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Friday, June 10, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XXIX) [roadside edition]

My commute to and from work is just under an hour.  By Israeli standards this is a ridiculously long commute, but it is about half what I used to do in the states when I lived in Connecticut and worked in Manhattan.  Israelis shake their head when I tell them where I live... and where I work (I'm never sure which they are really shocked by). 

However, I know plenty of people who work in Tel Aviv and live in one of that city's sprawling suburbs who have a commute every bit as long (of not longer).  They just don't see it as a long commute because they are sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for most of the commute.  They only consider the short distance they have to travel.

As long time readers of treppenwitz know, I've devoted many journal entries to the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) things I've seen and experienced during my commute.  Each morning and evening I have the winding roads mostly to myself (and my hitchhikers), and I get to daydream... listen to music... sight-see...  and basically soak up the ancient scenery.  But I don't have the luxury of dawdling, so I still miss a lot.

Today is dedicated to post pictures of some of the stuff I had previously missed.

As we have been counting the days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot, I started thinking about what this period is called.  It is called counting the Omer.  Most Jews don't give too much thought to where the name comes from... and those that do, rarely see what the Omer would have looked like.

Simply put, this period was when the barley offering for the Temple in Jerusalem was cut and counted.  In the US I never thought about it because who harvests in early-to-mid spring?  Nothing would have had time to grow yet, right?  Well, here in Israel, Arabs and Jews still grow their winter wheat and barley... and it is harvested exactly when it is supposed to be harvested; during the Omer.  Here is a field that is being harvested by hand, using hand scythes... and the sheaves are waiting to be stacked into larger piles:
Harvest1

Here is what it looks like up close:
Barley

Another field lies harvested at sunset.  In the background are a distant herd of sheep:
Sheaves

Most of the Arab villages I pass along my route sustain themselves in part or whole from agriculture.  It is easy to make the mistake of assuming that people who work the land and exist in such a pastoral setting must be gentle and simple.  The truth is that there have been countless terrorist attacks along the road that I travel, and in many cases the people perpetrating the attacks have been these 'gentle, simple' people.

Last year I gave a semi-regular lift to a young woman who was studying in a girl's program in a community called Maon.  After a few trips together she pointed out a small makeshift monument on the side of the road... just a few yards from the edge of a small Arab village.  I had seen it out of the corner of my eye many times, but I had never stopped to see what it was.  She explained that a few years ago she and most of her family had been driving past this spot on a Friday afternoon on their way to spend Shabbat in one of the communities in the South Hevron hills.  As they came upon this spot, they saw a man waving to them from beside a stopped car... but they didn't have time to register what he might want.  In a moment they drove into an ambush where their car suddenly came under machine gun fire.  Her mother was killed instantly and her father and one of her younger brothers was wounded.  Her father yelled for everyone to get down and not show themselves... but before he finished his warning the gunman had approached the car and shot him again at close range... killing him in front of his children.  The terrorist then fled back into the nearby village. 

This young woman later learned that the man waving at them from the roadside had been in another car that had been attacked, and was trying to warn them that a soldier in the car he was traveling in had already been shot and killed. 

I don't know or care whether the 'gentle farmers' in the nearby Arab village gave shelter to the terrorist by choice, or under duress.  I only know that this beautiful young woman and her surviving brothers and sisters are now orphans.  That is a stain that will be on this village forever... even after (G-d willing), there is peace. 

I drive past this marker every day, and had never stopped to read it... until this week:
Dickstein_memorial

[Translation: On this spot were murdered Rabbi Yosef, Chani and Shuvel Dickstein, and First Sargeant Shamai Elazar Leibovitz.]

Shabbat Shalom!221_16_9

 

Posted by David Bogner on June 10, 2005 | Permalink

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Thanks for the link explaining Shavout, is it the reason why many Israelis head to Sinai resorts in Egypt at this time? Is it symbolic? One thing I admire about Israelis is will power; acts of terror never inhibit them from going about their business. It’s quite moving how the young woman nostalgically still uses the same road.

Posted by: kakarizz | Jun 10, 2005 11:02:12 AM

Thank you for those pictures, and that story. I cried reading about those poor people ruthlessly murdered by terrorists. What kind of human beings commit such atrocities? I can't stand it.

Posted by: a | Jun 10, 2005 11:54:45 AM

Well now I'm crying too. During the summer my family joins a pool in a nearby yishuv. The pool is amazing. It overlooks the desert and for me is a piece of heaven on earth. But on the road, I pass a monument like the one you posted. I take a moment to remember the people killed on the road every time I pass it.

