The Lull, part 10

A weekend of memorials: It’s an intense weekend with two back-to-back haskarot (memorial services). Thursday evening marks shloshim (the end of the first 30 days of mourning) for Gill’s Uncle Micha. Micha’s moshav, once a rural community, has had the world grow up around it. Jets taking off from Ben Gurion airport and traffic roaring by on the adjacent highways drown out most of the graveside ceremony. It is a bleak, treeless cemetery, without a scrap of green or a speck of shade.

Micha was Gill’s mother’s brother, and the last remaining sibling of that family. His death marks an end of an era, but I don’t really get it until one elderly gentleman begins spontaneously singing Anu haPalach, the anthem of the Palmach (pre-state Jewish forces), and I watch as one by one, aging backs straighten, arthritic shoulders are squared, and the remaining members of the old Palmach guard come to attention and join in. For those brief minutes, they are no longer fragile great-grandparents, but the courageous young men and women who risked everything to help bring this country into existence over 60 years ago.

Because I teach in Tel Aviv on Fridays, I decide to camp out in our training center. I try to ignore the scuffling sounds during the night when the giant cockroaches start shoving furniture around.

The north-bound train on Friday afternoon is predictably crowded. I manage to wedge myself in with a family returning from a trip overseas. The father is quite entertaining, and keeps us amused with stories of his adventures in America. He asks me if I like it better here or there, and when I tell him, “Here,” he beams. “America is a wonderful country,” he says, “but this is home.” The whole interaction is one of those intangibly Israeli experiences that never fail to delight me, and which I instantly miss when traveling elsewhere.

Gill meets me at the train station and we dash home, shower, change, and hit the road again in less than 20 minutes. By 18:00 we are pulling into the kibbutz and heading to the cemetery. It is yet another haskara, this one the 17-year anniversary of the death of Gill’s brother. The cemetery is a green, peaceful spot, looking east to Jordan and the Golan Heights. Trees planted when the kibbutz was first founded over 70 years ago now tower over us. Their shade makes the oppressive heat tolerable. There are no sounds of the modern world—only the wind in the trees and the soothing cooing of doves. Flowering shrubs run riot between the graves. It is a serenely peaceful spot, despite the heat and the aroma from the nearby refet (cow sheds). As family members pay their respects, I suddenly notice that the dates on the two headstones (for Gill’s mother and brother are now resting side by side) are inconsistent. One lists the dates as birth-to-death, the other as death-to-birth. Ah, the confusion of right-to-left languages that use left-to-right numbers! The technical communicator in me blurts out this obvious typo, and everyone turns to stare at me. Gill, ever calm, points out that it is a bit too late to do anything about it now. (This truly is a case of something set in stone!) But as I look at these side-by-side mirror-image date ranges, it occurs to me that the unintentional error creates symmetry and, perhaps, a sense of closure.

We spend the evening on the kibbutz, and I have a chance to pat Sally, my favorite hyperactive Pug.

Nadine update: The girl is back on dry kibble and all is well. She is not pleased about the lack of tuna, chocolate pudding, and other treats, but the good news is that her digestive tract is back to normal, and she is once again my clean, sweet-smelling cat. Still, I know that I will pay for this some day.

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