Patterns That Weave Us Together During Holy Wars.
My tacky goblet glowed tinnily in the dim light of the single-bulbed basement.
A tarnished kiddush cup that I bought from a shuk vendor in Jerusalem, for a price that was so outrageous the shopkeep crowed with jubilation to announce my special brand of American gullibility. I then made an expression caught blandly between complacency and chagrin.
It was now filled with cheap Russian vodka that was burning my insides and I thought faintly that the metal of the cup and the caustic alcohol were more likely to kill me than a rocket rending the sky above.
I laughed hoarsely to myself, the Russians looked up, briefly, barely interested, bleary gimlet eyes fixing an unfocussed gaze on me before returning to a drinking game that I was sure would undo me if I attempted it.
The rocket sounded distant and puny from the bowels of our bunker.
Many apartment buildings in Tel Aviv have bomb shelters.
Ours had patterns of mold that seemed to paint dark city imprints on the walls, like the city that was engraved on my souvenir cup.
I thought momentarily about my body being exhumed by archaeologists years hence, clutching such a cheap relic, but then I looked around at the half-dozen drunk Russian men drinking out of cereal bowls and plastic cups and admonished myself for such an asinine, vain and contextually moot consideration.
“I don’t want to die,” I said in a trance-like monotone, mostly for attention, to have some drama focused on me in my deepening rush of vodka-infused awareness.
“Stop. You won’t,” one of them said, I can’t remember which, distractedly.
Hardly the high pathos I was craving but it would have to do.
Half of them had drunkenly grabbed my ass during my three-month stay at that crumbling Tel Aviv tomb of a building, I figured mustering up some facsimile of concern for me and my ass’s safety in this mortal coil wouldn’t be too much to ask.
I knew very little about the world then.
A rocket seared the sky above, muted in layers of clouds and brick, barely penetrating the drunken indifference of my Soviet sentinels. “Well, this is at least an interesting story,” I thought absurdly, drunkenly discounting the lack of a storyteller should one of the rockets fall on the dilapidated building and me clutching my chipping goblet full of the clear, brilliant poison Dimitri kept refilling.
He cared little about my interior world, save my blood alcohol level.
Looking back, I treasure the strange, unlikely intimacy these moments caused with those around me; just missing a bus that exploded, having a rocket graze the clouds above your home.
But the truth is, there was a safety in the chances, in the numbers, in the Iron Dome.
They deflected the deep, animal fear I can only imagine on the other side of our divided homeland.
Israel is protected.
Israel retaliates against Hamas rockets with a fury that is unmatched, it levels buildings, demolishes tunnels and homes alike.
Though it’s true that Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as shields, Israel reacts with a force that darkens the heavens.
The skies rain down with the rage of the Jewish people, a fury born of blind wrath coming in waves of vehemence from ancestral wounds.
It’s said that people repeat their traumatic wounds, and on a much larger scale, I think it’s fair to say Israel is doing that in its macro way.
An overarching anger ignites over the land, uniting the people in reactive fire.
A vista lit more by fury than rocket combustion, which the Iron Dome mostly deflects.
But what can we learn about the role Israel plays in this ancestral drama?
If we were to focus on the minutia to understand, which I often do, we might see more human-sized patterns in all the wreckage, the carnage.
If I think of the Jews being rounded up and exterminated in Germany, I might find a more intimate way in.
Someone that has been persecuted, battered, hunted, that person carries patterns of reaction. If a few people have experienced that same trauma, they may evolve differently, find different ways out.
One may opt for escapism, addiction to a glamorous image, a fantasy world that provides succor.
One might seek security in finance and social standing, a buffer that provides protection from ever being disempowered again.
One might choose aggressive defense, a warlike and powerful approach that conquers anyone who might seek to subordinate them in the future.
I see these responses in the Jewish people, my people.
I see the escapism in the gauzy, golden hills of Hollywood and its idealized, diaphanous visions.
I see the sought after security in the realms of finance and fortune.
And I see the war cry of “Never Again” uttered in every scream of a retooled American jet that Israel sends to paint the sky above black and the ground below red in Palestine.
I believe we as Jews must recognize the ancestral wound we carry in us like a seed of familial karma or an epigenetic alteration.
The repetition of stories of terror told over and over, patterned into the mind.
We need to look at the reigning leader of Israel as another power-hungry warmonger and not the benevolent protector guarding against a tribe of barbarians that he portrays, as despots portray in early stages of their rule.
Relinquishing these patterns will be difficult, particularly if you’ve activated these patterns with lived experiences all your own.
I was reinforcing familial tales of persecution in that basement refuge.
Encircling my mind in a blackened city of the past, a patina of sooty recollection, darkening archaic towers. Just as the thoughts in my mind turned to night-hued walls under siege, to the destruction of temples.
The thick, viscous liquid in my cup vibrating with the rockets tearing the sky, but also my reinvigorated family fear. The dance of adrenaline and dopamine, I kept my ancestors alive and heated with my cool drink in that cold cavern.
Barricaded in security beneath an Iron Dome, a shield of my people, drunk on the escapist fantasy of pure persecution and not a complex matrix of shifting geopolitical forces.
Guarded by an extended family with the same trauma patterns, armed to the teeth.
The invitation is as I see it to relinquish these old forms, not to dissolve in self-abnegating apologia, but to take a clear view of this modern conflict.
To recognize that at our roots, Israelis and Palestinians are one people, to try and envision a world where those roots once again unite.
To gaze at aggression and attack with compassion is difficult, I know, but Jews in this moment are not the persecuted people on the verge of extinction.
The fear and anger Palestinian people feel is akin to what the traveling Jews in Europe felt.
We must see them as our family and not the haunted echo of European specters.
We must distinguish a despairing people from the militants who hide among them.
We are now called on to exhibit restraint, firm self-defense, but not an annihilating rage.
In the past, the people of the Levant worshiped Astarte, our shared goddess, before she was brutally bifurcated in the Greek pantheon or diminished into a saintly mother.
I think we as a people could find shared history and an ancestral divinity linking our past, ushering us into the realization that we have deeper ties than the fallout of Abrahamic alienation.
We as Jews may integrate more healthily and with greater introspection our time in Europe, our reaction to what happened in those dark days in Germany.
There are deeper and more authentic patterns that we could give life to, patterns that weave us together as a people instead of tearing us apart.
Before Abrahamic incisions sliced through the land, or the insidious incandescence of the Aryan cross ravaged Germany, we were a people of that land.
I believe it is in realizing that that we can once again find on that earth what is interconnected and holy.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.