Beth Cohen
Unabashed lesbian equalist and ardent Zionist

This land, these people

Dawn Orkin

I write from the heart. I always have, so journalism was never a real option for me. I believe in facts, but I love words, descriptives, emotion, poetry. The words I string together reflect what is happening somewhere between my heart, head and fingers. This is not a to do, or, a not to do list. As you come to know me through my blogs, you will find that I channel the ‘feeling’ -the emotions, whatever they may be, and put these into words.  Some will relate and find comfort in what is written. I know that when I identify with someone else’s experience, my own becomes less heavy, less of a burden and I am filled with a sense of relief and unity with others. If nothing else, this is what I hope you get from this blog; a sense of relief.

These last days, weeks have been surrealistic, even pre-apocalyptic and eerie. The emotions and behaviors evoked have been difficult for all. The ever-increasing numbers of sick, the directives from our Ministry of Health, the closing of schools, the limits on numbers gathered, cancelling of just about everything celebratory -all of this has put enormous stress, if not outright fear in the hearts of most. I for one, find myself tearing up, tears running down my cheeks, voice cracking as I try to continue – this is not who I am, not my usual response to crisis. I am the one who does, who keeps moving until the crisis has passed. While I am moving, working, doing my job and doing it well, the sadness is strong within my soul. Sadness envelopes me, my movements and I am veiled in shadow, even as I embrace the sun. To be sure, my spirit is alive; I am a believer. I believe in God. I believe She is and will continue to subliminally guide us through this period. I believe. But that does not keep the sadness at bay. The sadness is at times overwhelming.

photo Dalia Orkin

We all have coping mechanisms for times of stress, whether we are aware of them or not. Some of these are healthy -meditation, music, dancing. Some less so. We all respond differently -some of us cry, some of us yell and are short-tempered, stirred easily into a rage. Some of get ‘prepared,’ shopping for every possible scenario; some of us pray; some of us drink. Some of us hug. I am usually a hugger, and I have to say this week was additionally stressful for me -I kept wanting to reach out to those I meet with a supportive squeeze. Needless to say, I held-back, calling on my usually dormant self-control. I tried to joke and get a laugh instead.

I am lucky. I deal with stress by writing, watching TV and forgiving politicians who are suddenly acting human, with a seemingly uncharacteristic and unfamiliar compassion. These last three things are what have gotten me through this past week. All week long I have been writing this blog in my head. All week long I have come home from work and turned on the TV. All week long, almost every evening, our Prime Minister -whom I truly do not like, nor do I agree with his decisions, political and personal. But the politicians in play seem to be stepping up to the plate. The cat-fighting between the party leaders seems to have ever so slightly faded into the background of this disaster. It seems that here in Israel, we really do know how to pull together in the face of calamity. – We certainly have had enough experience with devastation and tragedy. As a people, we seem to have learned something from past adversity. Even our homo-phobic Minister of Health was subdued, if not almost kind (ok, so yes, I enjoy an active imagination -just go with it, for now).

Still, I was surprised when the PM’s speeches began invoking in me a melting sensation. I found my eyes wet, my heart full and my resolve stronger. What did he do to evoke these emotions, so unlike my usual gag response? It was quite simple actually. He showed us a non-combative, compassionate, understanding side of himself. His usual egocentric self, transformed, however temporarily, into a leader of his people. He showed us a video and explained the current ‘situation’ in simple, everyday terms that we as a people on the edge of possible panic, could understand. The video showed a sneeze. Yes, a sneeze. And then this man, our PM, took out a crumbled tissue from his pocket and wiped and covered his nose and mouth. This, he said, is the best way to prevent the spread of the dreaded disease. He then went on to explain how to wash our hands, the importance of personal hygiene and showed us exactly how to practice ‘social distancing’ -the 2 meters that we are to keep between one another when we are out and about, at work, shopping, etc.

I was relieved that this man was able to turn his guise to something softer, kinder -more human. Maybe this was what those weird, incomprehensible advertisements that NA’AMAT was running during the election period meant to convey to our leaders. NA’AMAT, Israel’s largest women’s organization ran a campaign that baffled and annoyed most women I spoke to. (See here)  We could not understand -at the peak of the elections when the women running for Knesset were in need of support of all of women, especially those involved with the advancement of women -why this amazing organization was suddenly bombarding the media with a campaign appealing to our male leaders to ‘choose their feminine side.’ Especially disconcerting were the visuals of these men as women. Looking back, maybe NA’AMAT’s marketing department decided that if the men were going to keep making the rules, we would all be better off if they got in touch with their feminine side, accessing their compassion, their warmth and perhaps if they could somehow call on their deep connection to the Mother, they would be able to lead the country through the current situation, which is indeed, too awful to imagine.

Maybe – and as I said, I do have a new-found respect or extended tolerance for our current PM – but maybe, just maybe, in the next elections, and I do pray the next elections are held in 4 years’ time; but maybe instead of looking to the men to be womanly in their leadership, maybe we could actually elect a Knesset in which women are represented by not a male majority, whose agenda will never bring about true equality for over half of the population. Yes, I know this is really not the time to put energy into that fight. But, because I am a believer, and because I do have hope, I will serve as a reminder, in my writing and in my daily life, that the patriarchy is passé. That women have needs and interests that our male politicians and leaders, even our PM, who is currently in my good graces, will never fully provide the solutions we so desperately need.

And so, this land, these people -my people, I hope and pray that we soon reach the other side of this seemingly apocalyptic era. I hope and pray that all abide the directives for handwashing, hygiene and social distance -so that we can focus once again on the quality of life, equality and the ‘normal’ life we once lead.

May we all enjoy good health. May the future be bright. May we live to see another election.

About the Author
Beth Cohen, born July 19th 1962 in Brooklyn, NY. Attended Syracuse University and made Aliyah upon graduation in Sept 1983. She became a member of Kibbutz Ketura, married and started the journey as a mother to two boys, now 28 and 31 years. Grandmother to Eitan, aged 25 months. In 1997, Beth moved her family to Binyamina, where she lived until moving to Zichron with her wife. Throughout the years, Beth has had many jobs, including speech therapist, shiatsu therapist, kibbutz gardner and irrigation manager, medical sales rep, regional sales manager and client retention. Beth and her wife co-founded a medical writing business, and she continues to work as a medical marketing writer and editor. While these occupations have been a constant, Beth's passion and constant is writing, using the written platform as her mediium to share her experiences and life views. In 2017, Beth published her first novel, a futuristic women's dystopian novel, Her Destiny Is Change. The feedback was, and continues to be fantastic. Beth promoted the book with book readings here in Israel and in Amsterdam. In the early 2000's Beth started writing and publish her blog, LesbosOnTheCouch, which became popular both here in Israel and abroad, giving her almost celebrity status among English speaking lesbians in Israel. Beth worked to get members of the political party, Kol Hanashim, elected into the 23rd Knesset. Currently, Beth, like much the rest of the population is home, praying we will all meet again on the other side of this pandemic. Until then, will continue to write and share her writing, sometimes sad, sometimes sarcastic, some funny -and always from the heart.
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