Thursday, August 19, 2004

--a blessing? Yes, I will give you a blessing.
The enormous hand of the Zulu spiritual leader descends upon my equally enormous kippah.
--You must travel far, to America first, then to South Africa. So you must be safe in your travels. You must have a good heart--a good heart is the most important thing. You should know that what you want is also what everyone around you wants, and what everyone around you wants, you want as well. God bless you.
I did not go to the Sulha to get a blessing from a Zulu spiritual leader, but, thankfully, journeys are seldom so mundanely predictable.
I got only a taste of Sulha. I arrived at the end of the second day, and closing ceremonies were the next morning. But while there was little opportunity to develop life-long relationships or have many intense personal interactions, I did dive in, swim around with much intensity, and open my mouth wide to drink full.
The organizers estimated that, over the three days, something like 4000 holy souls gathered in Gan Shuni, on a hill overlooking a lush northern plain near Benyamina. I journeyed there with Simcha, a dreadlocked talmud scholar turned environmental ecologist/closet macroeconomic theorist who I met at the train station. We arrived after dark, and music was just starting. Despite the immense turnout, the scene was still quite intimate and it took me just minutes to find Sareet, who had come straight from the airport upon making aliyah. She was talking to a man with long hair, a white robe, and a staff (this description actualy could be applied to more than a handful of people at the festival)--who spoke to us in a beautiful combination of Spanish and Hebrew.
A group of women soon came on stage to praise God in Jewish and Muslim and Christian harmonics--the sister of the Zulu spiritual leader, a female rabbi who just got ordained by Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi (who appeared that night via videotaped message from Boulder), a Muslim woman with a powerful voice, and a woman from a spiritual community of Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, who informed us that her daughter was giving birth at that moment in Europe. Slow chanting gave rise to picked up beats and picked up feets and me dancing wildly hand in hand with beautiful fruity Jewish and Arab guys. Later, a louder band came on, and the concert got shut down by the cops...and the music wove itself into a circle singing songs in Arabic, to darbuka beats. I eventually joined the circle of dancers at the central ring of the circle, arm in arm with Palestinian guys singing and jumping around in free form fashion, only to make way for some virtuoso belly dancers--male and female.
This morning Sareet woke me just before the sun broke the horizon, and I said selichot for the first time. Rav Cook has been teaching me that selichot are not shamefilled or necessarily always sad. I looked out on the fields to the horizon and the rising light and wanted to be closer: tshuva.
Afterward, I slept deeply until the closing ceremonies--the niggun we sange is still dancing in my head as I type.
I felt so gratified to help whatever little I could--they asked me to take the garbage to the dumpster, and I was practically overjoyed. I rolled along pushing the wheelbarrow full of waste and singing--this is how much I have been yearning to be useful.
I got to have one amazing conversation with the daughter of the Green Sheikh, who wove me a bracelet while we were talking. Anyone wondering about whether a fifteen-year-old can be spiritually or politically aware should meet and learn from this holy woman.

I journeyed home to Jerusalem with Chaviva, a new friend and great miracle in my life here. We rode with an Arab man travelling with his sons from Acco to Tel Aviv for his friend's art opening. He saw the sage I had tucked behind my ear, and we at it together. He told us about his travels, and I got to hear a little more about Tunis--I was in a village where everything is white. Everything. Even the streets are paved white!--
This man had a kind of hoping that knew, rather than wanted.
--when there is peace, I will take a train like this from here to Amman.
--but there is now peace with Jordan. You can go to Amman--a woman across from him suggested.
--yes, but when we have peace, I will take a train from here and be in Amman in a few hours.
Labwork wrapping up, A planned vision of me in South Africa metamorphasizing into a great wide open unknown. Shabbat. Coming.


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