I grew up in a musical family. Our Shabbat table rang with zemirot and accompanying harmonies, our home was filled with the sounds of my mother’s piano playing or the hi-fi (yes, not Wi-fi) radio’s classical music station. Mostly, I recall the LP records (for those too young to remember, a record was like a CD with a goiter problem and LP meant “Long-Playing”), a library of these discs that included modern Israeli songs, Chassidic and cantorial selections and, included among them, records of Broadway musicals.
My parents loved these musicals and often would come home from a show with a recording of its music. I was weaned upon the songs of Rogers and Hammerstein shows, Lerner and Loewe musicals and some Rogers and Hart productions as well. There was, however, one musical that has haunted me recently. It was not a great Broadway success and much of the music was, I suppose, quite forgettable. But it was a musical about Israel and it was called “Milk and Honey.” The plot revolved around the story of Jewish widows who visited Israel with an eye on finding a suitable husband there. At one point, a prospective Israeli match explained to the women his attachment to the land. In the show’s theme song he speaks of the beauty and attraction of Israel and then goes on to be a bit more realistic regarding the Jewish State of the 50s and early 60s and expresses a very profound thought:
“What if the earth is dry and barren?
“What if the morning sun is mean to us?
“For this is a state of mind we live in,
“We want it green-and so, it’s green to us!”
I know it has been some time since my last blog as I have been increasingly busy writing, teaching and lecturing. As Tu B’Shvat approached I was urged to write another blog, hence the theme, “We want it green…” But please be aware that this blog has nothing to do with Tu B’Shvat. It does have everything to do, however, with Aliya in general and our situation in Israel in particular.
Before we made our Aliya, my wife and I were warned that the Israeli bureaucracy could make things difficult and, therefore, we were to expect many delays, curt civil servants and hours of frustration. We found none of these. Whatever bureaucracy we encountered was no worse than what we experienced in the US, the civil servants were helpful and regularly congratulated us on our Aliya and we felt almost no frustration. As I shared my unique encounters with other recent olim, I found that they were not unique to me at all. Why then the warnings? Why was the word on the street so negative regarding the initial adjustment to life in Israel?
I came to the conclusion that, for us at least, much depended on attitude: “We want it green-and so, it’s green to us!” When faced with the sometimes daunting challenge of successfully immigrating and adjusting to a new country and a new culture it is crucial to adopt this attitude. It is important to see the positive and not the negative, to rejoice in what is (and will be) and not bemoan the loss of what was, to understand the now but to vision the dream of what could be; simply put, to live in a positive state of mind and see flourishing green where there may still be patches of barrenness and dryness. If you want it green-it will be green for you.
Sadly, I have also seen this type of attitude used negatively, to poison the minds of so many when they view the State of Israel. Clearly, there are differing opinions regarding the events in the Middle East. Whether from the radical left to the radical right and any view in between one can hear emotionally powerful arguments supporting one side or the other. But there must be some basic truths upon which all sides have to agree – otherwise, there could be no basis for an argument. Arguments in any debate must revolve around convincing the opposing view that the agreed upon value(s) is (are) best served by one approach over the other. For example: if one side believed that murder is wrong and must be condemned while another believed that murder is good and should be praised – any conversation about terrorist killings of innocent civilians would be a waste of breath.
So what happens when there is no agreement on the most basic principles?? What happens when one side is blind to facts and sees reality only as he wishes it to be and not as it is-when he sees green because he wants it to be green and not because it is?
It is an important question to ponder for that is precisely what is happening today. There is a clear animus directed against the State of Israel by a sizeable population who, despite facts to the contrary, insists on viewing Israel as a pariah state and, as a result, has designated Israel as one of the leading causes of instability in the world and a threat to world peace. It is an approach that belies the truth and paints the victim as the perpetrator because that is how they want it to be. They see green because they want it to be green.
How else can one understand the EU’s collective decision to ignore over two-hundred disputes over “occupied” land and label only those products grown or manufactured in Judea and Samaria as coming from “occupied territories?” Why else would a democratic government actively work to weaken the democratically elected leader of its ally? What other reason could there be for the European states to undermine the laws of a democratic country by funding illegal construction there? And why would the American administration campaign against the NGO bill (sponsored by Israel’s Justice Minister and up for a vote in the Knesset) that would require NGOs that are principally financed by foreign governments to identify themselves as foreign agents in their official communications and interactions when the US has, arguably, a more restrictive (!) bill in their own Foreign Agent’s Registration Act?
And there are more actions that reveal this willingness to deny reality and believe only what they want to be true.
- How can the only democratic and free country in the entire Middle East that guarantees freedom of religion and equal rights for every citizen be labeled “an apartheid state” while other countries who deny rights to women and minorities, who restrict religious practices and who allow “honor killings” are accepted as equal partners and never condemned?
- Why did we learn last month that our tax dollars are funding American espionage of Israel because the current administration regards as a top target for such activity?
- And how could the UN Secretary General defend terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, attacks that, in this past week alone, left 12 children orphaned, by saying that it was a “natural” response for people to resist occupation?
How? Why? Because if want to believe something is what it is not-then no argument or logic will persuade you. The victims are guilty, the perpetrators are innocent and the barren is green.
A story is told about the great 18th century Maggid (teller of parables) who was approached by an admirer and asked how was it that he always seemed to have a story that fit every occasion. The Maggid smiled and said: “Let me answer with a parable: There was once an archer who was practicing his skills in the forest when a farmer came upon him and saw how every shot hit the mark-every arrow had landed right in the middle of the bull’s-eye. He asked the archer how he became such a remarkable expert and the archer replied: ‘You simply don’t understand. You believe that I paint the target on a tree and proceed to shoot the arrow into the bull’s-eye. Actually, my secret is that I first shoot the arrow into the tree-and then I paint the target around the arrow.’ So too,” the Maggid explained, “I don’t hear a situation and make up the parable; I first make up the parable and then wait for the proper situation in which to use it.”
We have a world that draws targets after they shoot the arrows. A world that condemns first and looks for reasons later; a society that makes up their mind without learning or even caring about the facts. They want it green-and so it’s green to them.
Yes, I was brought up in a musical home and was exposed to show tune. But I always understood that the music was merely an accompaniment to fictional stories. How sad to see a world whose leaders endanger millions by denying reality and believing fiction. I am proud to be living in a country that, like the ladder of Jacob, has its head in the heaven of dreams while its feet are firmly planted on the ground.
A ground that, with God’s help, we will yet cover with green.