Yesterday we made our semi-annual trip to the Agam Hula, an incredibly beautiful lake which serves as a bird sanctuary. With golf carts or bicycles or feet one can traverse the entire lakeside perimeter and catch views of the migrating birds. These are the birds that make temporary aliyah to Israel on their way to disparate places such as Egypt and Poland, among others.
Among the predominate species are the cranes. One can often view whole nations of them, standing erect and squawking vigorously. What might they be arguing about? They sound angry here in paradise. The nation of Israel has adopted them, as it has so many of its human citizens. Yet, like us, they still complain. Yet, like us, they stay. And when they leave it is a given that they will return when the climate is suitable once again.
The cranes were not meant to stay the winter. They were meant to stop and refresh and continue on to Egypt. But Israel is a land of bounty and generosity. It welcomed them with such vigor that they must have had a loud and contentious meeting, as is their way it seems, and decided that winter in Israel is better than anywhere else they might soar off to. And it was decided that they would stay.
The farmers would have to deal with them. The birds had a fierce desire to munch on newly planted seeds. Their numbers were so enormous that entire crops could be decimated. So the farmers created a crane menu which enticed them enough so that they would eat only what they were served. And every day tractors would appear laden with bird feed, enough to fill the hungriest crane. And they would eat their fill and not bother with the seeds. This is called living in peace with your neighbors. Compromises that benefit both of you. If only all problems could be so readily solved!
And so last night, while still thinking of the lives of cranes, we went to a magnificent synagogue for a lecture. The synagogue is named Ohel Ari and it is located in Raanana. It is an inclusive community center which serves as a house of prayer, learning and meeting for disparate Jews, many of whom are Anglo olim. There we learned the story of an oleh named Ari z”l.
Ari was the eldest of six children of an American couple who made aliyah in the late 20th century. There were three girls and three boys and the family settled in Raanana. In 2002, in a heroic effort to save his chaver in the army, Ari was killed, at age 22. He was a modest young man, a heroic young man, a young man that we can all be proud of. A young man who would today be doing great things if he had not been killed on our endless battlefields.
Today a new generation of young men defend our country. Many, like Ari, are the children of olim. Many came here because lives in their homelands were fraught with danger or discrimination. Many, like Ari, came from countries where they could have remained, living lives of comfort and peace. Or not? In places where they would confront the ease of assimilation which poses a threat to all of us, except here in Israel.
And so we too are contentious like the cranes. We too are always arguing. What is the best way to achieve peace in this land? Can we not find farmers to provide us with the seeds of peace? No. Sadly, we need to do this ourselves and each of us believes that our way is best. So we endlessly argue. What is a Shabbat dinner among friends and family that does not evolve into a disagreement at worst, or a discussion at best, about how to problem-solve? Your way. My way. Endless.
But, like the cranes, we stay on, some of us come and go like the cranes and some of us never leave. UNESCO be damned. This is our land.
May we one day very soon know peace. We owe it to a young man named Ari.