Galilee Diary #471, December 30, 2009 Marc Rosenstein
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die... -Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Last Thursday, after a long struggle with cancer, Tsippy Oren, a veteran member of Shorashim, passed away, at home, at the age of 58. She was a remarkable member of a remarkable family. Classically "secular" Israelis deeply sympathetic to the liberal religious orientation of Shorashim, devout Zionists, strong advocates for social justice and civil society, open minded and open hearted - a sort of embodiment of the mythical Israeli. Tsippy was an occupational therapist, but beyond her professional commitments she was always quietly finding ways to help others - bereaved families, Arab women, families in trouble - and who knows who else. One son helped found a new kibbutz dedicated to education and social activism without great prospects for prosperity; a daughter became ultra-orthodox. The Orens didn't miss a beat and remained a model of a close and loving and inclusive family. Tsippy was our liaison when we were first visiting and considering joining Shorashim, and was our advocate when our candidacy was questioned because of our advanced age (44). I think part of what drew us here was the prospect of living in a community made up of people like her. Her loss is a very sad moment for all of us at Shorashim - all the more so because it represents a sort of actuarial turning point for us; in the early days of the community a young mother died of cancer, but that was an anomaly, a tragedy. In this death, on the other hand, we all hear the clock ticking.
A few days earlier, Inbar Shoham was born in Poriyah hospital. Her parents are a young couple who joined Shorashim just a few months ago, living in a mobile home unit while they start the process of building a house in our new neighborhood. Benny comes from an Orthodox home, Tirzah from a secular kibbutz. They jumped into communal life here upon arrival, participating in holiday committees and cultural events, becoming active in the synagogue, and exuding a general feeling of being happily at home and part of the community. Those of us who think about and worry about the future of Shorashim, who see the community as characterized not just by quality of life or even by life style but by values - and would like to see the community perpetuate those values - have high hopes for this new family.
There was a baby-naming and a kiddush on Shabbat morning, and it was really joyous; after sundown there was a crowd for the shivah minyan at the house of mourning a few hundred yards away.
The Druze religion holds that there is a fixed number of Druze souls in the world, so when a member of the community dies, his/her soul returns in a newborn baby somewhere in the Druze world. I've never been convinced of the math, and in any case the concept doesn't work for me, even if there have been some Jewish kabbalistic thinkers who have put forth similar ideas. But it is hard to escape the symbolism of the coincidence of the two biological events that occurred in this community last week. A community is like an organism; it grows and develops, losing cells and gaining new ones, all the while holding to some central identity, a form, an envelope of beliefs and behaviors and values that make it different from all other communities. But unlike an organism, whose characteristics are largely determined by its DNA, a community has no such powerful regulatory mechanism - you can never be sure just what it will look like in the next generation. All you can do is work at it, educating, advocating, trying to build institutions - and taking comfort, now and then, from moments of fulfillment and symbolic gestures and events that carry a message of hope.