How do you go from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness in five minutes? Is it a form of manic-depressive disorder? Is there a switch that they install in your brain when you make aliyah?
Back in the early days of living in Israel, my emotions and grief on Soldiers and Victims of Terror Remembrance Day were dialed way past 11. On my first Remembrance Day during my kibbutz experience, I cried all day – after having cried the whole day on Holocaust Remembrance Day the week before. In fact, my Hebrew teacher asked me to leave class because my outpouring of unfiltered emotion was just too much for her to bear. Later in the evening, we were all supposed to gather at the main field of the kibbutz to have a closing ceremony for this sad day. More tears and choking back sobs. Honestly, my love for Israel was quite dehydrating. And then everyone was waiting, murmuring to each other in quiet conversation, but just standing there.
Five minutes passed.
And then the fireworks began and everyone was laughing and cheering and they headed off to the biggest, wildest party of the year for Independence Day.
What the hell!?!?!
Today, the switch is working better. I get it. Soldiers who fought to protect us and this land died so that we could live. We honor them and then we not only should, but we are obligated to live and celebrate life. And this week, I stood for the sirens and enjoyed the fireworks.
Fireworks 2017 – it’s really hard to catch fireworks well with a phone camera
But what about those five minutes? As I was thinking about it this week, it seems to me that we are always in those five minutes. We just don’t notice because we are not switching between the depths of despair and the heights of happiness. It’s pretty exhausting to be at either extreme, but day-to-day life in Israel is that in-between time.
When an Israeli athlete wins a medal and you hear HaTikvah, there’s a swell of emotion – and we are in those five minutes.
When the internet company representative works on your internet just before a holiday and says the Shechechiyanu prayer of thanksgiving (in a Russian accent) when it works – we are in those five minutes.
When you take pride in Israelis helping wounded Syrians or building mobile hospitals in Haiti – we are in those five minutes.
When the insurance representative says “Tfu, tfu, tfu, that you should always be healthy” – we are in those five minutes.
When you hear Hebrew in unexpected places around the world, and you feel suddenly at home – we are in those five minutes.
When the veterinarian who made a house call for your cat takes a few minutes to say afternoon prayers in your living room – we are in those five minutes.
There are no substitutes for Remembrance Days and Independence Day and they’re important, but we ought to remember to declare our Zionism and love of Israel in those in-between times. We don’t need grand gestures and emotional extremes every day; it’s those ordinary everyday minutes that are the most special if we just take a moment to pay attention.