Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hibba Part IV: Up and up we go

The twenty third day of the month of Sivan began, for me at least, at 6:05, with prayers in the courtyard of the hotel. We soon boarded our bus, and drove off to Yerushalayim, eternal capital of the Jewish people and great place to buy overpriced souvenirs. Yossi Cunin, one of my former Shluchim at YOEC and all round good guy, tore Kriah upon seeing the hills of Judea, which was cute. I didn't, because someone said that the Friediker Rebbe said that we don't do that sort of thing, and even though this was never substantiated, well-to put it bluntly, I wasn't interested in ripping my shirt. I'm a sinner. Maybe. Yeah.

After arriving in the city we proceeded to look for lunch. A hole in the wall falafel stand claimed that some of the veggies were of Palestinian origin, while others had been grown by Jews. Later the proprietor said that it was all Yevul Nachri. I figured that the place wasn't trustworthy, but still ate there, because I was hungry, which seems to me to be a pretty good excuse.

Next up was Yad Vashem, where we encountered a bunch of soldiers and my friend Yossi Shomer, who is a (the Rebbe's) soldier of a different kind. We went through the new museum, which is an architectural marvel. I would say that I enjoyed the museum, but that word is not the right one to use in this situation. This past Thursday I went to the Ellis Island museum, which I can certainly say was enjoyable. Yad Vashem is different. Is "fascinating" a good word? Possibly.

Regardless, we didn't have enough to see everything in the museum, not to mention the rest of the site. Later on we watched a video of a survivor from Greece in the visitor center, which was interesting.

Next up was Mount Herzl, and Theodor Herzl's grave. Human beings have a complicated relationship with themselves and those around them. At first I was going to write that Lubavitchers have this issue, but it occurred to me that Jews also do. Then I realized that all people are similarly troubled. The question that was raised at this particular juncture concerned Mr. Herzl, and what we should make of him. Did he think, at least at some point, that all Jews should convert to Christianity? Yes. Did he have a Christmas tree in his house? Yes. Did one of his sons become a Catholic? Yes.

At the same time, without Herzl, would the Jewish state as we know it today be here? Probably not. All the Yeshivas, Mikves, Shuls, Kashrus agencies; they all wouldn't exist. Would the Chareidim who hate Herzl exist? Probably not.

If not for Herzl and the creation of the state of Israel, would Moshiach be here? I don't know.
Speaking of the Chareidim brings up a topic I neglected to mention. On one of the hikes we took I got into a nice little argument with Aharon Wexler, tour guide to the stars, about Shabbos rock throwers. One of my problems is that I love arguing. This trait has lead in the past to my arguing with anyone about anything. Another aspect of this trait is that I often pick the losing side of an argument, just because I want to argue with whoever it is that's expressing an opinion. Sometimes I argue because the person I disagree with is stating their side in too confident a tone; other times I do so because I genuinely believe in a cause, which isn't too rare, because I try to avoid belief in causes. Thankfully, in the last several years, I've managed to wean myself off this destructive habit, though sometimes the temptation is too much for even the strongest of men to pass up. Arguing with people is almost always a futile exercise, because neither side is willing to give any ground, so it's pretty pointless. Be that as it may, I overheard someone question Aharon on the subject of rock throwers. He said that they were evil. I interjected, "Evil? That's a harsh word. We may not agree with them perhaps, but to call them evil? Nazis and suicide bombers are evil. Shabbos rock throwers are perhaps misguided, but not evil." Aharon vehemently disagreed, and said that they were in fact evil. Besides, they violated the very Shabbos that they claimed to protect. Eliezer very kindly disabused our guide of this notion, explaining in clear Halachic phrases that in fact throwing rocks on Shabbos is not necessarily a violation of its laws.

One of the problems of us moral relativists is that people who aren't moral relativists tend to think in morally relative terms only when it suits them or their agenda. Take for example the left wing in Israel. It was recently reported that they were dismayed that the British Embassy in Israel had invited some right wing activists to a function which the left wing had also been invited to. The right wing says that this is a problem of left wingers, that they want to have their cake and eat it too, but in truth its a problem for all people, on all sides of the political quadrangle.

I didn't have a chance to explain to Aharon that I was defending the Shabbos rock chuckers on a whim, and not because of some long standing love affair with them, but I don't think it would have mattered. The argument that, "They're merely doing what they see as G-d's will" is a bad one, and he would have quickly pointed out the obvious holes contained therein.
Hey, at least I didn't lose this particular argument.

Getting back to Herzl, well, he puts us all in quite a bind. The same can be said for another man we visited that day, Yitzchak Rabin. I still remember the Oslo peace accords, and I still remember the night he was shot. There we were, sitting in a theater somewhere in Milwaukee waiting for a Shlock Rock concert to begin, and then they announce that it's canceled because Rabin has died. Instead we said Tehillim.

Once again, we have this dichotomy, of a man who did so much, both positively and negatively, for the Jewish people. The purpose of this blog is to explore these issues at depth, but I'm tired, so I guess this blog will have to fail. Or maybe we can explore them at a different, more awake time. That would be fun.

Moving right along, we made our way to the Jerusalem Gold hotel, were assigned a room, and discovered that it was already occupied by some female-type Birthrighters. Oh, the joy! Not really. After a lot of annoyance, we finally got a room of our very own. See, two Birthright groups booked groups booked blocks of rooms. The hotel accidentally gave the other group three of our rooms, and it took them a while to figure out which of their rooms were in fact empty. Anyway, all's well that ends well, and the rooms were much nicer than the ones op North, so we didn't complain too much. They did have one unfortunate feature however: the electricity only stayed on as long as there was movement in the room. This was a problem on a couple of levels. Firstly, it meant that all our shtuff in the fridge was subjected to a lack of cooling for all the times that we weren't in the rooms. All right, so we had no shtuff in the fridge; that's hardly the point. The second problem was that when we slept we didn't move around too much, and this meant that the AC would turn off, which enabled our bodies to become bathed in sweat, which some people may enjoy. I'd like to meet those people and ask them how it's done. Anyway, this really turns into a problem on Shabbos, because either you make no movement, which means that it's impossible to enter the room, or you do make movement, which turns on the sensor, and thus makes you a violator. If there were Chareidim inside, they'd probably stone you. As it turns out, the hotel has the power to turn off the sensor, but they don't advertise this feature, which means that when we mentioned the problem on Shabbos, and the arab concierge turned off the sensor, the AC was also off. Fortunately the arab bus boy had experience in these matters, and he turned the cooling elements on, ensuring great pleasure for all involved.
After dinner was our big free night, the time given to us allotted to paint the town red, visit relatives, or just visit Mayanot, Daven Maariv, watch Living Torah, do Chitas, head back to the hotel, watch the second half of Spain's semifinal Eurocup win over Russia, and have a relatively early night. Seeing as partying is not quite my thing, and neither is visiting relatives (sorry!), I chose the latter option. And that, friends, was part four.


YochananG Aust said...

i just wanted to ad that on Har Hertzal we went to a wall that had all the name's of those that were killed by terrorist's and we saw a name Aharon wexller on the wall and Mutti asked the tour guide what his name was doing on the wall and Aharon seid "thank G-D I'M not dead"