Thursday, May 24, 2018

Lamrot HaKol - Despite it all

and here you are living despite it all
-Rupi Kaur

 למרות הכל נשארנו פה, למרות כל מה שהם עשו כדי שניפול 
-נתן גושן
(Despite it all, we stayed here, depite all they did to make us fall
- Natan Goshen)

When I was young and in school back in the Old Country, about a week after Chanuka and until Tu B’Shvat, the teachers would hang a small JNF poster in the classroom. It was a bit bigger than a piece of A4 paper, and it had a picture of a tree with spaces on the branches to put stickers of leaves.

A sticker of a leaf cost five cents. There were 20 spots for leaves, so a whole tree cost one dollar (!!!). But 7-year-olds didn’t have dollars, so we would bring our nickels in whenever we had one. Sometimes, we had ten cents to spend, so we could buy two leaves. What excitment!! It was quite a ceremony giving the teacher the money, receiving the sticker and sticking it on the poster. Sometimes, but rarely, a parent would send in a whole dollar to buy a whole tree. Cheers of joy could be heard up and down the halls of the school!! There was a mini-contest between the classes to see which class would buy the most trees.
It was in this way that we learned, very effectively, about the Zionist enterprise, and understood the importance of buying lands and planting trees to hold down the ground. We learned the history of the Land, how it had been undeveloped for so many years, and how the Nation of Israel was coming back to repair the damage done by centuries of neglect. We were so proud that, even in this small way, with our nickels and dimes, we could contribute to the building of the Land, even from so far away.

 We kids joked that one day, when we went to visit Israel, we would go to visit our trees.

Yesterday, my department at work went on a trip to the hills surrounding Jerusalem. For personal reasons (aka laziness), I did not go on the walk down to the Sorek River with the group. Instead, I stayed, with a few others, near the top of a mountain, next to a comforting source of coffee. However, I did take a walk around the area (making sure I first had a good supply of coffee). The view was lovely, and I sat, half in shade, for quite a while staring out at the mountains and valleys. The air was very hot, but it was very quiet, just me and the butterflies. 

And the view from that spot was exactly what I needed. 

It had been a long time since I have visited any of my trees.

Despite the fact that when I came back from my walk into nature and beauty, all my co-workers who had stayed at the coffee shop were on their phones,

And despite the fact that the coffee shop didn’t serve lemon meringue pie,

And despite the fact that when we met up with the rest of the group, they too were all on their phones,

And despite the cinnamon (!!) in the kebbabs we ate at the restaurant where we had lunch,

And despite the endless, oppressive heat, 

And despite the air conditioning  not working,

And despite the occasional rockets, and the awful brown envelopes I keep receiving at home, and the flies and mosquitoes who have set up permanent residence in my bedroom, 

And despite all the tensions, and the bad publicity, and the heartbreak,

Despite it all, למרות הכל*

I was reminded how much I love this country, 

The end.

*Sometimes, Hebrew sounds better than English. למרות הכל (Lamrot HaKol) means despite, or in spite of, but has a more melancholy connotation than the English. 

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