Referring to your last post... being shot on the road, or on a bus... that is one of my bogeymen.

Posted by: Beth | Jun 10, 2005 1:01:49 PM

There are so many similar monuments throughout the country - each with a heartbreaking story. I've often thought someone should do a book on them. But maybe learning one story at a time is better; it makes us think and remember without being overwhelmed. Thank you for sharing this one.

Posted by: AmyS | Jun 10, 2005 1:12:24 PM

Kakarizz... No, The reason many Israeli's go to Sinai at this time is that unlike Passover, there is nothing besides cheesecake for someone who is secular to celebrate... so they use the time off from work to go on vacations. Also, there is no nostalgia in this woman's actions... in order to reach her school she had no choice but to pass the spot where her Mother, Father and brother where killed.

a... When you find the answer to that question please let me know. Every time I try to see the Arabs as more than just terrorists, I am floored by the fact that there is widespread celebration in these small communities when Jews are murdered. Until that kind of lesson is no longer taught to the children I have no confidence that we will ever find a partner for peace in anyone growing up in such an environment.

Beth... I'm sorry I made you cry. I am, however, pleased to hear that someone else looks at these monuments and reflects on their meaning.

AmyS... I think you hit upon the root of the problem. As a people we have lost the ability to focus on the individual tragedies, and are almost overwhelmed by the bigger picture. As moving as a collection of these monuments might be... I would rather everyone take notice of just one that they pass each day.

Posted by: David | Jun 10, 2005 3:32:59 PM

In general I am not jealous about much, but I freely admit it when it comes to living in Israel and being a participant in Jewish life in ways that we cannot mirror anywhere else in the world.

Nice pix.

That story is just heartbreaking.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 10, 2005 4:36:58 PM

My words are failing me this morning, but I do want to thank you for the post, express my hope that your back has improved, and wish you a Shabbat shalom.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jun 10, 2005 4:40:52 PM

David -

I got to experience that Connecticut to Manhatten/NY commute, or at least a bit of it, when I consulted a company in Stamford last year. I got to know the route from there to LaGuardia very well. On a good day, 40 minutes; on a bad day one might as well walk the distance. I always wondered if the Whitestone bridge was ever *not* being maintained.

Thanks for showing us the human-level of the conflict there. Sadly, that sort of human tragedy probably happens much more than any of us expect; not only in Israel but all over the world.

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Jun 10, 2005 4:56:39 PM

Well after reading this post one certainly starts to understand not to judge a book by it's cover. Always love seeing the pics.
Speaking of Shavuot your readers should know it's not the actual day the torah was given. Rather it is a commemoration of the day we got the torah (actually the second day of shavuot 7th day of sivan). We of course then have the question as to why we say "zman matan torahsainu" if it's not actually "the" day it was given..to which R' Yerachmiel Zeltser shlita has collected 100 answers. Go collect them all...

Posted by: Jewish Blogmiester | Jun 10, 2005 5:00:54 PM

What a heart-breaking, sad story.

Here in Texas, we also grow winter wheat. It's a good crop for a temperate winter season. But it's generally safe to stop alongside a field here, unless the bull has gotten loose and you're wearing a red shirt.

Posted by: mirty | Jun 10, 2005 5:01:01 PM

I echo everyone else; a truly heart-breaking story. But the monument just goes to show how much meaning can be found in every inch of Eretz Yisrael. May we have peace soon. Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: Essie | Jun 10, 2005 5:06:47 PM

very moving story.

Posted by: daaty | Jun 10, 2005 5:37:31 PM

Jack... Shortly after we moved here my (then) 7 year old son made a memorable observation. He had just re-started piano lessons with a new teacher after a break due to our move. He said to me, "Abba, living outside of Israel is a lot like taking piano lessons but not having a piano to practice on". From the mouth of babes...

Doctor Bean... There is some improvement in the back situation, but still a while to go before I am 100%. As I was beginning to type this response my wife just walked in an told me that a friend (the one who just buried his brother a few months ago) just had a heart attack. He is close to my age and has been taken to a hospital up north (he is a tour guide and was taking a group around). I am numb.

Steve... the only difference is that for some reason the world looks the other way when it happens here.

Jewish Blogmeister... Thanks for the info. I'm sure there are many readers who weren't aware of that.

