.

Thankfully, I wasn’t. Instead, I watched in utter amazement as Tiger Woods missed an easily makeable eagle putt. When the same Tiger was penalized two strokes due to a provocative e-mail tip to the Masters’ Rules Committee, I was aghast. In my humble opinion, that vaunted group erred on the wrong side. They shouldn’t have trusted the informant; nor should they have asked Tiger. Neither source was objective.

That elite group of Rules Enforcers should have stooped to ask the one man who had all of the answers. That man was Tiger’s caddie. He had replaced Tiger’s divot; he would have seen where Tiger stood.

Like a true champ, Tiger swallowed the harsh decision like the bad medicine it was. I was still shaking my head about that when the Boston Marathon exploded. Although I wanted to rail at those who failed to provide Israeli-tight security, I knew that was useless. Back in America, freedom will never be risk free. At least I don’t think so.

Neither does Dennis Lehane (author of bestsellers Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone among others), a Boston native. In an op ed, Messing With the Wrong City, in today’s N.Y. Times, he concluded:

…Boston took a punch on Monday — two of them, actually — that left it staggering for a bit. Flesh proved vulnerable, as flesh is wont to do, but the spirit merely trembled before recasting itself into something stronger than any bomb or rage.
Last night, before I read Lehane’s depiction, I joined our Historical Society at a Show and Tell meeting. Dave, the first presenter, showed us a smidgeon of his large collection of Goofus Glass, glassware I had seen in various places but had never known the name of. Indeed, it is antique Americana; it was a well-timed distraction from our meeting’s opening: a moment of silence for the tragedy in Boston.

When it was my turn, I mentioned that I’d recently returned to America from Israel. I told the gathering that, just as I headed for my gate, sirens sounded. The entire country came to a standstill as it does every year on Yom Hashoah, in memory of those who died in the Holocaust.

Before I sat down, I thought about the freedoms I’ve enjoyed wherever there was freedom. I tried to conjure what I would say to those who hate and detest the freedoms that so many of us hold dear. I think I’ve found those words:

Join those of us who have committed ourselves to a life of freedom born of personal responsibility. If those forces represent the potential of too much liberty so that individual expression abounds in ways that offend you, seek to live in places where such opposition is the norm. Here in America is not that place. We/I encourage you to go where your values correspond to the limitations you (have) set for yourself. I will not be offended by your departure. I only ask that you go in peace.

And stay there.

                                                B.Koplen 4/17/13

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What is Goofus Glass? Goofus glass by another name would be pressed or mold-blown glass with cold painted (not fired on in a furnace) decoration.

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