My January Brain, the Earthquake and Two Dogs

My brain wouldn’t stop last month: Ahed Tamimi..a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who, after learning that her 15-year-old cousin had been shot in the head, slapped and kicked two Israeli soldiers (who behaved with incredible restraint). Now she is being held in indeterminate detention….Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a 35-year-old father of six who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists…Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, the 29-year-old double amputee, wheelchair-bound demonstrator who was shot in the head and killed in Gaza (an official investigation has been opened by the IDF)…last year’s anti-Semitic murder of Sarah Halimi, the 62-year-old physician and mother of three who was thrown from her third floor balcony in Paris and the continued attacks and fire bombings there this year…. The endemic corruption of both the Palestinian Authority and the Netanyahu government….Vice President Pence’s weird and chilling grin as he addressed the Knesset. Half of Israel was seduced by his “love” for the Jewish people, his evangelical “faith”, and by his erudite words about Abraham, words borrowed from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “he ruled no empire, he wore no crown, he commanded no armies, he performed no miracles, delivered no prophecies, yet to him was promised…” Talk about cultural appropriation!… and on and on and on….STOP!

At 10:02 p.m. on January 15, exactly mid-month, a rehearsal I was playing in with a cellist was cut short by what sounded like a bomb. As I instinctively hugged my guitar, and my friend his cello, the single family house shook violently for a mere three, but deafening seconds.  A 4.4 R earthquake, with a shallow depth of 5-10 km occurred, the epicenter only 10 km from the Northern Athens suburb in which we live.

I called my wife immediately, knowing that she was alone in our third-floor apartment nearby. She was shaken from the “bouncing” effect the earthquake had on our five-story building, but otherwise OK. I returned home and after about an hour took my dog downstairs for a walk off leash so that she too could “decompress.” As soon as we reached the sidewalk, she determinedly walked away from me, something she rarely does. Several calls to her to stop went unheeded. A block away I could make out a small white dog wagging its tail. “The call of nature”, I thought and began to relax.

Catching up to them I witnessed two happy dogs, tails-a -wagging, noses-a-sniffing, you know the scene. His master was standing there too, as dumbfounded as I was by what we were witnessing. You see, though our dog walking paths crossed every day for the past 10 years, we never spoke. That’s because this particular dog barked loudly and aggressively tugged at her leash each time we passed. I came to call his master, “dark shadow surrounded by cigarette smoke.” Crossing the street to get away from from this motley pair was just something we did automatically. Yet, here we were, together, peacefully enjoying each others company, dare I say even bonding, in that weird way that people do, one hour after an earthquake. For the first time in 10 years “Dark Shadow” and I looked each other in the eyes. He bemusedly told me this was the first time in his dog’s life that it did not growl aggressively at an approaching canine.

Could the earthquake be responsible for this dramatic event? Could it have initiated a cellular or DNA level transformation? Did “crazy white dog” see his life flash before his eyes and experience an emotional transformation? Did my dog experience the same? Could my “January brain” find some peace knowing that we humans, too, could possibly transform so easily and dramatically, happily “wagging our tails” and “sniffing each others scents” in each others presence? Could peace and security, unlikely as it seems, be possible in the near future, for all Israelis and Palestinians and all the descendants of Abraham: Jews, Muslims and Christians?

I wish and wish and even pray for this. I pray for events and human behavior that will be less torturing in the coming months of this new year. Events of human kindness and friendship that could help “reprogram” my January brain. My faith in us humans is waning, I admit it. But perhaps my faith in dogs, with or without an earthquake, could be contagious and help to buoy and sustain it.

About the Author
Marty Eisenstein, originally from Cleveland, has lived in Athens, Greece for 23 years where he is a professional musician and guitar teacher. He performs regulary throughout Greece with his World Jewish Music ensemble- "The Marty Eisenstein Ensemble." His recording of "Donna Donna" is frequently played on the Greek Public Radio station 'Radio Kosmos.'
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