En Route to Amsterdam

Listening to Dylan, my face bathed in the glow of the seatback screen and this laptop. I’m on my way to Amsterdam, and then on to Israel for Operation Groundswell. I feel oddly calm, though I did have a moment of panic on the ascent that there’s no turning back now. I spent hours today deliberating over a job decision: ultimately I went with my instinct (which was none too strong anyway) to accept the position of volunteer coordinator of the Jewish Disaster Response Corps. I hope it will be good. I hope I will make a difference. I hope I won’t be on the computer all the time. I hope it’s a good use of my talent and passions. I guess we’ll find out in September. I want to hear stories, and tell them still. I hope that the people of Oklahoma will have use for that.

 

Until then, I’m in Israel. Leading this trip that I can’t quite picture yet. Very excited to be back in Israel. I love it there. I hope I don’t get sick or hurt. I hope I’m a good leader. I hope the students have the time of their lives, or at least that they’re glad they went.

 

I went to a weeklong creative writing workshop last week in Amherst. Realized how little I really know about reading: and how rarely I actually read literature anymore. I want to do more of it. Tell stories. Write. Express myself. Finish my Jaffa stories, make sense of it all, and help others do so too.

 

Not much else to say, I guess. I’m listening to Dylan. It’s weird being an adult. I sort of accept things as they are much more than I did when I was younger. I feel less idealistic, less grandiose in my dreams, less angsty. I pray for happiness for my friends. I take interest in the stories and thoughts of my grandparents and ancestors. I miss my family, and hope to be close to them sometime in the near future. I hope to get married and have a family with someone I love, and who loves me. I hope to create something that helps humanity. If it’s my writing, great. If it’s just a smile, or a bit of ease or empathy in troubled times, even better.

 

I don’t know how much I believe in a higher power these days. I certainly don’t leave much space for it. I want more prayer and meaning in my life, as always, but yet my life feels rather full without it too. I do a lot of Jewish activities, and wonder what it is that makes me Jewish other than my ancestry. What do I believe in, if not just humanity and love? Not sure. I don’t even think of the environment anymore, too much. Am I complacent, or just content?

 

Hanna’s meeting me in Tel Aviv this August. I can’t wait. I’m sure she’ll be married soon, so it’ll be nice to spend quality time with her, just us. In Israel. Enjoying the beach, the holy sites, the desert. Drinking cool drinks and eating sweets in cafes. I pray it will be safe. I pray there will be peace and no danger. I know better than to hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict… more likely, things will follow the course of history here in America…. Where inevitably the newcomers take over and suppress the natives, and claim their destiny in the land of promise. And then things will evolve from there. But I pray if that happens, there will be no more bloodshed. I pray Israel will respect multiculturalism. I pray it won’t stamp out Palestinian, African, Mizrahi culture. I pray people will respect each other. I pray no more children will die, or teenagers. I pray adults can live out their lives.

 

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And For No Reason

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Last night, in honor of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, we hosted a poetry workshop on themes of joy, sadness, and conversations with the divine. It was guided by my new favorite poet, Elana Bell… who writes powerful stuff about Israel, Palestine, and everything else that crosses her mind.

At the beginning of the workshop, we played a really cool game called the “Hafiz Game.” You can play it on your own, but it also works in a group. Elana asked us each to concentrate on a question we have about our lives, and then direct it– silently or aloud– to her book of Hafiz poetry. Then, you open the book to a random page and read for Hafiz’s answer!

My question was: “Why do I move around so much?”

Hafiz’s response?

And For No Reason


And

For no reason

I start skipping like a child.


And

For no reason

I turn into a leaf

That is carried so high

I kiss the Sun’s mouth

And dissolve.


And

For no reason

A thousand birds

Choose my head for a conference table,

Start passing their

Cups of wine

And their wild songbooks all around.


And

For every reason in existence

I begin to eternally,

To eternally laugh and love!


When I turn into a leaf

And start dancing,

I run to kiss our beautiful Friend

And I dissolve in the Truth

That I Am.

___

Cool, no? 

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Strangers No More: Nature’s Power to Bond and Interconnect

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Disclaimer: Those who were displaced, or remain displaced, by the storm have not been so lucky as I, at the time of this writing. I’m glad to hear that electricity is returning to Manhattan thanks to the tremendous efforts of city workers, and that people are beginning to return to their homes. But unthinkable numbers of people are still without hot food or electricity. The privilege of staying at home cozy and warm is something I don’t take for granted, and I don’t mean this personal writing to represent or encompass the experiences of those for whom the storm was a tragic blow to safety and sense of home. I hope that we’ll all continue to think about and send positive prayers for healing to all those for whom the storm has not passed. 

