Riding my bicycle this week along the back roads of Emek Haela, I noticed how parched the fields were, browns and grays painting the landscape with clouds of dust raised by the tractor in the far off field. The grape vines that just a month ago were covered with green leaves and clusters of grapes ripe for the picking, were now yellowing and turning brown at the edges. Thorns and dried brush lined the roads , with only an occasional tiny yellow flower to break the monotony.
As I pedaled along considering how long it would be until the winter rains would come washing the landscape to green, I reminded myself that even in this season of shorter days and dry underbrush, something new could grow. For this was the season of the squill. In Hebrew called a “hazav,” the squill is flowering plant that is the harbinger of autumn. Israeli school children are taught to spot the hazav and there is at least one folk song about it. The hazav stands tall, a meter long stalk, with tiny white flowers covering its upper two thirds, blooming from bottom up. This unsusal plant seemingly pops up overnight and flowers just as everything else around it is drying up and dying.
I started scanning the horizon for that tall spike of a plant that reminds us, no matter how hot it may be, that fall is on its way, and winter soon after. Certain that there were squills out there just waiting to be spotted, I cycled for five minutes which turned into ten and then ten more, and still no squills in sight. Just as I was giving up hope of spotting one, I happened on two beautiful squills in their prime. I braked suddenly, to marvel at their stark beauty and snap a few shots
What a gift, I mused. Just when you think it is all over, when there is no living thing that could possibly survive the summer heat, just when you are feeling tired and worn down and perhaps a bit dried out yourself after a long, hot summer, along comes the squill with its tiny white blooms.
For me, the hazav (squill) represents hope. It is the hope that autumn is on its way and with it the rains that will bring vitality back to this parched earth. It is the hope that in the midst of all this dry, dead looking underbrush, something living can take hold and push its head up to flower. It is the hope that we Israelis can put this most difficult of summers behind us, a summer of fear and destruction, of anxiety that knew no bounds of pain, loss and grief. Whatever that hope is, it is somehow the essence of our life here in Israel.
When hope exists, all is possible. Despair and depression cannot co-exist with hope and hope is the secret of our resilience. I take comfort in the flowering of the “hazav”, that special squill that brings with it refreshing winds of hope. On the eve of Yom Kippur my blessing is that our hope continues to grow strong, to flower, and to bring with it the winds of autumn and the promise of rain.