Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dafka, Peace is Coming

If I believed the media descriptions of life in Israel, I would likely shrivel and die in my home, forever afraid to step out the door, consumed with fear that violence and terror would even come into my home without warning.

Few people who live outside Israel have any understanding about my home. It is the most peaceful country in the world. Wow, read that again but don't laugh this time. I have no fear of walking through a long tunnel, no fear that causes me to drive through a neighborhood with my windows up and my doors locked.

Where I cannot drive safely at night, I should not drive during the day. In most places, where a woman is vulnerable to attack, so is a man. The two exceptions to this are in areas where primarily Israelis don't live. Like the discussion of car accidents in Israel, it is not politically correct to single out a particular group as being more likely to be involved than others - just use Google for known statistics on crime in Israel, terror attacks in Israel (and car accidents).

It becomes almost funny how newscasters dance around words to find a way to say what we all know and only in the form of statistics released by governmental or NGOs do we admit the truth. The point is not so much who is to blame, as the fact that the vast majority of Israelis conduct their lives with almost no fear of becoming the victim of crime and though terrorism is a reality here, it is one that does not consume our actions.

We are very much a dafka people. What does dafka mean? It is one of my favorite Hebrew words because it defines so much of what we are...and it is, in many ways, impossible to translate.

Once, in my freshman year of college, I was engaged in a lively debate in class. The professor was loving how involved the students were; the students were loving the open and fast discussion, exchanges of information and opinion. One young woman said something and I, a young woman myself, quickly responded without thought, "Dafka, the opposite..." and before I could go much further, the young woman asked, "Dafka? Huh?" and the professor, who was Jewish smiled and said, "Yes, Paula, explain dafka."

Dafka is when your parents tell you to do something and you, to prove your point, do exactly the opposite. Dafka is when by all that is logical, you should be too afraid to drive on that road or take that train and so you do because, dafka, you won't let them push you away. Dafka is not an action so much as a frame of mind. Logic may tell you to do one thing, but on will do something else.

By all that is logical, we should feel like we live in a war zone, but dafka, we feel that we live in the most peaceful place on earth because though we can't trust our neighbors over there, we know that our neighbors over here have our backs.

On Fridays, most of all, we feel that peace is, not with our Palestinian and Arab neighbors who are once again turning up the flames of terror and war, but among ourselves. For those who are observant, the Sabbath in Israel is a day of quiet, of peace, of prayer, of family and friends.

We ate Friday night dinner at Amira's house. I helped cook part of the mean; she cooked the other half. The only problem with this equation, as my wonderful son-in-law points out with a smile, is that we each typically cook enough for double the amount of participants expected...since we each did that, there was, needless to say, too much food.

Today, we went to the synagogue - a relatively new one in the neighborhood that we have come to love. It is an oasis born out of frustration with other options. Everyone is welcome, the service is meaningful and lively. Many years ago, when we first moved to the neighborhood, we were welcomed by this community in this location. Then it got overcrowded and moved to a larger place and lost itself. Politics and ultimately cruel treatment is what we experienced there amid first the silence and then worse, abuse.

We left there and wondered for a while until the core group that had started the first service we had loved...returned to the same place. Back to the start but in some ways better because this time around, we see what we have and value it.

Aliza is preparing for a trip with her youth group. Davidi has been busy with teaching a first aid course. Each night we gather to light the Chanukah candles as we watch the holiday rush by.

Friday afternoon was disrupted by a rocket fired from Gaza at southern Israel. The rocket landed in Israel, but thankfully in an open field with no damages or injury reported. For weeks, Hamas has been firing rockets into the sea - showing it can fire at will...a bit of taunting that impresses us not at all.

Dafka, we thrive in this land. Dafka, we live. Dafka, we make peace come to us and celebrate. Dafka in a land others think is filled with strife, we find our greatest peace.

In many ways, we are a dafka people - we have outlived the Romans, the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Ancient Egyptians, the Amalekites, the Phoenicians, the Phillistines, the Canaanites. We survived the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Pogroms, the Holocaust...dafka because we would not surrender, dafka because we celebrate life. Dafka because our greatest strength is the ability to find peace, even when we are at war.

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