The day started earlier than usual. We had to be at the Institute quite early to begin our tiyul to the Galil. They had scheduled a jam-packed day of meetings for us in the North, and wanted us to be back by 6:00 PM for a very special dedication program at the Institute.
Ambition is a dangerous virtue. I don’t know who figured they could squeeze a dozen hours of meetings and more than a half dozen hours of driving into just under eleven hours. It is a new field of science, colloquially referred to as “Zealous Math.”
(Truthfully, they weren’t far off, even with extenuating circumstances. It might be true that time passes differently in Israel.)
So everyone was punctual, we loaded the bus, and we were on our way. A nice Jewish tiyul – first thing, our “bus mom,” a wonderful administrator from the Institute, passed out granola bars, fruit and water bottles.
The best laid plans – fifteen minutes outside of the city, our bus broke down. We waited and we waited. Somebody came fixed the fan belt, so the bus was running, and still we waited. We watched the gazelles playing by the side of the road, and we waited.
Finally after over an hour delay, a second came, picked us up, and we were (again) on our way.
Anyone who has ever scheduled a day using “Zealous Math” knows the joy of watching their “best laid plans” dissolve almost before the day even began.
But somehow it worked.
Three hours later we arrived at Kibbutz Manara – high on top of a small mountain, less than 100 yards from the Lebanese border. It is amazing to have such a commanding view deep into Lebanon.
Dan, a long time member of the Kibbutz, talked about life up here. He talked about how loud it was constantly last summer, 24 hours a day. He talked about how normal it was for the children of Manara to be in the bomb shelters. How the shelters have TV, movies, games and junk food to make the children not only safe but comfortable under ground. He explained the UN Base (about 200 yards away) and the UN outpost (less than 50 yards away) were placed there at Israel’s request after the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon to help protect against shelling from within Lebanon. He also showed us the fire scarred landscape, the damage from last summer’s war that will be a physical reminder for years to come.
Did I mention that Manara is beautifully green on top, covered by trees?
We then went in to the Moadon (Club) and had a wonderful presentation on the work of the Shalom Hartman Institute in the Galil (who knew). Beyond the educational work that we learned about in Jerusalem, the Institute is also hard at work empowering groups who are yearning to develop meaningful Jewish experiences in a non-oppressive, pluralistic environment.
The programs include many things that we would think of us as the work of a JCC, a Hillel and sometimes even a synagogue. They run classes, help study groups, seders for holidays, lectures and a whole variety of other programs – touching the lives of many people!
Then we met Rachel Rabin, one of the founding members of Kibbutz Manara (1943-44). She is the sister of the late Primer Minister, Yitzchak Rabin. On the one hand, it certainly was “neat” to meet Prime Minister Rabin’s sister; on the other hand, her yichus was a distraction for some people, causing the question and answer period to lose sight of the amazing life of heroism and history of this amazing lady.
She and her husband came to Manara when there were only rocks. In fact, when the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles was preparing a movie to honor Israel’s Fiftieth, they came across an original, silent 8mm film about the founding of Manara.
It was a cutesy 10 minute Black & White movie following a young woman as she and her friends cleared a field of rocks, planted trees, built a building, and of course sang and danced around a medura (bonfire).
The film may have been cheesy, but it was amazing to see exactly what this place looked like more than sixty years ago – what is now covered with mature trees, was a barren mountain top. And Rachel knew a number of the people recorded in the film. Though she has probably watched it 100 times or more, she was moved to see old friends as (almost) little kids, working in the fields.
The best part was listening to Rachel speak – her idealism growing up in Tel Aviv, getting married and moving to the Northern Frontier before the state was born to create an idyllic community.
She spoke about how there was nothing marking the border with Lebanon for years. She told stories about how much easier it was to descend the mountain to the North and walk into Lebanon for supplies (including simple things like water as well as machine/tractor parts).
