Tuesday, October 21, 2014 Tishri 27, 5775

Stuck on Beautiful

August 4, 2014 By:
Shira Taylor Gura
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The writer and her family at her daughter's bat mitzvah.
It's war here.
 
Even though living in the North, it’s quiet (aside from the tears and mourning from friends and families of the fallen soldiers who are from here), I can honestly say that I wouldn’t mind a break from it once in a while.
 
I’m not alone. One of my friends decided to go on a three-day detox. Not from sugar or wheat, but rather social media, like Facebook and Twitter.
 
Another friend decided not to participate in the community event in which we created care packages for the soldiers on the border with Gaza — in a way to “protect her children from too much."
 
One way I’ve been taking a break from all of this is by continuing to attend my weekly singing group on the kibbutz. Another break I’ve been taking is by continuing to teach yoga.
 
In other words, instead of curling up into a ball and literally escaping, I’m escaping by continuing to live.
 
And this past week, I did something a little different: I decided to attend a basketball game. Just to escape.
 
Last year, I used to attend the weekly Jezreel Valley League basketball games. My husband played on the Hannaton team until he started to suffer some back pain and decided to quit.
 
But this past Monday night, he got a phone call from one of the guys on our kibbutz, asking if he’d be willing to sub in because too many of the men on the team weren’t around. (They’re “too busy” defending our country.) He agreed.
 
Yet, when I walked up to the court, five minutes into the beginning of the game, I thought someone was playing a trick on me.
 
Why? Because all I heard was yelling in Arabic. On the court of Kibbutz Hannaton.
 
It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on. The opposing team was from a neighboring community in our municipality — a Muslim one.
 
But the yelling wasn’t anything you may be hearing out of the words of Hamas terrorists or even any recent anti-Israel demonstrations, such as:
 
“Kill the Jews!” 
 
Or, “Destroy Israel!”
 
“Jews back to Birknau.  Hitler was right!”
 
Instead, the yelling was the typical banter you hear on a basketball court.
 
“Hey, ref! That was a foul! Are you blind?”
 
“Double dribble!!!!”
 
“Back court! Back court!”
 
“Nu, ref? Can’t you count? How long you gonna let him stay in the key?”
 
It was beautiful. The whole game.
 
Even though our team was at a disadvantage and didn’t play too well, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
 
Just the thought of it, the image: Two communities. Two religions. Playing basketball in peace. Giving each other high-fives and hitting each others’ butts at the end of the game. Walking off the court together. Going home.
 
Peacefully.
 
It was beautiful.
 
Especially during these times when so much of the media is being showered with anti-Semitism, calling Israel an apartheid state.
 
Oh, how little do they know that Israeli Arabs are full-fledged citizens here. Who have freedom of religion. And freedom of speech. And freedom to an education, just like the Jews.
 
Sure, there’s discrimination, just like there is in the States. Israel is not perfect. Is there such a perfect place in the world?
 
But believe me, there’s more discrimination against many of the lower-class Jewish citizens than there is against the Israeli Arabs.
 
Did you know:
 
That my dermatologist is Arab? 
 
And so is the surgeon who stitched up my son’s tongue when he split it open running down a hill two years ago.
 
And so is my dental hygienist.
 
And so are 98 percent of the contractors my husband works with.
 
And so are the majority of people living in the Galilee, where my family and I live. 
 
And so is about 20 percent of the entire Israel population.
 
And so are about 15 people making up the Israeli Parliament.
 
And did you know that I am woken up each morning (at 4 a.m., thank you very much) to the Muslim “call to prayer” (which then sounds four more times throughout the day) from the surrounding Arab communities’ loudspeakers?
 
So, when I read the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli propaganda (and anti-American propaganda) and sit here not knowing what to do with it, I think I’m going to just stay stuck on beautiful for a while.
 
Beautiful that Israel has reached a place where two basketball teams, Jewish and Muslim, can come together and play peacefully. Without wanting to kill one another. Without denying each other’s existence.
 
Just living. And letting live.

Just beautiful.

Shira Taylor Gura grew up in Cherry Hill, N.J., and made aliyah with her family in 2009. She is starting up a business to bring on-site yoga classes to companies in northern Israel. 

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