This afternoon, I called a friend from my days as an 18-year old hippie living in the Oregon countryside. Back then, her name was Sue. Now she is Rabbi Me’Irah. Every time I have what seems to be a casual conversation with Me’irah, I come away with more meaning in my life. “Today is a special day,” she announced (I already knew this because every day is special for Me’irah). It is the time between Passover and Shavuout, she said. Passover is a celebration of liberation — the Jews’ exodus from enslavement. And today is a day of constraints to acknowledge the Jews’ harrowing journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, where they would receive the Torah. Me’irah says we survive this time of constraint and our isolation by celebrating the bounty and blessings in our lives. And that celebration, I thought, gives us hope.
I recently read an article by American journalist, Chris Hedges, which proposed that “societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.” https://riseuptimes.org/2018/12/30/american-anomie-by-chris-hedges/
This simple idea reminded me of the many times friends and family have asked me to describe my “volunteer work” with the refugees in Greece or the Caravan in Mexico. I never have a good answer. I say the people I met were kind and grateful in spite of their physical and emotional challenges. I say they were running from persecution created by the neo-liberal world order and forever wars, that some of them played cards on a blanket under a tree.
After two nights in Juchitan, the Caravan members woke before dawn yesterday to clean up the garbage at their encampment and then headed north at 6am. They had originally planned to take the route to Oaxaca City but at the last minute decided to trek through Veracruz — less mountainous but more dangerous because of the cartel criminals. Some will hop the freight train, also dangerous.
Three years ago, I went to Greece and my life changed. So I wrote about it.
It has been more than two years since I first arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos where overloaded boats brought refugees to the island’s windy beaches. The people in the boats were mostly young and many were children — wet, cold and hungry, escaping war and persecution in their home countries. Continue reading
When I was in Greece this year, a well-intended young Greek woman told me that my adopted Muslim daughter, Nahid, should not wear a hijab if she wants to be accepted in Greece. I guess I wasn’t surprised at her comment but it gave me something to think about. Continue reading
I spent most of my fall in Athens even though it is not the kind of place I would normally want to visit for more than a day or two. Athens is a train wreck — dirty, ugly, full of hazards like slippery sidewalks, crazy drivers and railings on sixth floor verandas that are easily scaled by ambitious toddlers. Continue reading
I have been spending a couple of days in Berlin doing the things tourists do — walking, eating, museums. Berlin is beautiful and clean and civilized. I have enjoyed all of it but what will always stay with me is the time I spent at the Berlin Wall. Continue reading