Mirty... Texas has its own set of dangers. I was once in Amarillo and was actually chased out of a convenience store because they "don't serve Jews". Somehow the guy behind the counter was able to get about 4 syllables into the word 'Jews'.

Essie... Amen

Daaty... I have always been moved by the scenery on my commute... this part of the trip has never been the same since I met this young woman.

Posted by: David | Jun 10, 2005 5:56:34 PM

Oh, no. I wish your friend well. :-(

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jun 10, 2005 6:05:44 PM

David,

Sorry to hear about your friend's brother and his heart attack but it does make me wonder about genetics. There are people whose genes make them practically invulnerable to things that you would think would hurt them (smoking, weight etc) and some that are a little bit more frail.

All you can do is take care of yourself and hope.

And in reference to your son's comments, I like them. They make a lot of sense.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 10, 2005 6:07:01 PM

how sad... but so moving. amazing how peoples stories can be so amazing and one can never even know


lets just not tell my mother this story, i think shes still on the fence about the whole "my daughter is living in israel" thing. oh well, things like this make me want to be there even more

Posted by: wildroze | Jun 10, 2005 6:20:51 PM

Hope your Shavuot is cheesecake-y!

Posted by: Isaac B2 | Jun 10, 2005 10:11:19 PM

What a sad, sad story. :(

Posted by: Stacey | Jun 12, 2005 7:17:43 AM

David, good heavens ... they're still behaving that way in the Lone Star State?

Here's a link to a protest song by Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys: "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You."

Posted by: Rahel | Jun 12, 2005 8:25:03 AM

... and here's wishing your friend a complete and quick recovery, and that you hear good news from now on.

Posted by: Rahel | Jun 12, 2005 8:50:17 AM

Doctor Bean... So far it seems as though they got him to the hospital in time. the three brothers, all three have had major heart attacks... one was fatal.

Jack... Thanks. I don't have any first generation relatives with heart trouble... but it doesn't make me feel invulnerable.

Wildroze... Mum's the word.

Isaac B2... Thanks! Same to you.

Stacey... The amazing thing is that this young woman is so positive and without a shred of bitterness. Yes, she obviously is devastated to have had her parents taken from her so violently... but her answer to this tragedy seems to be living her life in an exemplary fashion, as he parents would have wished.

Rahel... Yes, unfortunately, there are still people nearly everywhere who reserve the right to refuse service. BTW, Kinky was also taking a shot at the Jewish community with this song.

Rahel... Thanks... and amen.

Posted by: David | Jun 12, 2005 9:06:49 AM

A sad, dreadful story.
What a pathetic, senseless act. Bewildering to think of what did or do these people get from this?
When their family's blood is in the soil, it only hardens the resolve of those who remain.
I enjoyed pondering the photos; its a beautiful place.

Posted by: Scott#1 | Jun 13, 2005 11:36:32 AM

Scott#1... I've tried to find a different message from your comment, but I keep coming back to: "It's such a shame that the Palestinian gunman killed these settlers because now the settlers are going to dig in their heels and stay for good!". Is that really the message you took from this?

Posted by: David | Jun 13, 2005 10:55:21 PM

Sorry David; my writing/thoughts are confused. I don’t get it at all. I can’t understand the mentality of people who commit these acts. Where is it taking them? These people are inflicting enormous pain not only upon their victims, but also “fouling their own nest”, as you mentioned, they will have the stain on their names indefinitely. Maybe they don’t care?

Posted by: Scott#1 | Jun 14, 2005 3:55:19 AM

Scott#1... I'm sorry to have been so direct with my response to you before. Too often I hear people drawing equivalency models between settlers living in Judea & Samaria (the west bank), and Palestinians acting violently. These two facts may represent cause & effect (from the Arab point of view) but they are not morally equivalent. I live here not as an act of defiance or to hurt anyone, but because I love the setting... and because for the 1st time in 2000 years, I can. I am not doing anything illegal by living here, and the land on which I live was never the home or field of any Palestinian (which is not something that can be said about many of the towns, cities and agricultural communities inside the green line). When I read your comment I got the distinct impression that you felt the downside to the murder was that it would harden the resolve of people like myself. I appreciate you looking past my bluntness and setting things right.

Posted by: David | Jun 14, 2005 8:54:06 AM

No harm done, mate. If only I could think and write with your clarity.

Posted by: Scott#1 | Jun 14, 2005 2:19:55 PM

Scott#1... Clarity is something that comes and goes... but brevity, almost never. :-)

Posted by: David | Jun 14, 2005 2:30:25 PM

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