Blossoming almond trees in Golan Heights, northern Israel
Blossoming almond trees in Golan Heights, northern IsraelFlash 90

“Sittin’ in the morning’ sun

I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

Watching the ships roll in

Then I watch ‘em, roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh

I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Wastin’ time

….Look like nothin’s gonna change

Everything, still remains the same

I can’t do what ten people tell me to do

So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Sittin’ here restin’ my bones

And this loneliness won’t leave me alone, listen

Two thousand miles, I roam

Just to make this dock my home

Now I’m just gon’ sit, at the dock of the bay

Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh yeah

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Wastin’ time”

(Otis Redding)

It was only last week, that the month-long lockdown finally ended. With a lightness of spirit that had been absent for quite a while, I ventured out of the house with my son and grandchildren. Across the street, along a small path which led past two homes to an open field. I found myself surrounded suddenly by expansiveness, by beauty, by a glimpse of eternity. Open fields stretched out towards the horizon, merging with a vast, light blue sky. I gazed in awe and wonder at the spectacle of Life. Of pure Life which has continued untouched during the past year. I was amazed at the panorama of color, of beauty and joy unfolding before my eyes. Butterflies flitting among the flowers. Bees harvesting in glorious buzz. Mosquitoes drifting above a warm light brown pool of water, glistening in the morning sun, their wings sparkling.

I couldn't help but marvel at the ramifications of a year of restriction, fear, anxiety, on the viewpoint of the soul, on the freedom of the spirit. Two houses and a small lane separated me for almost year from a clear picture of life, of vastness, of magnificence, of the continuity of God’s kingdom upon earth, upon the Promised Land

Two houses and a small lane.

And it did not enter my mind to take the walk.

With the ending of this month-long period of restriction, there was a feeling in the air that now life would be a bit different. Perhaps because of the vaccine. Perhaps because we simply have gotten used to a new kind of reality, and are trying for find our way towards living life in a somewhat different fashion. But with the easing of restrictions, came an easing of apprehension. A feeling of hope and freedom restored.

This feeling was quite short-lived. I quickly came to realize that we may be entering a new phase of life, with different kinds of restrictions. Until now, there has been a feeling in much of the country of united fate. There is a common threat, an unseen enemy, a threat to our existence as individuals and as a community, but we are together in a fight to regain life in as positive and vibrant manner as possible.

There were those who defied the rules, those who attended large gatherings, and sadly, they infected others and added to the list of those who died. Now there are those who refuse to be vaccinated. And recently there have been reports in the media that a ‘green pass’ may become necessary for entrance to certain closed places where infecting others is a danger: hotels, malls, restaurants, gyms in contrast to street stores. It was proposed that teachers may require the ‘green pass’ to teach so as not to infect students who are too young to be vaccinated, but whose percentage in serious corona infection is on the rise due to mutations. It is not yet clear whether or not these suggestions will be adopted by the government. But I was alarmed at the mere thought.

Some of us cannot, for reasons of health, or panic, be vaccinated. There are others who simply do not wish to be vaccinated, whether out of fear, or ignorance, or perhaps simply free will. The issue is quite complex. But I personally am astonished at the realization that my life, and that of many others, may soon be on the fringe. Rather than an easing of restrictions, there are plans for a tightening of them in that area. Is the stress of prolonged fear and anxiety causing a rift in society? Instead of working towards a common goal, we are turning against each other?

Can we as a society so easily relinquish principles of freedom of thought, freedom of action? Our variety of thoughts and beliefs form the web of a multicolored and richly diverse nation. Perhaps it is just this variety, and our mutual tolerance of these differences, which is one of our greatest blessings. On the other hand, does anyone have he right to put others in danger because he has not accepted the blessing of the vaccination?

“No man can settle another’s life for him. It is the test of the nature and courage of each that he shall decide if for himself (Robert Louis Stevenson)

But there are consequences to these decisions. There is a fine line between national and community responsibility and the right of the individual to freedom. We desire to lead a life bound together as one nation. And at the same time we as a society, cherishing the value of Life, make decisions based upon mutual respect, dignity, faith in the goodness of our fellow man. Within the bounds of society, each person has the right and responsibility to determine his own fate.

For ultimately, we each must answer to ourselves and to God for our actions.

Will vaccination be an issue which will cause bitterness, coercion, loss of income, loss of rights, to a segment of the population? Turn a group into second-class citizens?

The vaccine provides the opportunity for many in our society to be blessed with medical protection.

But will we turn a blessing into a curse? A shield into a dagger?

Perhaps we as a society may have to accept that change is a gradual process, as a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, as a chick slowly hatching from the egg. That, after putting the life of our society on hold for a year, it may take a while for it to resume.

Or perhaps, we did not really put life on hold after-all.

“Before you cross the street take my hand.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” (John Lennon)

Perhaps, without our awareness, life has been unfolding in all its glory this past year. In a different direction than what we had expected just a year ago. We have had a year of introspection, solitude, a year in which previous norms were destroyed and life has been recreated anew.

We have the ability now to create life in our nation with a different, more enlightened perspective perhaps than we had a year ago.

What is the vision for this new refresh of society which we are now building?

A society based upon strife and division and mutual antagonism, or one built upon mutual discussion, caring about the well being of others, respect?

Perhaps it will require time, patience, tolerance, to create in our nation a new life, in a reality different than what we knew before, but blessed with the blessings of life in the Promised Land.

I think of the dream, the vision, the promise upon which the State of Israel was formed.

“As long as the heart with the Jewish soul yearns…

Our hope is not yet lost, The hope that is two-thousand years old,

To be a free nation in our land, The Land of Zion, Jerusalem.”

What is the dream that we are fulfilling today? Our hope of two-thousand years? The dream and hope that led many of us to come from various countries to build our lives anew, in the Promised Land? To feel the pulse of life, in the sublime beauty and joy of being in this Holy Land. To be a nation in which we are blessed, both individually and as a society, to fulfill our sacred role as the Jewish people.

My thoughts return to the first year of my new life in Israel. When I would go to the oceanside, walk along the shore. Walk upon the soft white sand, gaze at the unending ripples of tide, marvel at the beauty and abundance of shells on the beach. In a mixture of delight and awe. For in Israel, the very sand is sacred.

Hopefully now, although restrictions will be many, I can go back to the shore. I can sit in the morning sun, and still be sitting when the evening comes. Watching the tide roll away. I might even whistle.

Or perhaps I will go across the street down the path to a large expanse of lush green, crowned overhead with wondrous heavens proclaiming the splendor of Life. Where one can watch the sun set in the evening in a wild glorious array of rose-peach-yellow colors, as clouds lazily drift by. Gaze in wonder at infinity where the edge of the green foliage blends into the golden blaze of the sky. Where life is eternal, opportunities glorious and endless, and hope and faith promising for our future.

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

Dr. Devorah Ungar is an American-born scientist and musician.who mved to Israel 30 years ago.