yin & yang of independence day


On the Jewish new year, we have a two day celebration, and there is a lot of feasting, and prayers and song… and then we have a fast day immediately after; it is called the fast of Gedalia in memory of a politician who got murdered about two thousand years ago. The fast day fits in right with the holiday, it is a built in anti-climax to the feast.


This week we have Independence Day. It comes with a prologue. The day before is memorial day, and that gives us the opportunity to thank the soldiers who died in defense of our country immediately before celebrating our independence. Each year is somewhat different. There have been times when the excitement and happiness of the holiday filled me before I had adequately mourned for our fallen soldiers. And there were times when I managed to transcend from mourning into joy exactly as prescribed, on the eve of Independence Day.


This year was different for me. I got into reveries of memorial day as never before. Could be because there has been a lot of politics in the air lately; a lot of political controversy here in Israel, and I couldn’t turn on the radio, even to hear the news without being exposed to an overdose of politics. And so, on memorial day, I chose not to listen to the radio as I usually do. Instead of listening to the stories of different soldiers who died in our many disparate wars, I thought back on some of my friends and relatives who had died in action. I got up in the morning and after a short prayer, started listening to a Jewish blues musician whom I thought could well accompany this day’s mood. I opened my mail, and there was a letter from my old friend Alan, who lives in the northern Negev. He wrote about memory and memories, which complemented some of my reflections.


My thoughts were on the painful memories. How to deal with them. There was a time when I was much younger, that I wished to erase them from my mind. I thought I knew how to do that at the time. I left a message with my mind, ‘don’t ever remind me’. And a whole block of memories just disappeared from my thoughts. Till one day, I was struggling with new problems… and decided to do some soul searching. Well what do you know? A whole slew of unexpected memories awoke, all of them ready to party in my head. I tried to relate to them from the perspective of an older man. I wasn’t old then, but I’d had quite a bit of experience since I’d lived those earlier times, and I was able to think of them rationally. It occurred to me that I had been a different man when I had those earlier experiences. I had kept growing… I had kept changing. And the circumstances around me had changed. Thinking about it, those earlier memories were part of an incarnation that I had lived and left. There had been more than one reincarnations since then, and I was truly living another life today. It seemed I could look back and consider the events of that previous lifetime without suffering all the pain.


Thinking back to fighting and war, losing a friend who was a true hero with a lion’s heart… another friend, who had been disadvantaged from childhood, and overcame a handicapped body, built a life for himself, and found a wife and started a family relatively late in life, only to be stabbed in the back by an Arab at a bus stop. He might not even have known what hit him. It’s a hot day in Jerusalem. A taste of summer in the spring. There’s something of a dust cloud over us, blocking out the blue skies. But they say it’ll cool down tomorrow and the skies will clear. It should be a good day for a celebration. I plan to go out on my balcony, and have a picnic there with friends. I used to go out to nature to have that picnic, according to the advice of Rabbi Cook. He said it would be proper to celebrate the holiday by walking at least four paces on our land where we’d never been before. And this was something I enjoyed doing. But then there were more and more people who did likewise, and now there are millions who go out on the holiday, and I don’t want to be caught in a traffic jam in my search for ‘nature’. So I find satisfaction on my back balcony, outside but still attached to home. When you’re fighting for your life… or your country, you like to think of the future, and your hopes for your survivors. You think of destiny. But on independence day this year, I’ll just enjoy the present. I’ll sit with my friends on the balcony, and open a bottle of wine. I’ll enjoy the freedom that those friends dreamed of when fighting our country’s battles.


54 responses to “yin & yang of independence day

  1. Your plans sound lovely. My best wishes for your Memorial Day and Independence Day.

  2. Listening to the old stories can be very reflective. History has much to tell us that is applicable today and our future – well, if only people would take time to listen and think! Best wishes on our Independence Day.

    • I agree with you, Frank. It sounds so obvious when it’s stated plainly… ‘to listen and think’, but strangely, some of us take a long time to realize that… and I suppose that others are so caught up in the immediacy of life, that they allow themselves to move with the momentum and no more. Thanks for the good wishes.

  3. Nothing is more precious than the presence being present with your love ones. I am.drawn to your blog because of what I can learn from you as a human being. Thank you for sharing your Words as always.

    • Thank you for joining me here, Perpetua. We are at the dawn of a new age, learning of circles of friendship that we weren’t able to see before. We get to know people in far away places, other circumstances… and to our surprise, find consolation and encouragement in the similarities that we sense between the lines, and over the hills…

  4. Yes, I was thinking that all the way through your beautiful meditation, Shimon: May we have comfort and peace—and gratitude—for all the lives we’ve lived and loves we have shared, and may we be alive to what is before us. Blessings on you and your gathering of friends. Living and dead.

