Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Day Out of the Ordinary

Yesterday I got up at the crack of dawn to attend ICUJP and took part in a stimulating discussion about the fate/state of Israel/Palestine, led by progressive Jews: Rabbi Haim Beliak, Dick Platkin, and Steve Rohde. Another participant was Carol Frances Lichen, a woman who went to Gaza with the "Free Gaza" group last month. This group was not allowed to enter Gaza with humanitarian aid by boat, but was finally allowed to enter via Egypt as long as they stayed for only 24 hours.

"If we had stayed 24 hours and ten minutes, the gates would have been shut on us," explained Carol Frances. "We could have been stuck in Gaza for months."

Does this sound like a prison or what?

Much of the discussion focused on whether a two-state solution is possible, given the "facts on the ground." The plan of Israelis seems to be to use the model of South African Bantus tans or American Indian reservations and keep the Arab population sequestered in tiny, non-viable enclaves where their activities can be monitored and controlled. Such a "solution" will of course not be acceptable in the Arab world and will mean endless violence and war.

Speaking of which, I learned the US has geared up for a 40-year occupation of Afghanistan. According to Time magazine, are building massive new bases, complete with fast food restaurants like Burger King. We are becoming the empire of Fast Food!

After our meeting, I met with Steve and Grace to discuss fundraising/outreach and the future of ICUJP. It is my hope that we can stay focused on a few core issues--like torture, nuclear disarmament, and ending our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. I also hope we can find ways to build stronger ties with our constituent base.

When I got home, I got a back twinge, probably caused by gardening and too much activity and stress. I decided this was a message from my body: it's time to rest, so I watched "Benjamin Button," a wistful, beautiful, but ultimately disappointing film. (It's also the first movie I've watched since Kathleen passed away: I don't like to watch movies alone.)

I discussed this film over dinner with my landlady/friend Cathleen who thought the movie was "puerile" (yes, she uses words like this, bless her!) I agreed, more or less. Like much of Fitzgerald's work, it's about the passing of time and mortality--how we get only a brief time of happiness during the bloom of our youth, and then must resign ourselves to a life of boredom and ordinariness. This is the stuff of Keats and the Romantics, as well as of the 60's. With any luck, if we survive our 30's, we outgrow this outlook on life and learn to appreciate the blessings of wisdom that come with experience. Or we become like our friend Ruth, a 70 year-old Romantic who loves to sing in the choir and rhapsodizes about the full moon!

In the evening we had a time of worship (or "opportunity") at the home of our friend D., a former lawyer turned psychologist who has been in several serious car accidents and suffers from acute pain that prevents her from sitting or walking very far. D. spends most of her time apartment-bound, lying down or standing. Despite her infirmity, she counsels clients in her home and lives as full a life as she can. She seeks help from various healing modalities--chi gong, reiki, etc.--which help alleviate some of pain caused by stress. We had a precious time of worship with her, which made us all feel better.

Afterwards, we talked and Cathleen recommend that D. try using a treadmill to build up her body strength. D. thought this was a good idea and was very appreciative of our visit. She invited us back for another "opportunity."

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