Good evening everyone and thank you for coming to another end of the year event.
I was thinking a lot about what I’ll share with you tonight. But when I looked deep inside myself I realized that the real story is my divorce.
I got divorced this year. At the first few month I told myself all different kind of horror stories: how I’m going to fail, that this is the end of my good years and now I’ll be homeless.
It’s not that these stories really happened physically, but it happened in my head. I was scared; I was confused, all the daemons started to come.
You know my stories from the past, I have a pessimistic side and I also have an optimistic side. But when something is not working well I start to feel that the world would collapse, that I won’t be able to survive and that the end is coming.
Those stories started to overwhelm me, I started to be very reserved and felt like I couldn’t really function.
At some point I took a very big breath and asked myself what it is, that I am so scarred of. When I asked that question, at that moment I remembered something that happened to me 30 years ago, when I was at the military.
That was the time, for those of you who remember, that Rafful was the chief commander. Rafful really wanted all soldiers to wear their army barrettes at all times, tuck their shirts in their pants, so that he would be proud of all soldiers.
One day, after a night shift, I don’t know what happened to me, but I basically forgot that I am a soldier. I had my uniforms on but nothing other than that. I was basically naked. I had no ID, nothing but my shirt and pants. I was about to hitch hike back home. As I was going toward the stop where we used to stand, I saw an army policeman looking at me like that: now my heart started to beat really fast. What am I going to do? this is really scary. Should I run? He was with his motorcycle, just waiting for me. At that time they were really serious about all those soldiers who thought they could walk in any way they want, because we were supposed to be neat.
So running away wasn’t an option, and hide? Where would I hide? He could see me; he was waiting, looking straight at me. At that moment, suddenly everything stopped and got quiet. I realized I do have an opportunity here.
As you remember, whenever I have an opportunity I always say yes. So what opportunity do I have here? I always wanted to know how it is to be in prison. So I said: “you know, you can just put me in prison”.
He was completely shocked. He looked at me and didn’t understand what is going on with me. He asked me what’s wrong with you. And I said, I know that I am not dressed by code. I started giving him all the reasons why he should put me in prison. You probably want to ticket me, but there is one problem: you will probably ask for my ID, but I don’t have my ID with me. I don’t have my wallet with me. And I can’t actually prove you who I am. I don’t know how you will know my name. I can give you any name that I want. I don’t see how we resolve that. So the only way, for you to deal with me right now, take me with you and let’s get over with it. He was totally in shock. Probably nobody ever approached him like that. He said: you know what? Just go home and never do that again.
That moment of quiet and asking myself the question: what is going on? What are the options?
At this moment I realized that basically those are fake daemons in my head. Because, really why am I worried?
Well, maybe I won’t be able to do as good as I have done before? I have lived already before with nothing. I have done it. I could live on the street. I have done it before. This is another story.
But now I have my kids. And the kids… I was really worried about them. How am I going to provide for them? You know that I grew up in a kibbutz. I started to reflect on the way I grew up in the kibbutz. I realized that we give them way, way more than they really need.
Can you guess what I asked for my Bat Mitzvah? Try to guess. What did I ask my parents to give me for my Bat Mitzvah? Believe it or not, the only thing I wanted was a big towel.
In the kibbutz we had really small, narrow towels that you couldn’t really get dry with. They weren’t big enough. My dream was to have big towel. So on the day of my Bat Mitzvah, a big towel was waiting for me on the table, at my parent’s room: a big pink and white towel with pink flamingos. It went with me a long way and even my son, Itamar, knows this towel. It went with me all the way from Israel to Switzerland and to the US, and just recently had vanished into dust. It was with me for almost 40 years. For my 13th birthday I got a pen. A Parker pen, with my name engraved on it from my father. Small things, made huge difference. It was great! It was mine and it was very valuable to me. So basically they, my kids, can live with much less than what we give them. They will be fine.
The other thing I realized is that we worry about them too much. That maybe I should give them a little bit more freedom. Well, not as much freedom as I am going to tell you about right now. I won’t be able to survive giving them that much freedom.
When I was 14, just so you understand: my daughter Aya is going to be 14 in 5 month. Maybe I was 14.5, I was in 9th grade and it was Passover vacation. In Israel Passover vacation lasts for 3 weeks. We were about to leave to go home. I bumped into one of my friends. He was a 10th grader, twice as tall as I was and very skinny. He looked like spaghetti. “Hi Shachar, how are you”? “Good”.
Now, for Shachar, school was just a recommendation. He wasn’t really there. He was wondering around. The classroom wasn’t really for him. And he was cool. I asked what his plans were for this vacation, and he said: “well, I think I want to go to Sinai desert, will you want to go with me”?
You know what my answer was “of course I want, when are we going?”
“Well, go pack your stuff, let’s go tonight”.
I left his kibbutz, went back to my kibbutz, went to the kitchen, packed up some food cans, some peas, beans, some corn, dried fruits, then I packed some cloths. I don’t remember that, but I guess that I needed some cloths, and a sleeping bag. I was already on my way to the bus stop when it just occurred to me that it might be a good idea to tell my parents that I am about to leave.
