Nancy Cahners

“…for such a time as this.”

My demonstration buddy, Elana
(photo:Nancy Cahners)
My demonstration buddy, Elana Cohn (Photo:Nancy Cahners)

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai to Esther (Esther 4:17)

I remember the morning some time in my 30s when I asked myself: Why am I alive? What constitutes a worthy life? What is my purpose?

I don’t remember what prompted such heavy-duty questions, but I remember thinking, “Boy, I’ll bet the people who settled Israel didn’t worry about their purpose.  I’ll bet they woke up every day and knew exactly what they were called to do.” I envied them.

Somehow, along the way, I have managed to answer those deep questions for myself. Nothing as grand as re-establishing the Jewish Homeland but satisfying enough. Now, here I am, almost 40 years later, living in Israel, still admiring those pioneers and their mighty achievements.

Last night, my friend Elana wanted us to join the demonstration in Ra’anana instead of our usual march in Tel Aviv because she worried that, after Ben Gvir’s threats, the police might take stronger action against the demonstrators. I didn’t feel afraid but went along with Elana. She has lived here for decades, including through an intifada.

During the speeches, Elana started to cry, reminded of her military service during the Yom Kippur War, moved by the solidarity she felt back then, and again now among the thousands of demonstrators.

That’s when it hit me. Not only am I not afraid of Ben Gvir’s threats, but I am grateful for the privilege to protest the judicial reforms.

Initially, the actions of the new government knocked me over. The harshest criticisms of Israel seemed to be coming true and the core values of Judaism were being kicked to the curb.

Now I feel deeply grateful that I am here and a bona fide citizen, and able to join others to defend the notions I hold dear.  In the US, all I would be able to do is wring my hands.  But being here, I can express my deepest commitments and add my voice to the voices gathered around me.

When this tumultuous time is over, I will know I have done what I could for what I believe to be right and best for Israel’s wellbeing.  I wasn’t here to be part of the founding of Israel, but I’m here now and–who knows– perhaps for this purpose.

For the next demonstration, I’ll be in Tel Aviv.  Happy Purim everyone!

About the Author
Nancy Cahners was the Design Director of MIT Technology Review, until one day, the entire staff was fired. Poof! Gone. After a stint at Harvard Divinity School and Medical School, she became a Healthcare Chaplain and Medical Ethicist. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, The Jewish Advocate and has been broadcast on NPR’s Morning Stories and Morning Edition and TLV1’s WhyWhyWhy. She lives in Neve Tzedek where she takes the same Ulpan course over and over again, and steals posters. She also helps her daughter’s family keep up with their laundry.
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