A WEEPING HEAVEN

I came back to Massachusetts yesterday afternoon. Home. The garage door lifts, warm welcome from the dogs. It takes a long time to bring in everything from the car. Soup, followed by a rest, followed by a walk with Aussie to take in familiar sights, and only then start unpacking.

The weather foggy and drizzly all yesterday and today, more rain expected. My eyes continue to be out of balance due to one eye rid of its cataract but not the other (surgery soon, I hope), so one side seems clear and the other blurry, only for the life of me I can’t tell you which sees real life more accurately.

I was gone for only 12-1/2 days, but the sky hasn’t stopped weeping since I came home.

Last Thursday, after visiting with Bedouin communities outside Jerusalem, I arrived in an apartment belonging to my brother’s friend overlooking the Mediterranean a short distance north of Tel-Aviv. The three siblings stayed together here, a weekend en famille, till early Saturday evening, and were treated to an exquisite sunset over the Mediterranean that was supremely indifferent to the catastrophes in Israel and Gaza.

The sunset was followed by a violent storm, with crushing rain, lightning and thunder, including a thunderbolt that caused us all to jump up at 1 in the morning. Heavy clouds and rain pursued us back to Jerusalem on Saturday night; we could hardly see the road ahead of us and the winds would have easily toppled the vulnerable electricity wires back in my little corner of New England.

It felt as though the outside mirrored the inside, chaos everywhere—on the highway back to Jerusalem, the news on the radio providing names of soldiers who were killed in Gaza even as the prime minister promises to eliminate Hamas and bring back hostages, gusts and downpours almost drowning him out. I wondered if it was pouring down in Gaza as well, and where people would be taking refuge in all that destruction.

Bernie loved chaos theory, at least in theory. The rest of us? Not sure. Still, we identify certain dots in the bedlam, connect them, and create a story. Not the story, just one of many, many stories, not one of which is any truer than another.

The Holy Land is full of stories—Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and the stories of so many indigenous tribes that lived there long before the Israelites (and certainly the Muslims) arrived. The air is fragrant with story even as the stones are hard, the earth crusty, and the Mediterranean waves come ashore following the tides.

Create divisions in empty space. In Israel many people hold on to their particular stories for dear life, embracing them so rigidly that stories become dogma become principle become inalienable truth. As of October 7, their grief is immediate and sharp, their rage volcanic, but their opinions and convictions have been there long before that date.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place with such supernal, radiant light, so redolent of myth and the walks of mystics, but where wars are waged, blood spilled, and brutality becomes banal— because of conflicting stories.

So, I think of the Bedouins. “We don’t want a country,” one of them told us. They don’t want statehood, they don’t want membership in the United Nations. They want basic things like health care and infrastructure. They want to bring their herds for grazing when the desert turns green in winter, their lives as fluid as the seasons.

They want to continue doing what they’ve been doing for centuries without saying This is mine, This is my right, This is tradition, This is history, This is religion, this is this and this is that. I’m sure they have their stories, but what seems to really matter to them is pasture for goats and sheep, their sons herding their animals up and down the hills.

I begin to feel that when all this is over, they will still be out there in tents and caravans moving with the seasons because nobody owns this land. Nobody owns any land, but this land in particular.

I walked the dogs in a fine drizzle today and ran into a hunter taking advantage of the last days of deer shooting season. No hunting garb, just jeans and boots like me, an orange vest, a backpack, and a big rifle in his hands.

“How can you see anything in this fog?” I ask him.

“It’s hard, but I’ve seen a few bucks crossing here. Hi, princess,” he says to Aussie, bending down to greet her.

It started raining hard.

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