  5. How much I have learned through your blog. I have missed reading it. Thank you for sharing such insight. sheryl aka Freeasthewind

    • What a pleasant surprise to see you again, Sheryl. I remember you so well from the BCUK years, and it is good to meet you again. I’ll have to check if you have a new blog and hope to read an update on what’s been happening in your world in recent years. Best wishes and many thanks for your comment.

  6. Blessings Shimon! I’m sorry that you have to have such dreams. You almost entered the AI of what we call the human soul. I was not aware of this holiday. (This happens a Lot when I read you). Is the four step thing something you do yearly. Once again…thank you for sharing.

    • Yes Bob, the four steps is something that I used to do yearly. Not everyone does it, but Rabbi Cook influenced a lot of people here. The holiday itself is like your 4th of July Independence Day, though we celebrate it a little differently. But some of the things are the same here as they are in your country. For instance, fire crackers. They are quite popular here on this holiday.

  7. Enjoy your special holidays. It would be nice to say that peace will come for your country, but sadly your neighbours don’t want this.

    • You’re right, Peter. After years of disappointment, it is hard to drum up any enthusiasm about peace on earth. I have to admit to myself that we live in a difficult neighborhood. But there is still the aspiration to find peace in our own hearts and with our close friends and neighbors. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Know much too little about your country, history and customs, friend Shimon, but do appreciate your words … and also the beautiful pictures .. thank you for sharing … Love, cat.

    • Thank you cat. Always good to hear from you. This internet has revealed so many doors to all of us, that were we to start opening them, one after another, we wouldn’t get far before we’d give up from exhaustion and a lack of time. I find it a bit like a walk in the woods, with a grateful whiff of a wildflower along the way, and a friendly not at a familiar tree that I’ve noticed before. love

  9. The blessing and sorrow of memory can take you at least four paces afield from anywhere we’ve been before. A glass of wine, perhaps a breeze, the laughter of friends can also bring us to joys that are new again and again. Shalom

  10. I’m glad you were able to spend this day with friends. I am sure that the conversation covered both the memories of the past as well as talk of the present. We cannot have one without the other.

    • You know, it was only six days ago, and I can’t remember what we talked about exactly. We amused one another… the talk was light. We had a barbeque, and enjoyed the outside air. There was some joy in the air. And here we are, back to the day to day life… and that is good too. Wishing you many good days, dear Corina, with a few happy holidays sprinkled among them.

      • It’s the time spent together that is important and the mood is what we remember. I visited my son and his family two weekends ago and we didn’t do anything special. We ate and sat together and chatted. We looked at pictures. We had a good time together and that is what I will remember. Time together and good feelings. We didn’t have to do anything special to make it a memorable time. That’s how it is with family.

  11. Lovely pictures, Shimon. Nature gives always a fantastic impression and helps to soothe the inner troubles. But most wonderful is to spend such time with good friends, sharing the love and positive thoughts. Have a nice journey… 🙂 claudine

    • Like yourself, I find great consolation in nature, Claudine. It widens my perspective and brings me great consolation. Perhaps in the past, humans felt threatened by nature, and were desperate to gain control. But as we gained more control and pushed nature back, we saw less of the whole picture and became more entranced by staring at our own reflection as seen in our many inventions. Thank you so much for your good wishes.

  12. I envy the fact you still have a community spirit.In many nations in the West it has gone. Possibly due to Science being seen as the highest endeavour and a feeling of meaninglessness
    I love the last photograph

    • Yes, I am grateful for that community spirit. But I have to say, that through the years I’ve seen a lessening of the importance of community, and local activities. Globalization is affecting all societies, and even in our society there are people who are embarrassed by any show of local pride which is interpreted as primitive chauvinism. The issues haven’t been decided yet. but it is interesting to watch the drift of things. Now and then I am reminded of the past, and it puts an accent on the direction we are taking. I can only hope for the best. Thank you, Andrea

  13. Taking joy in the moment with good friends – that sounds like the best we can do in the present time of too much politics. All good wishes. And those are lovely photos. That first plant, whose name escapes me, is growing on the neighbouring plot at the allotment. It’s just thrusting up all over the place.

    • That first picture is of the seed pod of the dandelion. I think I love it so much because of its delicacy… so frail… ready to spread the seeds in the wind. Thanks for your good wishes, Tish. Time seems to be flying past. I visited a center for community gardens this week and thought about you. Today we’re having a bit of a flash back to winter.

  14. What a wonderful celebration. Thank you, Mr. Shimon for sharing this special day with us. I agree it is joyful to spend the day with friends. I, too, enjoy these beautiful photos very much. The beauty of nature symbolizes hope and freedom.

    • It is so easy to slip into a routine… to occupy ourselves with all sorts of obligations. It gives us a sense of security. And were it not for the occasional break, a look at nature or a picnic with friends, all of our life could pass us by, and we wouldn’t even notice. And nature offers us an infinity of other worlds. Glad you enjoyed this, Amy.

