The Colors of Israel

The mood in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was fairly staid last week, despite what international news-gatherers broadcast to the rest of the world from the jumpy area in and around Gaza. But the quiet in the cities proved deceptive, especially if you sat down and spoke for a time with Israelis of all stripes and ages. Then the atmosphere could turn ugly, marked by fear, frustration, even loathing – a reflection of the tensions that exist just beneath the surface of daily life.

Israelis are as conflicted, it appears, as Americans, except the colors of choice are different – orange and blue in Israel, instead of blue and red in the United States. The bone of contention is, of course, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. The blue people see it as a necessity for the resumption of national health; the orange folks view it as a terrible tragedy from which the Jewish state will never recover.

By a purely visual test, the orange protesters predominate in Jerusalem, while blue is the favored color in Tel Aviv. Yet there are blue Jerusalemites. They must keep a low profile, they say, because if they affixed any appropriate coloration to their cars or houses, they might be viciously attacked by their opponents.

Both sides appear to dabble in exaggeration, as is usually the case when political passions boil over. The point, however, is that despair is palpable on both sides, and is something of a downer to experience in a place that, despite the combative nature of its citizenry, is known to inspire joy and certainty, especially among visiting American Jews.

But several older Israelis managed to put the situation in perspective. One man harkened back to 1982, when the country returned the Sinai to Egypt, and how wrenching that turned out to be. Passions ran just as high on both sides; there was anger, despair and another type of indisputable sadness. The country withstood that trial, and these older Israelis – less volatile than their younger counterparts – insist that Israel can weather these storms as well. It will take time, they say, and there might even be incidents of violence, but the country will heal.

It was comforting to hear the "long view" articulated.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
We've dreamed about it, even if we don't remember. We wanted summer here with a vengeance, with its weather and ensuing wardrobe, even if that wardrobe becomes damp before we've finished breakfast. Way back in the dead of winter, when darkness arrived before the commute home and freezing rain clipped its song on our rooftops, we longed for the sun, its warmth and everything that came with it.

So now it's here. And it's hot – very hot.

The month of July has seen day after day of 90-degree weather, with high humidity to boot. It's been, if not a record-breaking heat, a relentless one – one that's forced much of the country indoors for relief, and left many contemplating the reasons they wanted this kind of thing anyway. For the elderly, the young and the infirm – and those with breathing problems of any kind – the weather's been downright dangerous.

But look at it this way. July has effectively ended, and that means summer is half over (or half begun, depending on how you view your glass of ice-water).

We're slowly inching our way toward shorter days. Shabbat comes earlier each week, and the bittersweet holiday of Tisha B'Av – not recognized by many Jews because it falls at the hottest time of the year, when synagogues are quiet, kids still at camp and others vacationing – reminds us only too soon that another season is nearly gone.



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