Friday, June 20, 2008

A busy week

Some weeks are busier than others. Lately a number of important events seemed to have accumulated within days of each other. I am a member of various committees. Although I keep a check on my diary, it often happens that I have to choose which one to attend.
In front of me are four of the latest visiting cards each one collected from a different event.
An ex-member from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, whom I met at the committee meeting of JRJ gave me her card and asked me to contact her to discuss how to present better the stories of "Jews who Rescued Jews".
The next card is from a gentleman from the Ecumenical Accompanier, Sweden, who is here to keep a check on our Checkpoints to help the Palestinians when having trouble crossing into Israel, often without the necessary permit. He has heard so many problems that he decided to come and listen to some good news. He came to our Interfaith Encounter meeting, where Jews, Christians and Muslims meet on a regular basis, to learn about each other’s religion and interviewed some of us. He saw us sitting together in a most peaceful atmosphere at the Swedish Theological Institute situated between East and West Jerusalem and was amazed. From the media he got the impression, that that was not possible
Sunday and Monday were busy days, but Tuesday topped it all.
Tuesday morning at 9.00 my companion of the steering committee for the old age club picked me up for our weekly session. Rushed back for a quick lunch and at 13.00 a lady came with her friend who visits me regularly on Tuesdays.
At 15.00 I had scheduled a meeting with a Jewish and a Muslim women to discuss a workshop about “Trust” that we are to give jointly next week at an International Conference of ICCJ "Israel Council for Christians and Jews". In the middle of that a couple of pupils turned up to have a photo taken together with me. I had couched them for several weeks towards the ceremony of the 60th Anniversary of the state of Israel and to complete their paper they needed a photo of us together.
Before we women completed our task a visitor, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang from Berlin who is here on a business meeting turned up. He is an old friend of mine from the days when I traveled yearly to Germany to give talks in schools. He is a professor of Criminology and Sociology. We talked for a good three hours and then I walked him back to his hotel.
Wednesday I tried to catch up with my regular household scores like shopping and cooking and at 4.30 o’clock in the afternoon a friend from “Gagoshrim” (one of the organizations who bring volunteer from Germany to work in institutions for the aged or for handicapped children) picked me up to get to the assembly point for a trip to Tel-Aviv.
The German based „Heinrich Boell Stiftung“ together with „Aktion Suehne Zeichen und Friedensdienste“, (also an organization who bring volunteers from Germany) in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary held a joint public event in Tel-Aviv, “Living after Surviving – Shoa Survivors in Israel”. There were a number of speeches, including Knesset Member/Deputy Speaker Colette Avital, as well as a panel discussion. Two young German volunteers asked questions of three old survivors, one of them was myself. There I was sitting on the podium and gave the relevant answers. When the session finished Colett Avital spoke to me and we had a lively discussion and exchanged visiting cards. She asked me to get in touch with her for further discussions. It was quite late when we got back to Jerusalem.
Early next morning I got ready for the final trip for the season of the Old Age Club. The club, that I had initiated, has been going for the last five years with once weekly lectures and once monthly trips. This time it was to a lovely shaded Nature spot of Eyn Chemed, with a very tasty pick-nick prepared by the head of the Jerusalem branch of the Organization of Immigrants from German speaking Countries.
After viewing the Ruins of the Crusaders Fortress we leisurely walked back and passed a big group of very boisterous Muslim girls. I asked them where they are from and among a lot of giggling some of the girls almost in chorus said “Palestinians from a school in Abu Tor”. They were pretty noisy. Not knowing any Arabic I still managed to engage them in some sort of a dialogue. With a few words of Hebrew and a few in English, but mainly by signs language I asked them how old they are. Thirteen, they shouted in Chorus. When I asked them what they think how old I am, they looked at me, thought 60 or perhaps a bit more but when I said 85 they were more than astonished.
I pleaded with them by saying sh… sh… sh… and again in sign language to keep a little bit more quite.
While we sat around singing old time songs to the sounds of an accordion some of the girls approached and stopped some distance away in amazement at us old people singing lustily away. As I walked up to them they started to make dancing movements to the music. I joined them and quickly a circle was formed, while dancing several more girls trotted along. We danced for a while and I returned to my group. They approached once more and asked to have a picture taken together with me. Their group soon left and our pick-nick came to an end by 2.00 o’clock.
At 4.30 I was of again for Tel-Aviv to a reception at 7.00 o’clock at the Residence of the German Ambassador Mr. Kindermann, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the „Aktion Suehne Zeichen und Friedensdienste“, who since 1958 have annually send their young volunteers to Israel. After the Ambassador and a couple of others addressed the audience from the balcony, so did I, said a few words and presented the representative of the organization, Katharina von Muenster, with a framed certificate of a number of trees planted in their name in the woods of “Altneuland” in the Galilee.
It was late again when I finally fell into bed.
Next week I will give two workshops, one of them with a power point presentation, which I have prepared. I am looking forward to it hope it will work out alright.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ups and downs.

Living and working (not for money) brings with it many ups and downs. The ups are usually the result of hard work. The downs, among other things, if somebody willingly or not, hits you over the head.
Some may be minor downs and are easier overcome, while others leave a bitter taste behind for a long time.
A very insulting reaction totally unrelated to what I wrote in my last blog message, is such an example. It left me paralyzed for days on end.
Being an old woman living on my own I go through experiences in uncharted water for the present day aging population.
We grow much older than previous generations ever did. There are no role models to go by how to live for 30 years or more after nobody needs you. Rather than killing time I am trying to fill my time by doing something for other people, something I believe other people will benefit from and am trying to make myself useful in whatever way possible. That is including writing down some of my thoughts on daily life experience and constructing my own narrative that I can live with. It is all on a personal level and I am far from making political statements.

As the result of being widowed and in order to live near my son, I moved from Haifa to Jerusalem. Looking back to give some perspective to my life, I tried to recall when and how I experienced “Jerusalem seen through the veil of time”.
Being accused in his comments to my last blog by Marwan (who does not know me), of living in other people’s houses, taking away homes that other people lived in and his words:
“….ask yourself how you built in houses and flats that have been previously occupied by Palestinian families and with which your Jewish army and militias frightened them into flight. You know it is just not that simple to come into another land and say "Oh I can take this house, I can live in the neigbourhood, and build it."
Through a deliberate wonting strategy your leaders sought to depopulate the land of its original inhabitants to make way for immigrants like you who came from all over the world……”

All this has nothing to do with what I wrote about. I was trying to recall my amazements of my first sight of Jerusalem some 62 years ago.
May be it is stupid of me to feel hurt by these unrelated remarks of Marwan, such as the above or:
“…..It really is extraordinary how you enclosed your self and managed to build an aura of normality and lecture and write at the same time……”
It is well known that old people try to look back on their life and construct a narrative that they can live with.
“Aura of normality” as he calls it, is an essential ingredient in old age, especially when life has brought many upheavals with it. It was not easy having to leave home at an early age, my parents were killed because of their religion, being a refugee, an orphan, roaming from place to place, all told living in over 30 different ones, being widowed, experiencing one war after an other, seeing many people killed on both sides including my grandson.
In spite of all that, it was by the sweat of my brow and with my own hands that I created as normal a surrounding as possible for the next generation to grow up in. That is what life is all about, living it as best as one can.
Is this too difficult for Marwan to understand?