  15. It’s hard to know what to add to these pensive wanderings through time. Yes, we can instruct the cerebral filing system to relieve us of the experiences of a selection of life’s memories, but, as you say, ‘it’ has a habit of bouncing out some of those ‘forgotten’ events, or, the memories of particular people. I sometimes think that when it happens, we have a chance to reflect, as you have done, and where appropriate, are given the opportunity to let go of something we sub-consciously no longer need to work at detaching ourselves from. This does not though, apply to every memory nudge. Notwithstanding, it does often mean devoting more than a passing thought to many of those memories.

    On the other hand, there is that frustrating experience of the cerebral filing system very effectively disabling a range of general memories, especially people’s names. We are left with vague memories of our past, never to really remember any detail with the sharpness that once there was. This is the time of life, when brain, on life’s overload, has, of its own volition made an executive decision about what type of archiving of our personal and emotional data it will perform.

    Momentous and exceptional memories also fade at the edges, however, because of their nature, they are not truly or easily forgotten.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the overload of external media. To make your own sense of it, it is desirable, indeed, I believe it to be necessary, to physically switch off and separate from it.

    You talk of much to celebrate, much to mourn, and always much to learn.

    • What you say about the vagaries of memory echo my personal experience exactly. There are times when I’m disturbed by the lack of a name, by the haziness of a memory… and then I remind myself of the joke about the ‘alternative’. So we go on, and appreciate what we can. Thanks for the comment, menhir, and for the greeting… we won’t give up on our desire for peace.

  16. P.S. So absorbed was I in your words, I forgot (doh!) to say how striking and beautiful your photos are. As well, they are so apt with this post.

    • So glad you liked the pictures. Having less obligations at this stage of my life, I have more time to stare goggle eyed at nature, and just wonder and purr.

  17. I sometimes wonder if it is good to be remember the past so much. Still that is your tradition. Few other cultures last long enough to have memories as deep and beautiful. Yet unless we feel very safe and secure with support from others we can be re- traumatised by the past. I hope you have that support.I feel sure you give it to others.

    • Life offers us so many opportunities to be re-traumatized, Maria, that I don’t think we have to worry too much about memories. Our memories get dull with the years, and trodden over. and there’s a new horror and a new promise every day. What we have on our side as human beings, is the choice of what to look for, and what to think about… and I am grateful for that choice.

  18. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and interesting stories!

  19. A wonderful post, I did enjoy your reflections, how sad to hear of your friends, what a waste of wonderful lives. Sometimes I wonder what life is all about….. These pictures are marvelous, I loved that flowering cactus and dandelion, thank goodness for nature, something that always amazes us. Your picnic on the balcony with friends and wine sounds perfect, I hope you enjoyed it.xxx

    • As time goes by, I find myself wondering more and more about life; what it’s all about. I had a very full life, and it kept me busy most of the time. Now I’m free to enjoy and contemplate… and it seems more wonderful than ever before. That cactus which grows wild in our country, and its fruit which is known as the prickly pear is seen as the symbol of native born Israelis, because they’re thorny on the outside but sweet and soft on the inside. And the dandelions are among my favorite wild flowers. Nature can be a source of great joy. Thank you so much for your comment, Dina. The picnic was just fine. xxx

  20. In the middle ages in Europe there were I believe many Christian feast days when the workers got a day off to go to church and then enjoy themselves but modern factories etc did not allow the machines to be off so much.I can see you have kept your traditions

  21. We need to have stories whether personal or national and ideally stories we like and are proud of. I really like your photographs. Being a photographer must be very nice.

  22. Dear friend, your posts leave me speechless, but I can try. Your words, and your images, are pure poetry. Your mental and pictorial associations are so subtle, and beautiful – one thing leads to another, not in the expected way, but in a more profound way, and that’s what I like about your view of the world. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Lynn. It can be a challenge at times to translate the day to day realities from one culture to another. I am reminded of those long and fragile foot bridges that cross a chasm in mountainous countries. On occasion it seems impossible, but it’s always a learning experience to try.

  23. While we need to remember the past, we need to enjoy the present with an understanding of what that past has done to create it. Thanks for your thought provoking words.

    • There’s an interesting balance between the present and the past. I’ve always thought that learning the past was most important for the young, so they could realize how and why the world looks the way it does when they arrive. It gives us a much better perspective of our own situation when we’re aware of the work, struggles, and inventions that helped us reach the comforts we enjoy today. But when I hear students describe their struggle to remember dates of a particular discovery or war in the past, and hate history because of that, I think we’re teaching history incorrectly. What we have to do is give them a picture of what life was like a hundred and a thousand years ago. Thanks for your comment, Bev. Glad you found this post.

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