Tomorrow, April 9, I will observe the one year yartzeit of Maccabee, my beloved wired-hair fox terrier who represented a certain stage of my life. At 16-1/2 years, Mac lived a long and colorful life as the dog of the Immerman family and then as my companion as I entered the next stage, post-marriage. It is one of those weird sychronicities that we said goodbye to Mac on April 9 as that date was once celebrated as my wedding anniversary. And now, once again, micro events line up with macro events as April 9, 2019 is destined to be an important date in modern Jewish history. Before my Israeli friends go to the polls tomorrow, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the eve of this momentous election.
This is the first Israeli election since 1999 that I have not owned real estate in Jerusalem, yet my depth of concern for the future of the Zionist enterprise is no less passionate. Although I never took citizenship and thus never voted, I certainly have supported candidates over the years, notably Rachel Azaria and Nachman Shai. No one approached me during this election cycle but if the Blue and White Party had come knocking on my door, I most certainly would have answered with financial support. As a proud American Zionist, I feel compelled to be involved in the civil and political society of the modern State of Israel. So even if I can’t vote, I can certainly express my political views through financial support. Not to mention all the other ways Jews in the Diaspora have supported Jews and Jewish life in the Holy Land for centuries, since before there was a modern State of Israel.
Netanyahu’s last gasp attempt to sway voters his way by suggesting that Israel will annex the West Bank is just one more reason why I urge my Israeli friends to support a change in the political leadership of Israel. In the event that Bibi does put together a coalition and retains power, given the current deplorable state of affairs in Palestinian leadership and the Sheldon Adelson induced recklessness of Donald Trump’s Middle East Policy By Tweet, the potential for overreach with respect to the Palestinians is real. The realpolitik of the situation is simple; the West Bank is not the Golan Heights where Trump’s proclamation merely reflected the facts on the ground. Simply put, the Golan Heights and the West Bank are fundamentally different and we all know it. However, those blinded by the Trump and Bibi lovefest will fail to see that simple fact.
Although I have retired the Sacred Rights, Sacred Song Project, my work on the New York UJA-Federation’s Israeli Judaism committee allows me to pursue the mission of SRSS, to support the change agents on the ground working tirelessly to ensure that Israel is both proudly Jewish and proudly Democratic, with both value systems living in harmony envisioned by Israel’s Declaration of Independence. However, the civil sector needs the government sector to change as well. The only way Israel will move to the next stage of Her life is if the voting public of Israel demands a serious change of leadership. That Benny Gantz has come out publically in support of the Kotel Compromise Agreement is huge. Despite the fact that the Israeli public does not really care about the issue of egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, Benny Gantz realizes how much this matters to us in the Diaspora. Netanyahu broke his agreement to satisfy his Haredi coalition partners. There is no way Diaspora Jewry will receive respect under a Netanyahu government given the tenor and tone of this campaign.
Yesterday, I sang in a concert at Ansche Chesed here on the Upper West Side with Shirei Chesed, under the direction of my dear friend, the multi-talented Hazzan Natasha Hirschhorn. Two other choirs joined us as we presented a beautiful concert of Jewish love songs in Hebrew, Ladino, Yiddish, English and Arabic. The Sunday before was the annual HaZamir Festival Concert. Those who follow my blog know of my passion for the International Jewish High School Choir that brings together Jewish teens from across the United States and Israel through glorious Jewish choral music. This year, the recipient of the Kinor David Award (which I received two years ago at the Met) was acclaimed Israeli composer Nurit Hirsch, whose creativity has brought us hundreds of songs, notably Bashana Habaah and the most well known Oseh Shalom. Toward the end of the concert, HaZamir performed an arrangement of Nurit’s Oseh Shalom, and the conductor, Maestro Mati Lazar, encouraged the audience to join in. I smiled as we sang along, remembering my encounter with Nurit a few months ago in Tel Aviv.
A bit of background – in the fall of 2014, my daughter Rachel, her husband Raffi and their daughter Shira, then 9 months old, began their 3 year period of studying in Jerusalem before coming back to Cleveland to teach for a few years. In the fall of 2015, during a period of much tension between Israel and the Palestinians, I was preparing for a Sacred Rights concert in New York City, at Ansche Chesed. Distressed and concerned as a mother and grandmother for the safety of my family, I wrote a translation to Oseh Shalom and wanted to set it to Nurit’s melody. While I was unsuccessful in contacting her agent, I did weave the poetry into the narration for that show. I was disappointed that I was never able to sing those words which were written as a lullaby for my granddaughter Shira.
When I had a chance to share these words with Nurit in the lounge at the Carleton Hotel in August, I took it, only to be dismissed by an Israeli who saw no need for a translation of something so clear. However, as an American Jew who is a Passionate Zionist, I know in my heart that sometimes the Hebrew needs to be translated into a language that speaks to Jews at a certain time and in a certain place. That is what good siddurim have been doing for us as a People forever.
So, despite Nurit’s very Israeli dismissal this past summer, this spring I offer these words to my Israeli friends to ponder as they go to the polls tomorrow. For the sake of all the children, I pray that tomorrow we see change…….
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Let us remember that each day we sing
for peace, Oseh Shalom, v’imru, imru amen.
Or are these just words, uttered by heart,
no longer a part of our People’s Quest?
Who knows best what tomorrow will hold?
So we pray that the myths we are told
merge with truth as time goes by, v’imru, imru
May Mac Rest In Peace. May Peace be Possible in the Days Ahead.