Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Friday, November 9, 2007

I've Come to Take Your Gas Mask

The sun had set and it was dark. I had just come back from a long walk on a blustery, as far as Jerusalem goes, afternoon. My lights were on and I heard a knock on my door. I thought it was unusual since I know all of three people, maybe now four if you count Moshe. So I carefully opened the door; just a crack. A young man dressed in a tee shirt and jeans with a very official clip board looked at me and said, "Shalom".

"fdifaomfealdofea,jkfoaprerjaefd,dm" he said to me in Hebrew. "Ahhh, English??" I asked. "Ahhh, OK." he said. We looked at one another. Then he said, "I've come to take your gas mask." Now I heard him as plain as could be but quickly transcribed it in my mind to, I've come to read your gas meter. Then I realized, rega (wait a minute), my apartment is all electric, not gas and there was no meter for him to read. I thought he was mistaken and asked him again what he said.

"Your gas mask," he repeated, "from the war". I just looked at him. Then I explained that I had only been living in the apartment for a week. I'm not sure what that had to do with the situation but, honestly, that was all I could think of at the moment. He then asked me how long I had been in Israel to which I replied, "only a month". We surmised together that I didn't have a gas mask to return to him. I shut the door and the realized, this is ISRAEL.

I was alarmed to realized that the government needed to give out gas masks to its residents in case of attack from a war. Then, I was comforted that, if in fact there was a war, I'd have a gas mask to use if I needed it. Then, I was panicked that the gas mask I didn't have had to be given back. What if I needed it, what if another war breaks out tomorrow or while I'm here? Will they bring me a mask in time? How do those things work anyway? Do they have English?

The reality is, living in Israel is, at times, tenuous. Israeli's live with this truth each day and now I do too. But there is strength and conviction not cowardice or fear in the people. You see confidence in life and passion for living abundantly and peacefully. Israeli's tenuous nature does not come about from intolerance and fanaticism by it's people. In fact, it's just the opposite. Because of it's people Israel is a delicately balanced place where there is acceptance and co-existence. Not easy stuff. Not an easy place to be at times. But like the Psalmist says, it's a place that is firmly bound and knit together. Psalm 122:3

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