in the garden
February 2, 2024 — By elsa

catastrophe

Catastrophe Part 1: October 118th/February 1, 2024  Sunday the Baltimore Ravens lost their bid for the Superbowl. In theory they were invincible. Early in life I learned how to be a good loser. I am trained in this specific civilized grace. Ours was a small predominately Jewish independent school. Losing was expected. That is until the legendary 1969 Men’s […]

Catastrophe 
Part 1: October 118th/February 1, 2024 

Sunday the Baltimore Ravens lost their bid for the Superbowl. In theory they were invincible. Early in life I learned how to be a good loser. I am trained in this specific civilized grace. Ours was a small predominately Jewish independent school. Losing was expected. That is until the legendary 1969 Men’s Varsity basketball team took the league championship. GO Bruins! So while I was prepared to lose and not lose too much sleep over it, there was also this sense that losing wasn’t a fait accompli.

TRIGGER WARNING!

I was around 10 when I found a small volume on my father’s bookshelf. Wedged among other unrelated titles, it was from Auschwitz. WHAM! my heart instantly smashed to smithereens reading a description of Nazis’ using a newborn as a football. The sleep-away camp I went to in North Carolina was rife with quiet anti-semitism, that not-so-secret language used to speak about Jews in America. Later, it was the Thursday night ‘Jew tax’ at the local Tavern. 

My grandparents were American Zionists, who first traveled to Israel in 1949. The modern state of Israel was the Promised Land. Inspired and protected, #neveragain the core reason for its being. My first trip to Israel was with my father in 1982. In the TWA terminal, the newspaper headlines read “PLO attacks Israel”. I promptly went and threw up. My father gently suggested I didn’t have to go. I hadn’t expected to fall in love. Six years later I made Aliyah. 

Was I surprised on Oct 7th to find Israel was not immune to intelligence failures? Yes. Was I surprised that an army of fundamentalists drugged on savagery chose to invade Israel? No. I also know Hamas is not the only face of Islam. Islam gave the world Rūmī and Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. I spent the previous year learning Arabic and studying Tatreez, Palestinian embroidery. I loved the art so much, I ignored the fact that the teacher framed allyship as allegiance to her anti-zionist stance. When she revoked access to my courses, I wrote on ‘parting ways’. I was surprised to find that the same anti-zionist position was held by several LGBTQ+ women rabbis I was learning with.

TRIGGER WARNING!

We lost big on Oct 7th.  It will remain an ongoing catastrophe. The gaslighting deniers all know the level of sadistic barbarism exacted that Shabbat morning. Hamas recorded it themselves and uploaded it to TikTok. They filmed the execution of a Israeli grandmother on her own phone and posted it to her Facebook account. The toll that Shabbat morning, was the proportional equivalent to 50,000 Americans being slaughtered, raped, cooked, set on fire, maimed, and/or taken hostage on a single Saturday morning in America. How would you have answered? 

In the immediate aftermath came deafening silence. A silence almost as untenable as the assault itself. Nothing from long revered institutions, nothing from organizations I supported all my adult life, nothing from beloved teachers I trusted. Only a very few friends and family members said anything at all. All anyone you love/like/know, ­directly impacted by this war (this includes your Palestinian friends and family), needs to hear is simply this: 

I’m thinking of you. 

I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t, so I went to Israel.

Our world is in desperate need of a new paradigm.

Next in this series, Catastrophe: an Interlude, a Valentine to hope.