The fires that raged last week only go to show that the Jewish People have created something of beauty and value that can be burned. A country that doesn’t create anything doesn’t have anything to burn.
All things of value are fragile and susceptible to the actions of people who seek power through destroying creations that, being creations of love, challenge their power, because love is a power also.
Acquiring power by wreaking destruction is the work of people who have forgotten the use of love. In fact they use the power of hate and anything created by love, is a threat to their lust for power.
We have many examples of Jewish creativity both in ancient and modern times. The importance of a nation’s creations has been well described by Rebecca West in her book Black Lamb & Grey Falcon, (P.55, 56) about her travels in Yugoslavia:
“Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted. If one’s own existence has no form, if its events do not come handily to mind and disclose their significance, we feel about ourselves as if we were reading a bad book. We can all of us judge the truth of this, for hardly any of us manage to avoid some periods when the main theme of our lives is obscured by details, when we involve ourselves with persons who are insufficiently characterized: and it is possibly true not only of individuals but of nations. What would England be like if it had not its immense Valhalla of kings and heroes, if it had not its Elizabethan and its Victorian ages, its thousands of incidents which come up in the mind, simple as icons and as miraculous in their suggestion that what England has been it can be again, now and forever? What would the United States be like if it had not those reservoirs of triumphant will-power, the historical facts of the pioneering progress into the West, which every American citizen has at his mental command and into which he can plunge for revivication at any minute? To have a difficult history makes, perhaps, a people who are bound to be difficult in any conditions, lacking these means of refreshment. “
This statement helped me to understand why the creations of a nation or an individual are important; they are like form in art, they give the individual and the nation a place to pour himself into (“a cup”) in times of difficulty so that he can refresh himself and assure himself that the greatness he once achieved can be achieved again(“what England has been it can be again, now and forever”). The nation or the individual that keeps on refreshing himself has the memory of these creations “at his mental command and into which he can plunge for revivication at any minute”.
Now I have a better understanding of why Jewish History interests and excites me and others so much.
I understand now why so many people eagerly tramp through hills and valleys and deserts of their country and why the Valley Railroad has become so popular.
It was just coincidence that my friend Avraham and I joined a group of happy walkers on a ride on the Valley Railroad on our way to walk through the ruins of the ancient Israelite city of Bet Shean, on the same day that the flames of those terrible fires were at their highest only a few kilometers away.
The train traveled through the Jezrieel Valley, where the pioneers of the modern state of Israel began their work of rebuilding our ancient homeland. Our journey started at Kfar Yehoshua, a moshav established in 1927 by a group pioneers and named after Joshua Hankin, the man responsible for negotiating the purchase of the land in the Jezrieel Valley, where the first pioneering settlements were built.
Every step we took in our visit there brought memories of the great people who contributed their creative abilities, such as the architect Richard Kaufman, the designer of the circular form of many of the early settlements, with houses concentrated, like the hub of a wheel and the lands spread round about like the spokes.
The train rode over the Kishon Stream, recalling the deeds of the prophet Elijah. In the distance we could see Megiddo, the site of one of King Solomon’s fortress cities.
The modern train moves along swiftly powered by electricity and all the passengers were Israelis or tourists, but I could imagine myself in the train of the early 20th century, chugging along, pulled by its quaint steam locomotive, filled with young, Jewish pioneers on their way to the new settlements: Ein Harod, Afula, Sejera, Nir David etc. sitting side by side with Moslems of all sorts, peasants, intellectuals, business people, all on their way to Mecca, because originally this was the Hejaz Railroad, built by the Turks to carry Moslems to Mecca.
The train passed Migdal Haemek, the modern development town built in the 1950’s for new immigrants, then on to Afula, the pioneering town, passed Mt. Tabor, where nearby Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, and Itzhak ben Zvi, the 2nd President of Israel, worked in the fields and started the first Jewish self defense organization, the Shomer.
Finally we came to Bet shean, set against the backdrop of Mt. Gilboa, where Gideon defeated the Midianites. Here we visited the ruins of Bet Shean, where powerful memories of our ancient history are stirred up.
A ride on the Valley Railroad connects the modern Israelis with recent and ancient Jewish history, so reviving the memories that are important for revitalizing enthusiasm for the nation of Israel.
While contemplating a visit to places that had suffered from the fire, my walking partner Avraham called me and suggested a walk in the area of Bet Meir, an agricultural settlement, high in the Judean Hills, a the forest area, where fires raged last week.
We walked a pleasant 6KM trail down into Karmila valley and up Karmila hill. I took pictures, as usual which appear on my website; http://www.gorktours.com/gorkswalks
The hills looked bare where the fire had burnt, but I preferred to concentrate my lens on the green forest that remained, a sure sign of the power of nature to renew itself and man's acts of hatred dwindle into nothing. Only acts of love endure.
Wishing you a great no Newsday
Yours truly Leon Gork