It always astounds me: the way in which we move from a day of sadness to a day of joy in a sudden transition. But that’s life and here in Israel we live life large. As darkness falls, marking the end of Yom HaZikaron and the advent of Yom Ha’Atzmaut — Israeli Independence Day — the national mood shifts significantly. Properly, the celebration includes prayers and the joyous reciting of Hallel, psalms of praise and celebration reserved for holidays of joy. There will be fireworks tonight, and programs of dancing and comedy. And tomorrow? It has become the almost universal pass-time to do a barbecue — in Hebrew, mangal.
Time enough to talk again in a day or two about Hamas and Olmert, and all the rest. I will design this posting as a reflection of the Israel experience at a different level:
In today’s Post there is an interview of a woman who lost her son in Lebanon this past summer, and it touches precisely on the issue I raised yesterday — the agony of knowing the loss may have been unnecessary.
Pearl Novik lost her son Asher, who was serving as a reservist and got caught in what is considered one of the worst mistakes of the war. Asher and eight other soldiers from a paratrooper unit were killed when they were sent into what turned out to be a booby-trapped house in a place called Debel, sent in spite of the reservations some of them had voiced. "I still don’t know why we went into the war — for the sake of three kidnapped soldiers? And where are we today? We are still negotiating [for their release], so what did Ashie die for?
"When I think about what he will miss out on — raising his children, living the rest of his life — it is just unbearable."
I read this and wept.
But with all of the mistakes, and all of the pain, Israel is a miracle. That we are here, as a Jewish state and a vibrant society. It’s been a very long time I have spoken "good news about Israel." Now is the time, as a gesture of celebration.
— Haifa University has established what is probably the only degree program in the world for "medical clowning." There are already 36 medical clowns who operate in 16 Israeli hospitals working to enhance the healing process — creating distractions, reducing fears and stress. The goal now is to make this professional, so that the clowns are part of the medical team and treated seriously. Students will study such things as the psychology of someone in pain.
— Israel has the highest rate in the world — 70% — of water purification and re-use. Three Israeli companies have developed technologies for treating wastewater that results in higher quality water for re-use at a lower cost.
— Wild wheat growing here in Israel may be a key to addressing malnutrition internationally. Turns out that a gene in this wheat increases the nutritional value of the grain– raising levels of protein and iron; This gene has been introduced into domesticated wheat strains and seeds will be distributed internationally.
— Israeli Yehuda Shinar has spent 20 years developing a model for winning — whether the "winning" involves sports or corporate accomplishment. The key is a "winning mentality" that allows an individual to think clearly under pressure, and he has identified 12 behavior patterns connected to this ability. Turns out talent alone does not correlate well with winning — it’s the way a person thinks that makes the difference. This approach is now attracting international attention.
— A professor at Ben Gurion University has developed an new anti-inflammatory drug that will help sufferers of arthritis without the side effects of current anti-inflammatory drugs.
— Two Israeli have developed a coral propagation technology that allows coral to be developed in captivity in a closed system. The coral can then be transferred to coral reefs to keep them alive. This is no small matter as there is danger that the coral reefs — which are exceedingly important for the ecosystem — might become extinct because of poaching and changing conditions. This propagation technology may turn things around, both by strengthening the reefs and supplying potential poachers with another source of coral for commercial purposes such as fish tanks.
— An Israeli scientist at the Weizmann Institute here is doing cutting edge research on slowing the effects of auto-immune diseases, utilizing a vaccine.
— Researchers in Israel are doing work that may alleviate world hunger. They have discovered a gene in fungus at the bottom of the Dead Sea that provides tolerance to salinity. Implantation of this gene may enable plants to grow in saline soil where nothing can grow now.
— Israeli doctors from Sheba Medical Center are traveling to third world countries to provide free treatment for the disfiguring and disabling cleft-palate and lip condition. The project is called "Operation New Smile."
I could go on and on and on. In the face of terrorism and political anguish and all of the rest, we are doing all of these things, and I think we’re very special indeed, and a blessing to the world (though the world is loathe to acknowledge this).
I close this very unusual posting with a message from two people in Beit Shemesh. Phil and Chanie Rosenfelder. They put their message out on their BS list, and I believe that portions of it are very worth sharing here. It addresses what we have to be grateful for on Yom Ha’Atzmut, even with all of the many imperfections of Israel, and speaks to those who declare themselves disenchanted with Israel now because of her many failings:
"Go back in time 65 years if you will – picture my grandparents in Auschwitz. Imagine someone telling them that…they would have great-grandchildren born in a room overlooking Har Habayit (the Temple Mount), that many of the attending medical staff would be wearing kipot and these great-grandchildren would go to religious schools, paid for by taxes of over SIX MILLION JEWS LIVING IN ERETZ YISRAEL…
"Think for a minute of the alternative to the state of Israel – of the British and Arabs continuing to not allow Jews safe refuge in Eretz Yisrael, of repeats…pogroms, assimilation, intermarriage, and in the end, Jews being kicked out of their homes repeatedly. Think of the 60+% assimilation rate worldwide. (Or is it more than that already? In South America it is over 90%.) Think of Jews who have never heard a word of Hebrew, who do not know that they are Jewish, who have never seen a mezuzah….
"…Yom Ha’atzmaut is not a day to thank the prime minister or the chief of staff. It is a day to thank Hashem that we have what we have.
"…What dates are schools and government offices on vacation ? On the Jewish holidays. Why was Yom Ha’atzmaut moved a day this year? To avoid hillul [desecration of] Shabbat. Have you seen lately an office, a hotel room, a supermarket without a mezuza?
"…What is written on the stones at the beach in Rishon? Psukim [verses] from the Torah. What is written on the buildings of the electric company, the water company, the main traffic circle in Eilat, etc? Psukim, psukim and more psukim…
"It is to Hashem that we owe thanks on the date that the British left , because all we have, and it is a lot."
This posting can be found at: https://arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/4/23/april-23-2007-between-two-poles.html