I had no clue for how long we are going and we didn’t have any cellphones back then. But I thought that I don’t want them to worry too much and it might be a good idea to let them know that I am leaving.
I went to my mother and said that I am leaving to Sinai today, and I am not sure when I’ll be back. She looked at me like I threw a bomb at her and said:” I don’t think it’s a good idea”. I looked at her shrugged my shoulders and said: “I don’t care”.
You see, In the kibbutz, the parents had no authority over us. We just raised ourselves. We felt very strong and independent and thought that we didn’t need the “old” people much.
She wasn’t that old back then. Maybe 34 -35, but to me she seemed very old. So I left. She gave me a little bit of money and I guess she prayed that she will see me again. I’m standing here now, so you can tell that there was a good ending to it.
In the afternoon I met Shachar, we organized our stuff and planned to leave at night. Can you imagine two kids leaving at about 10-11 pm to hitchhike, because we didn’t have much money, to Eilat and from there to Sini?
I will never let even my older boys do that. It’s not anything that I can imagine any of them doing. But we felt like kings like we knew what was going on and we thought everything was under control.
Does any of the Israelis know why we went to Eilat at the middle of the night?
Our kibbutz was on the path to Eilat, and the trucks used to go to Eilat during the night. We thought that the drivers are lonely and would like to have some company riding with them. And what’s better than having with you two kids going to Eilat?
So we went around 11 pm to the main road and started hitchhiking. The plan worked. Sure enough a big, fancy truck stopped to us. Two seats next to the driver, a bed behind…
We were in, on our way to Eilat. At around 3-4 am we arrived, said goodbye, went to take a nap on the beach and a bit later continued into Sinai.
Every time there is a vacation in Israel, everyone is on their way, traveling. As we were hitchhiking a young couple that just got married, stopped for us. They were on their honeymoon.
Now, I am not sure why would they want to pick up two teenagers on their honeymoon, but anyway we were in the car. They didn’t know much about Sinai and they asked us where we were going.
Shachar was the expert and knew everything. I think that they were very happy that we knew more than they knew. So we directed them to Sharm A’Sheich and then went to Ras Muhammad, which is at the tip of the Sinai desert. After a week with them, we told them that in the middle of the desert there are very high mountains. These mountains get covered with snow, sometime when there is rain, during the winter. And once that snow melts, it fills the valleys with water, there are pools in the middles of the desert, and trees: palms and figs. It’s beautiful over there.
I guess that the way we described that to them, they got really excited. So we drove all the way to the middle of the desert to Santa Catharina. At the very top of one of these mountains there is a monastery. Just below that there is a very special Bedouin tribe, so we stayed with them a few days there. They left before we did. I am not sure how we did our way back home, but the fact of the matter is that I am here. I guess we figured it out and we were fine.
I know that my kids won’t do such a stupid thing, but I realize that I can relax with regard to their well being. They will be fine. Perhaps it is better to have less and trust them more. We give them so much that we don’t allow them to figure out anything by themselves. We are taking away from them the challenges.
I realized that I don’t need to worry. They will be fine. I also realized that my fears are like those skeletons you see when you go to a Mexican restaurant: all those daemons and things, they are not really scary…Those are just decorations in my mind. They are not something real. They are something that I should ignore.
But during this year I have seen someone who was really straggling. There are people that have real challenges in life. I thought to myself that I have to put things in proportion. When I see a kid straggling with cancer, a family that everyday has to worry about this, that’s scary! That’s something that is an everyday struggle.
To face my own fears I thought that I have to do something, get out of my comfort zone.
I wanted to give back. I wanted to give hope, to the kids that are fighting every day, or do something to make a little change in their life. They are the ones who are really straggling.
I think that I told you a couple of years ago about this beautiful organization “Larger than Life”. It was founded in 2000 by Israeli parents to kids who struggle with cancer. They do beautiful things, they build classrooms inside hospitals, they help families that have to go abroad for cancer treatments, and they make kids’ dreams come true. They give hope and something to live for to those kids.
I thought to myself that I have to do something that will challenge me, to show myself that I can face my fears. I decided that this year, I want to give $10,000 to those kids, to this organization, Larger than Life.
I’ll show myself that I’ll be fine. I will be OK. I want to make a difference in their lives.
The moment I made that decision: that I am going to give something back to them, I felt that all the bad energy, all those daemons that were in my life had vanished.
There was a plan. And good things started to happen and good energy started to come.
I really believe that when we let go, we don’t fight for things, we don’t hold it, we let go and it’s OK, more good things will come to us.
So I have learned something about myself this year, and I hope that I will make a difference in a few kids and families’ lives.
When you go out don’t forget to take with you the little goody bag we prepared for you. I put a flyer with some information about Larger than Life there.
I also want to thank Avigail, who joined me this year. She was with me though my bad days with my bad energy and my good days. I am not always the same, not always that nice. I am trying, but it’s not always working.
Irene Finkelstein, who is always there and is such a good friend, I love you.
And I love all of you and I thank you so much for being there for me, being my friends. There is a photo booth for you, there is more food and be sure on your way out to get this goody bag J