She spoke with sadness in her voice and eyes about the current situation, the border, terrorism. She spoke of the absence of heroes in Israel today. (She spoke about this with no awareness of her own heroism and the heroism of the founders and builders of Kibbutz Manara. It is amazing, in general, in Israel today with the fall of the president, the corruption in government and religion, the tragic fiasco of last summer’s war and a variety of other depressing events, that people have lost sight of the fact that there may not be heroes justify in the public sphere, but in their private lives, this country is filled with heroes and the heroic.
I could have spent hours more talking to Rachel about the past, present and future of the State of Israel.
We justify our meeting with Rachel and went to this little amusement park, that included a number of rides at the bottom of the cliffs of Manara, but the cool part was the 9 minute Cable Car ride down the face of the cliff to the bottom of the Hula Valley – gorgeous and fun.
The bus met us at the bottom and drove us to a luncheon with lay-leaders and participants from the various Hartman programs in the North. I sat at a small table, just me and Meirav – an school administrator and a volunteer administrator for a Hartman program called circles.
She talked to me about how her group got started, how they went looking for some larger organization with which to affiliate and how perfect the shidduch with Hartman is.
We also just had a lovely lunch, getting to know each other, sharing stories of our lives and family. It was wonderful.
Then the 3 hour bus ride back.
We arrived a little late for the program at Hartman. We missed the dedication of the Army education program in honor of David Hartman’s son-in-law who was shot down over Lebanon in 1982.
What we did hear were three of the four lectures that night on the public values of the State of Israel. It was brilliant and engaging.
Donniel Hartman spoke movingly about creating a public culture of acceptance, in which people listen to each other and agree to share the public space, even though they never come to an agreement about the important issues over which they disagree. (The first lecture was given by Micah Goodman, but we missed that entirely.)
After Donniel’s talk there was a break and the Institute served a light dinner while people schmoozed and discussed the opening lectures.
After dinner, Professor Shlomo Avineri of the Hebrew University gave a wonderful lesson on Hegel. He taught of Hegel’s three circles of ethics. First is the circle of the family, in which a person, because of love of the family, acts altruistically. In this circle a person gives of her/himself and her/his possessions freely for the benefit of the family.
Second, is the circle of the market place. In this circle, a person acts more self-interested – concerned about acquiring wealth, and so forth.
Finally, is the circle of the state. Here again the individual is called upon to act altruistically, for the common good. People serve in the armed forces and pay their taxes, not for personal, immediate gain, but for the good of the state.
Avineri argued that Judaism, through the mode of Halakhah, developed an extensive ethic and law code in the first two circles, but has never developed in the third, national, circle. The only talk of developing in this circle is either in the days of the Temple (historically) or in the days of the Messiah (religiously conceived future). The obligation is to now develop a national code of values and laws for a Jewish State.
This is an area in which we as Jews are neophytes, we have only been doing it for a few decades.
He was engaging, insightful and brilliant. And it was fun hearing a lecture on Hegel in Hebrew.
David Hartman was the final speaker of the evening and he spoke brilliantly. He began with a few loving words about his son-in-law. He is definitely a thinker/philosopher whose ideas are affected by the history he experiences – globally and personally!
The main thrust of his argument was that Israel needs to develop a serious public morality. The most vivid comments began with some funny stories about being pushed out of line and elbowed at the bank, post office and grocery store. He then silenced the room with – are you going to push a survivor of the Holocaust out of line so you can get to the front sooner?
He also included one of his favorite thoughts – Israel and Judaism are much more than Holocaust memorials. He believes that the Holocaust is an important part of our history, but Judaism (1) should not be defined by genocidal anti-semites, and (2) Judaism is so much more.
He impassionedly pleaded that when the Pope comes to Israel, don’t take him to Yad V’Shem (“I don’t need his apology”) take him to Ben Yehudah Street or the mall or a school – show him a place that is alive, celebrating. That is the miracle of the State of Israel.
A powerful talk, by a gifted thinker and speaker.