The best thing about the recent hurricane is that the privileged amongst us are being forced to live locally for a while. Though I’m definitely included in the list of New Yorkers (am I a New Yorker? that might be a big stretch of the imagination…) anxiously awaiting the return of full subway service and power in lower Manhattan, I’ve actually appreciated the chance to stay home– or at least around town– for the greater part of a week. My roommate Ellie and I were talking the other night about how our house felt almost unlived-in until Sandy hit, at which point we barely left Ellie’s bedroom except to carry up food and drink from the kitchen, and to go to the bathroom. We kept the window open for fresh air, and had a grand old time cuddling and watching movies on our new projector. With our eyes glued on Ellie’s wall, using news as intermissions for our movie marathons, all of us began to sink into a pleasant comfort with one another—despite being complete and utter strangers as of just last Sunday. Continue reading

Wed Oct 31 11:13pm New York

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The last two and a half weeks have been surreal. I can’t believe I “live” in New York now, because… well, I don’t. I float around New York as if in a daze, lighting upon food and trinkets and trees in wonder and delight and confusion. Today, I eat lunch at a Vietnamese hole in the wall called Lotus, with my new friend Lucas—someone who interns at 826NYC and StoryCorps. We exchange stories from the upscale food industry and discuss oral history. He advises me to visit the “Cloisters” and tells me about the scandals behind Prospect Park and its architect Frederick Olmsted. We scarf down our banh mi sandwiches (mine mild on white baguette, his eye-watering spicy on whole wheat) and go off for a brisk walk in the park amongst the leaves and fallen trees until a municipal official, clearing debris, orders us out. Continue reading

Sentiments on Sandy

I’m a little concerned at the particular way in which we’ve all been watching the news, trolling every weather site for new photos and videos of sensational storm coverage. Though initially it comes from a place of concern and awareness, it can also border on selfish– as if we’re using serious damage and danger for entertainment. I know it’s “exciting” to be in the middle of things—I felt the same way, with the whole country’s attention on New York (to which I’ve recently relocated)… Receiving text messages and emails of concern every five minutes from friends and family around the world is actually quite touching, and shows genuine care in a way that we don’t often grant one another. Continue reading

Jaffa Part II: The Sea

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The Mediterranean is unlike any other sea in the world. Its seductive allure is only outmatched by its sedative properties. One dip into the silvery depths and you’re instantly buoyant, facing up toward the sky and pondering why you ever joined the rat race to begin with. Tel Aviv was born alongside the Mediterranean, forged from the sand and sweat of Arab and Jewish labor in a century untouched by digital mapping such that her growth was guided only by the hand-sketched plans of pioneers and the dreams of immigrants. Continue reading

Missing Israel

I’m signing up for so many volunteer things I may as well be back in Israel. The truth is I moved to LA in a bit of an unnecessary rush, such that I don’t think I fully wrapped my mind around what I’d be getting into (nor did I know) when I made the decision to “pursue my career” by leaving Israel. Now, what on Earth?

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I don’t know if I’m romanticizing my time in Jaffa (probably), or if I took my freedom of schedule and worries for granted (definitely), but somehow I’m here in LA and I keep shaking my head trying to get a grip like, Sam, what were you thinkin girl? Continue reading

10 Things I Disliked About Living In Israel

This post is inspired by Moriel Rothman’s “10 Things I Really Like About Living in Israel.” I read Moriel’s blog each week religiously, for the honest and reflective quality with which he presents his experiences as an activist for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine, but I have to admit it was a fresh of breath air to read his most recent piece. Continue reading

Quote

“I was an outsider. Being a half-caste had the same effect in the East as in the West. Your face was subliminally unsettling to both races. Eyes brushed over you as if you did not quite count, you were an aberration, a blip that would be smoothed over by the next manifestly white or colored face that came into view. You were a curious mutation of the genes pool. But there was nothing diluted about being alive in these colors; you were not fifty-fifty, but two hundred percent alive; not a half-being, but a double being.”

I love this quote, from Mira Stout, author of One Thousand Chestnut Trees- A multigenerational novel about Korea.