D’var Israel – International Women’s Day and Purim
A week ago we celebrated Purim, and gathered together for a great celebration here at Rodef Sholom. Two days earlier we observed International Women’s Day all over the world. The proximity of those two dates this year is conincidental of course, but it gives us an opportunity to look at this holiday from another angle. Purim is a holiday of female heroism. Different from other holidays in the Jewish tradition that tell us about wars, and male leaders, Purim is all about Queen Esther, a brave woman, whose bravery saved the Jewish nation in Babel. Yes, she got the idea and the support of Mordechai, her uncle, but she was the one to make it, she was the one to be brave, and so the story is about her - Megilat Ester (Book of Esther). Some people say that behind every successful man stands a good women; well, this story shows us that sometimes behind a successful woman stands a good man.
In honor of those important days, I want to share with you today the story of an inspiring Israeli women I had the honor to know. Bambi Sheleg was a journalist and publicist and a mom to a close friend, and she past away few months ago. Bambi was born in Chile to a modern orthodox family and moved with her family to Israel when she was 12. Bambi was a Zionist, a Zionist from the real kind. She knew that the Zionist mission was not over once we founded the Jewish state and she knew that caring about Israel is not just caring about territories, but caring about the society, caring about the people.
Bambi used to say that the biggest problem of the Israel society is our division, and I agree with her. We might not be separated into 12 tribes like in the bible days. On the surface we all living together in one Jewish state, but the truth is, we are still divided into different tribes, or in modern language, different camps. In the religious arena we’re divided into: Secular, National Religious, Haredi, Muslims, and Christians. We’re going to different schools, living in different neighborhoods, reading different newspapers and listening to different leaders. But the division is even larger than that. Left and right, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, majorities and minorities. Each camp has its own vision as to what our society should look like, but when every group is trying to pull the rope to its side, we’re not moving anywhere.
Bambi was a visionary; she dreamed of creating a common future for all of us together. But she was also a woman of action. She traveled around Israel and met with as many people as she could. People of any color and any stripe. In every place she’s been, she told about the Pizza of Bambi, a metaphor she created that became famous over the years. Imagine that our society is like a big pizza. Imagine that every slice is a different group. If I’ll try to make it relevant to your life: Imagine that one slice is Republican, and one is Democrat, and black and white, there’s Jews and Christians and Muslims, and north and south, and every group you can think of. In the crust of the pizza, there’s the radicals of each camp. But most of us are not there. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. And as middle as we are, we can see, we’re actually closer to people in other camps than to the radicals in our own one. So while the radicals make a lot of noise, and get all the media attention, all the rest of us actually have more in common then we think. And this is the key to starting a dialogue.
To help people who want to, to see beyond their sector, Bambi Sheleg founded “Erets Acheret” magazine, which employed writers from all across the society. Each edition included deep research and deep observation into one sector, sub-culture or issue in Israeli society. The idea was to create a magazine that doesn’t belong to a specific group, but to all of us, and to bring the focus back to social issues that don’t get enough attention elsewhere. Bambi was brave, she wasn’t afraid to be critical, even of her own camp. And she was so devoted to what she saw as the most important mission of her life; she knew that there is still so much to do, but she truly believed that together we can do it. That spirit of acting to bring the change, the honest desire to meet the other – what we call in Hebrew Mifgash (מפגש), and to always create place to conversation is what I took from her. Inspired by her, I want to bring this spirit of knowing and understanding Israeli society here to Rodef Sholom. I’m starting a series of classes focusing on sub-cultures in Israel. Over the course of 4 sessions, we’ll get to meet 4 different cultures, including background stories, texts, music, and maybe most importantly, food. I invite you all to join me. Email me at [email protected] to learn more!