My friends in Canada ask me how I am I coping with the events taking place in Israel. It reminds me of a joke my father, Joseph (of blessed memory), who fought in the War of Independence, used to love telling: when in a discussion, an American asks an Israeli, “How were you able to not only survive the war but be victorious when you were outnumbered and had limited arms and ammunition?” The Israeli answers, “We had a great general?” “And what was his name?” asks the American, to which the Israeli answers, “General Eyin Brayra! (no choice)”
I am more than twenty years older now then my father was when he was a soldier. I’d like to think that my generation’s leader is the one who says, “We have only one choice.” The outcome may be the same, but the process is different.
The Jew coming to Israel out of the Shoah had no choice but to survive. The Israeli and the diaspora Jew today has the one choice, to survive, and the added dilemma of choosing how to survive.
In our “primitive brain” lies the instinct of self-preservation, our survival mechanism that responds to threat in 3 ways; fight, flight or freeze. You can see (and hear) the Israeli that “fights” on every street in the country. Everything to him is a battle; driving his car, standing in line, talking politics. The Israeli that “flees” can be found in intermarriage, looking to meet with the Dali Lama, becoming a citizen of the world. The one who “freezes” numbs himself to life’s experiences and events.
When the “higher functioning brain” kicks in, then we have the means to survive with meaning and purpose. We go about our day to day lives; fulfilling responsibilities and trying to make time for some “kef”. We marry, we have children and grandchildren and we struggle financially. We do this in spite of the events that surround us. Every once in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to stop and remind ourselves of the reason and meaning behind it all. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.