Sunday, November 24, 2002

History in the Making

Morale has been low at the company where I work. Three rounds of layoffs in a little over a year’s time will do that. So the company organized a “Day Away” recently, a "Yom Gibush" in Hebrew.

At about noon, the close to 100 employees in our group took off from the company parking lot in a fleet of banged up Land Rovers and other brands of jeeps on a 10-hour scavenger hunt and gourmet dinner.

We were charged with an innovative range of morale-boosting and team-building tasks: to convince a thoroughly befuddled gas station manager to allow us to pose as attendants filling up a car…in gas station uniforms; to figure out how to climb to the top of a lifeguard tower (without a ladder) in order to take a group picture; to search for buried treasure in the sand dunes of a deserted beach near Hadera (we found lots of garbage but no treasure).

By dinner time, our 15 jeeps pulled into Kibbutz Beit Oren for an outrageously lavish meal: appetizers of sushi and goose-liver pate, duck stuffed with mish-mish (apricot), prime rib, sweet potato ravioli, hot chocolate mousse cake.

The entire event was reminiscent of the “good old days” of hi-tech, when rappelling trips to the desert and weekends away in Turkey and Greece were as de rigueur as shiatsu sessions at lunch. Our Day Away certainly cost a pretty penny, but who’s complaining (actually, after 10 hours in the jeep, I could use the shiatsu just about now).

This being Israel, as we scavenged around the countryside, our driver fed us tidbits of history. We traveled back in time to visit the Roman and Byzantine-era aqueducts near Caesarea. Then we revisited the waves of early immigration to such Northern coastal towns as Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov. We had a brief stop at Ramat HaNadiv, the expansive public gardens surrounding the Baron De Rothschild’s gravesite, before swinging past the Carmel Winery, the largest in Israel.

Then we traveled into the near present and the future. We passed the Binyamina Train Station where a terrorist blew himself up in July 2001 killing two and injuring ten. We moved on a little bit further and stopped in the middle of a field to look at the view. With the pungent smell of burning chickens emanating from the kibbutz factory behind us, our guide gestured into the distance, pointing out for us the Karkur Junction, the site of last month's bus bombing that killed 14.

"See those buildings on the hill," our guide explained. "That’s Umm-El-Fahum. And just beyond there is where the first section of the Separation Fence is being built."

As he continued, I realized this was not just a study of the history of the country at some point in the past. This is history-in-the-making. New events that will indelibly shape the region and people’s opinions are being created daily. They are just as much a part of the history as the degree of the incline of the aqueduct that was so precisely calculated by the Romans to bring water from the Taninim Spring to the cities along the coast.

And then suddenly, at that point, I understood what Marla meant when she wrote: “I have a front row seat for the history of the Jewish people.”

That’s why we’re here. Because we can go to see the places in the Friday paper’s headlines, not just the history books. And those places are just around the corner.

It’s not just the negatives: there is a new minyan in our neighborhood that is pushing the boundaries of “halachic egalitarism.” Over near the airport is a working prototype for the world’s first flying car, being designed by an Israeli. In the hospitals, new discoveries are changing our understanding of schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and other diseases.

These could be anywhere. But they’re not. And we feel a connection, a distinctly Jewish connection.

“There’s no place I’d rather be,” wrote Marla. Would that you were still here to go jeeping with us, Marla, to visit the places in the headlines together.

While our jeep jumped the dunes near Hadera , we also were asked to solve various riddles. Here’s one of my favorites.

Look at the following sequence of 9 letters.


What should be the next letter in the sequence? If you think you know the answer, click the Comments button below.

NEW: Listen to "This Normal Life" on your cellphone! Courtesy of Jerusalem Post Radio. Right now, the piece you've just read - "History in the Making" - can be heard after a short newscast by dialing:
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