What Being An Artist Means

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Waiting on a bench in the Jerusalem Central Station, I met a girl who was an alumni of my University. She was in Israel for the month and she was on her way to visit her aunt and uncle who lived in the Yeshuv , Itamar.

We spoke about our experiences at Boston University, our recent adventures in the Holy land, and our shared status as artists.

Then she got to politics.  My new friend had entered into dangerous territory.

“You know, I’m an artist and all, and you, being an artist, you probably have similar ideas…but, since I’m an artist, I just don’t really feel comfortable with my aunt living in a settlement.  What do you think?”

Last time I checked, your creative abilities were not supposed to determine what you considered right and wrong.

I am an artist. I paint. I take pictures. I make films. I write.

The fact that I can put paintbrush to canvas does not have any impact on what I think about Jews living in our homeland.  That I can write out a poem does not mean that I am opposed to idealists and dreamers. That I can pick up a camera does not mean I deny the rights of my own people.

If you are an artist, you should be putting your creative energies into defending this land you blindly condemn because of your vocation.  There are artists in this land. There are artists painting pictures and there are artists painting reality. They create the world that they want to live in. They fight for their art, they die for their art, and you oppose them for their art.

Do not tell me you oppose them because you are an artist.

Yes, it is encouraged in society to hide your beliefs, to not stand up for what is right…but to believe in something simply because it fits a label you place yourself into? No wonder the world is upside down.

The Jewish people living in Yesha are artists. They create, they give, they fight.  If you are going to oppose something, let it not be because you are an artist.  If you are going to oppose something, let it be because this something is wrong.  However, In this case, this something…is right.

My Jewish Family

My sisters from Itamar

 

 

As I was on my way to Yeshuv Itamar in the hills of Samaria, my bus stopped to let on a family.  Since leaving from the central  station in Jerusalem, the bus had already been full with mothers, children, and fathers excited to come home for Shabbat.  The woman coming on to the bus had 7 children. The bus had only 1 seat left.

 I had sat in the front so I could feel the force of the hills as I entered the Shomron, but had not expected the surprise I would receive from my position.  Onto my lap came a 2 year old girl, hair in pigtails, smiling at her other siblings who were similarly occupying the laps of 6 other strangers that had accepted the responsibility of “seating” for the remainder of the trip.  

As an au pair in Israel, babysitting became a team effort.  Mothers I came across in the park would instruct me on keeping the baby warm, feeding her enough. I was never at a loss for advice.  At first, I took it as an insult. Eventually, I took their advice with appreciation and knew they only had my charge’s best interests at heart.

Here in Boston, I spend many of my Shabbats with an Israeli family at their house. I am welcomed in as a family member, invited over during the week, and I have an open invitation for a bed if I ever get sick in Boston and don’t want to be alone.  I call them my “adopted family” and I don’t think they realize how much of a blessing it is to have found them here in a city far from my home. 

Whether it be in Yesha or  it be in a different city in the United States, I never feel uncomfortable going to a fellow Jewish families house for Shabbat. Always, I know I feel at home. How is it that I can feel so comfortable in a complete stranger’s house? That I know I will be taken in with open arms and treated like a family member?

The Jewish people is more than a nation. The Jewish people is a family, and if Israel is the physical embodiment of the Jewish soul, then it makes sense that I feel comfortable with a stranger’s baby on my lap, or walking in to a stranger’s home, because, in reality, these people are no strangers. They are my family.

Revolutionizing Extremism

“Some people believe exactly what I believe, but they like to wear ties. They know their ties neatly around their necks, cutting the brain off from the flow of blood, and this solves the problem.  The mind to one side, life to the other. I, you know, don’t like ties. I don’t like dividers.  Understand me. My beliefs are nurtured not only from external well springs, but also from my veins, and in my veins flows blood” -Israel Eldad

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On a Saturday night at Nefe Nehemiah I walked around the community and spoke to my host.  “People used to die for their beliefs” he told me as we gazed upon the Samarian hills.  I conceded.  Today, it seems, less people are willing to live for their beliefs,let alone die for them.  We are left with a mentality that even if your beliefs are right, then it is a crime to act on them.   The risk of being called an extremist is too powerful, but it seems many people have forgotten that there is such thing as “extremely good.”

An animal has no beliefs, no ideologies, this is a privilege granted only to human beings.  An animal survives.  A human being lives for something greater.

Belief isn’t something to be argued about at the dinner table, it’s not a passing thought. It’s something to act on. Something to live by.   Something that gives us strength.

Judaism was built on people who today would be called “extremists”.  Avraham Avinu was willing to be thrown into the fire to live up to what he knew to be true.  While the rest of the world fought against his claims, he fought for truth.  He never agreed to the “almost oneness” of G-d,  only accepting the one truth, while the Idol-worshipping world continued to call him crazy.  Today, there are people who follow in the path of Avraham and live by what is true while the rest of the world continues to call them crazy.  It is time that the world wakes up to the other side of extremism, the side that leads to positive change in the world, that compels people to act, the kind that brings good into the world and the kind that we as people who desire to change the world should embrace.

Wake Up, A Poem

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I wake up

To the rock covered hills

To the olive trees and lined caravans

To a sunrise in Samaria

 My empty sleep has ceased

Truth has ended slumber’s term

Is there anything more beautiful

Than this land, these people, these rock covered hills

These olive trees and lined caravans

This sunrise in Samaria

Awake, my soul, from your slumber

Sing out Modeh Ani  

A new morning has come

I join my spiritual nation

Am Yisrael

The marriage of our two souls seeks out the fruits of it’s consummation

The people of Israel and the land

Combine under the Chuppah of Heaven

And make a house for their kingdom