November 1,2008

All around Jerusalem the olive trees are full of ripe fruit these days – harvest season is well underway, but this is not a year of bounty. Last year’s scarce rains have provided for a leaner harvest throughout the region (water sanctions were announced today), and for Palestinians in the West Bank trouble is double – the more radical among the Jewish settlers continually disrupt the harvest, harassing the farmers, and fighting with Israeli soldiers who stand guard and with peace activists – Israeli and foreign – who come out daily to support the Palestinians.  Get out of here! They scream at each other – both sides claiming the land as theirs, as the olives scatter. It’s not even a media worthy story anymore. old news.

GET OUT OF HERE!! One year after entering the floating bunker known as ‘The Ark’, Noah is instructed to open the door, get out, and rejoin the world. The flood has destroyed the planet, and the sole survivors amble out into a new environmental reality, somewhere over the rainbow, while a dove, with an olive branch in her beak, circles above them. Something about this grand Biblical myth, coming this week to a synagogue near you, is a timeless reminder of the perils and possibilities of survival in times of crisis. The ark, for me, represents this year not necessarily a safe haven away from the storm, but an insular reality – a psychological choice of shutting out the misery of the world and focusing on self survival alone. We all do this sometimes– in one way or another – we often must. But then comes a moment when a voice commands from within: ‘Exit the ark’ (Genesis 8:16) the Hebrew verb TZE is elsewhere translated as ‘Leave’, ‘Go Forth’, or, my favorite – ‘Come out of the ark’.

As a super important election process looms over the US and now over Israel as well, I choose to read the order to get out as a call to awareness, and a call to action. The Divine command seems to say – ‘Don’t just sit there inside your cocoon or cozy situation – get out and rebuild the world’. Some of my friends have heard this call – they are now in Ohio, walking door to door, or on the phone or online, fighting for change, or at checkposts between Israel and the territories, monitoring the daily routines of occupation.
Here in Jerusalem, in my cozy new apartment, on this side of the Separation Barrier, now that my jetlag is starting to fade and another rhythm falls into place, I gotta get out. I picked up the newspaper yesterday and saw an ad: ‘Volunteers needed to help with the olive harvest in the West Bank.’ I called the number and after a brief interview was signed up for a shift next Thursday.  It’s not much, but I got to start doing something – get out – not ignore the flood of hatred and fear.

According to legends, the dove brought the olive branch from the Garden of Eden, flying her way into becoming the immortal symbol of peace, waiting for us to open the door, squint, and get out. Are we there yet?

How, this week, will you get out of the ark?

ONE: Genesis/Bereshit