Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bubbles that Burst and Burn

I have written many times recently about the bursting bubbles effect that the Disengagement adventure has had on segments of Israeli society - right, left, religious, secular and so on. None of us will be shocked if more surprises keep popping up - this is the Middle East nonetheless.

Having just left Midrash Shmuel this evening after venturing into some Elul preparation for Rosh Hashanah, my hour long spiritual bubble was burst at the receipt of an SMS from an Israeli news source - "The young man who set himself on fire in Jerusalem last week to protest Disengagement has died of his burns".

We know how difficult Disengagement has been for Gush Katif and Shomron residents, for those who were sent to remove their brothers and sisters and for the average Israeli (is there such a thing?!!) who may have agreed but suffered from a heavy aching heart.

I run KIC sessions with English-speaking olim at Ulpan Etzion where this bubble burned and burst last week, along with the life of this young American Jewish immigrant, Baruch Ben Menachem (Bret Taback) that was extinguished tonight. Apparently he never attended my sessions but I feel a tremendous sense of loss and frustration at his death. It is by no means my fault, or anyone's directly, but it is our collective responsibility.

Disengagement has affected us all. Some less, some more. Without a doubt, it has changed the fabric of Israeli society and the political spectrum greatly. By no means do I wish to suggest one is affected to a greater extent than another. However, the death of two immigrants through frustration, anger and apparent loneliness leads me to the conclusion that we are not doing enough. It is not lost on me that the only two deaths during Disengagement were of two lonely, upset, non-native Hebrew speaking Jewish immigrants.

Yelena Bosinova also showed her sadness and frustration through a self-inflicted burning and subsequent death. I read a scattering of comments about how little media coverage her death attracted and how she felt alone and yet she was said to be loved and respected by many.
Both Yelena and Baruch were immigrants who had come to a land they believed very strongly about, only to have those 'dreams come true' transformed into burns and scars.

I do not lay the blame at Sharon's feet for carrying out his Gaza & Shomron plan. Whether we agree or not, the Knesset backed him. I will not criticize those who promote bubble creation across the Israeli political spectrum. Simply, it hurts me, and it should hurt all olim (and all native Israelis for that matter), to see strongly pro-Israel, ideologically driven citizens take their lives so horrifically.

Olim know why they chose to give up on their home towns where the grass is often greener, cheaper, quieter, safer and less bureaucratic. Many of our reasons for making that tough move are beyond logical explanation. Suffice it to say, olim immigrate to Israel with a sense of commitment and dedication. We make a conscious decision to adopt this State as our own - fully. Instead of sending checks, we decide to send ourselves. Israelis never had the privilege to make that decision. For me at least, it is painful to see lives of olim taken after their dreams have been shattered.

I am well aware that Baruch had personal challenges under which he was suffering, other than Disengagement. In a different world, Yelena might have felt happier with life and protested differently. Regardless, while Judaism does not accept suicide, I do hope that born and bred Israelis and we, the new Israelis, will not allow the media to overlook or trivialize these deaths.

Olim, like Israelis have dreams for this wonderful nation, land and state. When those dreams turn to ashes, we must be ready to support the fallen and be prepared to help them to dream new dreams. There is plenty more for us to dream about, but the government and all of us must be sure not to lose sight of those who are hurting.

I did not know Baruch, but I do hope to attend his funeral tomorrow - not because of politics and not because I agree with his actions. Rather, because I am an Israeli and an oleh who knows what it is like to leave family and all things familiar behind and to venture out to fulfill one's dream of living as a free Jew in the land of Israel. I hope that other olim might attend Baruch's funeral for these reasons too.


ifyouwillit said...

The conviction and love of the land seen in some olim is encouraging, but in these two cases, it is scary to realise that they were obviously in a desperate situation and had no where to turn to.

Life in Israel is a bumpy ride, in fact many Israeli's opt to leave Israel for an easier life elsewhere.

Avigdoor said...

For the record, we at the Ulpan are NOT CONVINCED of the media jumping on the 'anti-disengagment' bangwagon to explain this terrible and tragic event here last week.

Whatever his reasons, you are likely correct to assume that he had 'personal challenges', however there IS NO INDICATION that his act was one of political motivation....

Michael Lawrence said...

You are quite right 'Avigdoor' - and I did try to emphasize in taht posting that in fact olim often have tough time just a s a result of leaving 'home' where things are calmer and easier.
In summary, we all need to be willing and ready to help those in need when required.
For sure, the media enjoys latching on to any act or statement that appears extreme.