NIMBY vs. OK-IYBY – the Movie

I spent 22 years living in Connecticut. It was a beautiful state to raise my children in with easy proximity to the coast, excellent schools, country trails, farms, and the MetroNY railroad to get you into Grand Central Station in 110 minutes. It may not have been a totally halcyon existence, but it was pretty damned nice. But the one watchword that has stuck with me is, NIMBY, an acronym for Not In My Backyard. This was a buzzword used to castigate neighborhood organizations that didn’t want the construction of a new sports field in their neighborhood (backyard) because it might bring too many cars, lawn chairs, and loud shouts of “Goal!!!!” spoiling their quiet weekend mornings. From where I sit today with the reality, not the fear of “perhaps,” but the reality of tunnels opening up into sleeping children’s bedrooms in the kibbutzim near Gaza, the construction and ballagan of a green pasture filled with happy, healthy, and safe children in my backyard sounds pretty good.

OK. So we don’t have sports NIMBY here in Israel. But we sure are feeling as if the greater world view is not one of NIMBY, but OK-IYBY, or “OK In Your BackYard.” Where is there any place on this massive globe known as Mother Earth that would be complacent to the reality of tunnels coming anywhere near their homes . . .even harmless little gofer tunnels. But for some reason, it’s OK-IYBY, or in our case, our back yard.

Maybe I should write a screen play for a new action movie starring Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis, Jason Stathon, and Dwayne Johnson (a dream team of heroes). [WARNING – this will be an R-rated, action packed movie]. The team is called upon to stop a heinous, meticulously coordinated terror attack upon scores of unsuspecting communities filled with young families, farmers, and many, many children.  The plot includes the undetected construction of numerous tunnels, patiently clawed out over the past few years without benefit of backhoes, cranes, and other heavy equipment . . . but shovel by shovel, propelled by a fervent and unflagging sense of zealotry. The tunnels spread out like the myriad terrorists cells who labor away to maximize the terror of their event. Unbelievably, and as only possible in a Hollywood movie, the tunnels openings are only inches beneath the crib of a newborn, behind the stacks of rice in the local supermarket, a basement in a house of worship. We see both sides of the story play out, drawn into the tunnelers’ unremitting patience and dogged perseverance toward their cause transposed against the communities’ life in their chosen community.

Cut to a  New Year’s eve celebration, with families gathered in a festive mood and filled with hope for a good year to come.  Children laugh, mothers smile and reflect on how much they’ve grown since last year and wonder how they’ll change in the next. New couples hold hands, glad for the excuse to be with friends and family for a happy occasion.  The camera switches to the tunnelers who, at the appointed hour, and in a perfectly coordinated maneuver, smash through the last inches of dirt and wall that separates them from their targets.

The tension mounts, the music starts to vibrate with a deep base thump, thump, thump that makes your heart start to race. Then . . . silence. You hold your breath, knowing that in the next moments, something unimaginable is going to happen. You know it’s going to happen, but you can’t stop it.

In the next instant, rifle muzzles vomit endless sprays of bullets, flashes, and death. Freeze frame to the faces of the surprised families caught in the carnage and screams of their families. Children run, hide, lovers catch last glances of each other as they fall. The scene repeats itself over and over and over as scores of terrorists mow down the revelers in a carnage-laden barrage of  fire that only Hollywood can aptly capture..

But where are our heroes? In the last scene we have seen them covertly working on a counterattack based on intelligence from their underground and contacts, but lamenting their frustration over their inability to prevent each and every rampage that is now playing out across the screen. The viewer finds themselves inching forward in their seats, their mouths agape, their fists clenched in their boxes of popcorn. No! No! No! they shout.

Silence reigns once again through the theater as the viewers have a pause to digest what they have just seen on the screen. You can almost hear their hearts thumping against their chests . . .

Then some wiseguys in the balcony break the spell as they yell down to those viewers in the front line of frozen like statues in disbelief. “It’s OK guys because it’s NIMBY.  . .It’s IYBY.

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I Went to Visit the Witch of Endor . . .

. . . but I didn’t realize it at the time. Typical Ellin.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the nearby kibbutz of Ein Dor to meet up with a ceramic artist that I know. I wanted to commission something special for a dear friend of mine and so we decided to meet at the artist’s kibbutz. I asked my friend, Ephraim, if he’d like to join me. Ephraim is also a recent oleh to Afula and we both share a penchant for exploring our new country without any real set plans. Just put a few places on a list and head out . . .and if something else captures your fancy, then just turn into a different road and explore that one.  Serendipity rarely disappoints.

The road to the kibbutz took us up north, past Mount Tabor and through some winding ways through fields of olive trees and vineyards. Part of the road was lined with tall cypresses, other parts with rows of Eucalyptus trees whose long leaf-filled branches swayed in the air, dancing with the hill-top breezes. Had the fields been just a bit greener, you could almost convince yourself that you were in Provence (minus the Eucalyptus trees). It is one of the most beautiful, pastoral vistas in Northern Israel, made more intense by the fact that this beauty just appears as you come around a bend in the road. For just a few seconds you’re free of any external concerns — there are no political, economic, or religious hot buttons. The land is just there. Pure, simple, and welcoming on a hot summer’s afternoon.

As we turned into the kibbutz, I saw a sign bearing Israel’s ubiquitous symbol for an archaeological site: a stylized face of a Roman temple with it’s pediment atop a row of fat columns. That’s all I need to get excited. A dig! A museum! We’re walking through history!

Wow! I said to Ephraim. I didn’t realize there was a tell here. “Sure,” he replied. “This is where King Saul went the night before his final, epic battle on nearby Mt. Gilboa” [where all was lost and he fell on his sword in shame and sorrow at the loss of his army and his sons to the Philistines]. He continued, “He came here to meet the witch of Ein Dor, and for her to summon the ghost of the prophet Samuel. Saul, abandoned by any signs from God pleaded to know how he would fare in the next day’s battle. Samuel wasn’t too thrilled to have been pulled from his eternal rest and chastised Saul for dragging him into the realm of the living. When Saul pleaded for Samuel to tell him what the outcome of the next’s day’s battle would be, Samuel retorted, ‘I will not meet with you, but you will meet with me!’ “

There it was. The moment where I realized the connection between Ein Dor and Endor. The Witch of Endor. “Really?” I shouted at myself, more in annoyance at my own delayed ability to make the connection rather than the realization of the connection itself. The Witch of Endor! For some reason, I had thought she was a fiction of Old English tales, that she dwelt in a dark, enchanted forest in an ancient England lost in time and necromancy. Or was she Roman, living in a small temple high atop an inaccessible mountain, sniffing noxious, psychotropic gases emitted from a crack in the precipice’s rock face? But legend puts her here in the Jezreel Valley, only 15 minutes away from my home? Couldn’t be.

And how had I not made the connection between Ein Dor and Endor. Much like Beit Lechem and Bethlehem (the “House of Bread,” or area where grew fields of grain, life’s sustenance), there it was . . . just waiting for me to put the two halves together and wait for that glorious, “ah HA!” feeling. To be honest, that’s one of the best things about getting lost in Israel. You never know when you’ll run smack into the bridge between past and present.

As for visiting the Witch herself, they say that if you walk around the fields, you just might find her. So I’ll have to return again and visit the tell. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, I just might run into her. The problem is, I  have no idea what to ask her. I’m not so sure I’d like someone to tell me my future. I’m having too much fun discovering it for myself.