Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jewish Heroes

We have just celebrated the holiday of Sukkot. It is traditional to invite Jewish heroes into the sukka. Each night of the weeklong festival, a different guest, or Ushpiza, is welcomed. The first night is Abraham's followed by Isaac, Jacob etc. My wife and I acquired our first sukka this year (on Freecycle!) and we considered who our Ushpizin guests would be.
We were dealing with a couple of challenges. One: It is customary to affix pictures of the guests to the walls of the sukka. Problem: we don't have pictures of the forfathers. We solved that problem by including two of my wife's forbears. They have same name as two Israelite ancestors in the Bible.
The other problem - which my wife picked up on right away - was the complete absence of women in the traditional list. So, we included the great German-Jewish philosopher, Hanna Arendt. Since we were in mid-20th century German Jewry, we included Martin Buber as well (he also happens to be distant family on my side). Google images provided their pictures for us. My grandfather, who was a Cantor in the East End of London was another. He looked pretty good in his full cantorial regalia: big hat, and an impressive tallit prayer shawl that could cover a king-size bed.
However, we were still a few guests short for our roster of Ushpizin.
Then, on the last day of Sukkot we got a windfall. A group of courageous Jews: Israelis and Europeans braved the might of the Israeli Navy to run the blockade of Gaza. Yesterday, they were intercepted, brutalized and humiliated. This small group of men and women - mostly senior citizens - were calm, determined and principled throughout.
One of the Israelis, Yonatan Shapira had already shown heroic courage. He had been set in a career as one of Israel's elite pilots. A select cohort of young Israeli men, of college-age are entrusted, individually, with multi-million dollar machines. Any mistake can have disastrous consequences to national security. Israel is a small country and airforce pilots are adulated as national heroes.
Mr. Shapira gave all that away, rather than continue to participate in the Israeli campaign of violence against West Bank civilians. Aboard the "Irene", he and his shipmates accepted physical violence, incarceration and verbal abuse in order to provide a Jewish alternative to Israel's violent blockade of Gaza's civilian population.
All the Jewish passengers aboard the Jewish Boat to Gaza are welcome in my sukka and my home!

1 comment:

  1. A true "sukkat shalom" and a great idea for the "ushpizin". Much better than the traditional mumbled invitations in Aramaic.