Free Choice: Ice Bucket Challenges or Wars?

Again, I find myself writing about heat. It’s all because of this humid Tel Aviv summer, which provides me with a daily struggle against the perseverance of perspiration. This battle for sure is going to end up with a victorious water bill, caused by three cold showers a day, if not more. I’ve been getting used to the feeling of voluntarily subjugating myself to icy water.

I jump into the shower to allow my body some cold relief after another sweaty night. As the water trickles down my back I forget for a second that the threat of rockets has returned. The ceasefires backfired and ceased. Operation Protective Shield continues; we’re still in war. But standing in the shower for a few minutes, all I feel is some cold comfort.

Apparently, I’m not the only one deliberately forcing myself into icy water these days. For the past few weeks a humorous campaign for raising funds and awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, has gone viral. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has literally drenched America and the rest of the worldwide Facebook community. Celebrities and commoners alike have been pouring buckets of ice-cold water over their heads and challenging others to do the same or make a donation to The ALS Association within twenty-four hours.

In less than two weeks, happily soaked people from all over the world raised four million dollars to combat this illness, which still knows no cure. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the motor neurons; the nerves that provide voluntary movements and muscle power. Voluntary movements are movements we choose to make. They can be anything from lifting a cup of coffee or giving a hand, to pouring a bucket of water over your head or pulling the trigger on a gun. Patients suffering from ALS can’t make the movements they would like to make.

I think of the police officer who chose to shoot Michael Brown—the unarmed black teen from Ferguson—six times. I think of the IS militant who with one movement of his arm beheaded the American journalist James Foley. President Obama used the word savage when referring to the IS jihadists. Scripture teaches us that what separates man from savage or beast is free choice, the ability to control your voluntary movements. So when a coldblooded murderer is called an animal, does he still have free choice? His voluntary movements seemed to be working just fine.

As more and more of my friends choose to post videos of solidarity with ALS patients—while enjoying the fun and exposure of the challenge—I realize the significance of it all. It’s as if the human world is yelling out in ice-shock: “Enough with these wars! Enough killing, hate, racism. Can’t we all just pour buckets of cold water over our heads instead, and raise money for a good cause?”

Yet, the shock of icy water also seems to be waking up the world slowly: war isn’t just contained within the Middle East. Once again, America is experiencing an internal racial war, and an external ideological war. People are also marching hotheadedly in the streets of France, Holland, Britain and Switzerland. Middle Eastern heat and humidity seems to be seeping into the West. And like we Israelis have become used to pouring icy water over ourselves in the heat of summer, the rest of the world is slowly choosing to join the Ice Bucket Challenge: to raise funds and awareness, so that we can uphold a voluntary human spirit that always seeks to choose good and to triumph over evil.


About the Author
Geula Geurts is a student of English Literature and Poetry at Bar Ilan University. Dutch born, she has lived in Israel for six years and writes for survival, cultural identity and a strong sense of sound and rhythm.