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"To Be or Not to Be" Is.....?


It has been several weeks since I’ve written an update. It takes time to organize my thoughts and sometimes it is just a matter of having the inspiration smack me in the face (those moments are the best, by the way). Someone was sure I would write about the recent rocket attack on Tel Aviv, how could I not? It’s true, a real rocket attack is indeed a poignant experience to share, but for some reason, I didn't feel like writing about it.

Most of the time, I am going through the day with a heavy dose of joy and wonder, which I write about frequently. While things aren’t exactly new anymore, having been here almost 2 years, taking in a new culture in a new part of the world consistently brings a heightened sense of being present, of being alive.

I think Tel Aviv has a lot to do with it. I suspect there isn’t a city on earth that is as alive, buzzing with a sincere joy of experiencing the moment. This may characterize Israel on the whole, although I mostly live in the Tel Aviv bubble, so I can’t say for sure. Tel Aviv literally is a bubble, by the way. The Iron Dome missile defense system shoots rockets out of the sky, which I heard working well the other night, and you can see in the video above.

I used to think about people moving to Israel and wonder, how can someone live like that? Under constant threat. Are they CRAZY? I don’t think I can live that way. I suppose now I ask that question about the people who live in areas of Israel that are on the borders and in short term range of rockets and other things that float over the borders with menacing design. They do suffer a much more threatening Israeli experience.

There is somewhere in the middle of extreme danger and extreme joy of life in Israel, that focuses like a laser on to each moment, a moment of being alive. Every day is a string of present moments, including time with friends and strangers at coffee shops, an argument with a cab driver, a rocket alarm, a conversation. It is hard to capture in words, it’s just the quality of aliveness in each little moment. Even the food here teems with piquancy.

There is a verb in Hebrew, meaning “to be”. It sounds like “lee hee yoht”. It conjugates to phrases like, “I was here”, “ha-yee-tee poh”, or “I will be there” “anee eh-hyeh shahm.”

Another way to look at is, “lee hee yot, oh, lo lee hee yot”, translating to the famous Shakespearean question, “to be or not to be?” My point here is, there is no conjugation of this verb meaning “to be” in the present tense in Hebrew. It just is what it is. There is no “is”. It just, well, is, if that makes any sense.

I was (ha-yee-tee, hee hee) in a Hebrew lesson when the rocket alarm sounded. There was confusion, and disbelief that it was occurring since it has been several years since Tel Aviv was on the receiving end of rocket attacks, though, as mentioned before, many rockets are sent to the periphery areas frequently. We heard the explosions outside, which confirmed the realness of the threat.

It was kind of funny being in a room with all new immigrants because it was the first time for all of us except our teacher, who seemed more confused than the rest of us. After the attack, it was near the end of the hour anyway so we finished class and went home.

As I walked home through the lively streets where people resumed their cocktails, visits, conversations and I must admit, I experienced happiness and a sense of comforting normalcy. I, and they, were enjoying the fulfilled moment between danger and joy, without thinking much about it. It is what I can only try to describe as a simple, fleeting, but worthwhile “is”.


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