Sunday, August 7, 2005

#132 JAILED

Musings #132
August 7, 2005
The 2nd of Av

Jailed

I just got back from jail. Don’t panic; I wasn’t jailed, just visiting, no, not a prisoner. I joined the hundreds at the weekly Melaveh Malka (post Shabbat celebration) outside of the
Massiyahu Prison where many of the anti-Disengagement prisoners are.

First of all, I must admit that I hadn’t the vaguest idea of what to expect. There was an announcement in our weekly Shiloh newsletter of a bus going there, which meant that I had round-trip transportation and didn’t have to try to find a ride with neighbors. After three weeks in New York, which was like being in an episode of
Twilight Zone for me, I needed some strong doses of Israel’s reality. My return flight home with Nefesh B'Nefesh was wonderful, but I needed to catch up with Israeli reality. It’s much too easy to be oblivious to what’s happening in Israel and the danger the future of the entire country is in. Today’s situation makes it easier to understand how the Holocaust happened, how the world was silent. Yes, there are parallels, even though the government has threatened to arrest those of us who say so. If such reminders are considered “illegal” or “dangerous,” that proves that they’re disturbingly true.

On Shabbat, updates by my neighbors not only consisted of the news about the engagements, weddings and births I had missed, but they were primarily news about their children’s incarcerations. Yes, unfortunately, a number of local children are jailed. We’re not talking about juvenile delinquents in jail for drugs or gang violence, no rapists, murderers nor thieves, thank G-d. Our kids are in
jail for demonstrating, yes, and not showing fear of the police and other “crimes.”

This past Shabbat’s Parshat Shavua, Torah Portion of the Week was
Masei; it’s the last one in the book of “Numbers.” With my mind deeply into the terrible dangers of Disengagement I was so moved by the traditional end-of-book “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,” “be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened,” that I couldn’t focus on the words of “Birkat Ha Gomel,” the prayer I had gotten up to say, to thank G-d for bringing me safely home. Someone had to show me the words, even though I had rehearsed them from the very same siddur, just a few minutes earlier. It was more than jetlag. The Parsha summarizes the winding, almost aimless and endless path the Jewish People took through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. We are now on our way to Redemption, G-d willing. How long will it take? What detours still await us?

After Shabbat I took advantage of my jetlag and took the bus to jail. I was probably the oldest on the bus, for sure the oldest woman. Most of my fellow passengers were teens, friends, siblings and also a father of one of the prisoners. Honestly, I hadn’t the vaguest idea of where the jail is located and was totally surprised to be dropped off by a big shopping center and told that the bus would be returning at midnight, in an hour and twenty minutes. We walked across the road, ignoring and annoying traffic. There was the prison, surrounded by barbed wire and lights. At the far end of a large empty, sandy lot was a well-lit stage and a band was loudly performing a song which begged G-d to have mercy, “rachmu, rachmu,” on his children.

The rabbis decreed that even though music is forbidden during the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, there was a need to strengthen the prisoners who could hear it in their cells and those of us looking for more ways to beseech G-d. What we heard were serious prayers, not joyful dance music. There were also speeches and “Divrei Torah,” Words of Torah. The area kept filling with Jews of all ages and even entire families from tiny babies to those much older than myself. I was reassured that the prisoners knew we were there and could hear us.

Like Cinderella, we left before it was over. There were still people arriving when we began the trip home. And the kids are still in prison under the most severe conditions, while thieves and murderers are considered less dangerous.

In a sense I’m comforted by the fact that the government feels threatened, endangered by these youngsters, these good kids. It means that Sharon and his henchmen are very weak if these idealistic children have such power, such potential. They are Nachshon marching into the sea; they are Yitzchak calmly facing the knife. Let the soldiers and police learn from them, that obeying government orders will only bring destruction, G-d forbid.

“Chazak, Chazak, V’Nitchazek!”

Batya Medad, Shiloh
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