Pesach in Israel: On rebirth, happiness and the hanged human sperm in our Brave New World

I still feel occasionally these days, that a person cannot be legally as happy as I am and not feel guilty. After all there are so many other unfortunate people, struggling, hungry, homeless, needy or sad. Who then gave me right to smile from one ear to another, without a hint of sadness, which, as we are told, should never leave the back of our minds, because after all the world is filled with suffering?

Then I rationalise my own thoughts. Yes, it is true, that the world is filled with suffering and unimaginable things happen to us and others, whether good or bad, and we should always remember that. On the other hand, while I still remember the past occurrences, I can’t stop myself from feeling whole. I just don’t know whether it is actually being happy, because I am not always happy, but then again, I am, so who is schizophrenic here?

I am more than convinced that there is something special in the air. Apart from my two birthdays being three weeks apart; one in the month of Nisan and one in the month of Iyar (this year it’s April), there is some kind of energy that can be easily felt, especially now during Chag Pesach. Last Friday we sat at the table and began celebrating the liberation from Egypt, both physical and spiritual, the creation of the soul of the nation and vengeance on our enemies. For the whole week, we eat matza, the poor man’s bread, the bread of affliction, but at the table, we are to dine as kings, forbidden from pouring our own wine and commanded to sit as comfortably as possible, leaning to the left while drinking and celebrating. It blows my mind to expect the people, who were about to witness the passing of the Angel of Death, having marked their doors with the blood of lambs, fearful, were to sit at the table, fully dressed, while eating hurriedly, enjoy this abundant meal as if all the years of slavery, whippings, the marks on their backs, hard labour and indignity didn’t exist. But they did and every year we are to consider ourselves, as if we personally left Egypt, being stripped of everything we pompously thought we were, revealing our insides, however displeasing and painful they may have been particularly to us, embarrassed by our own nakedness, and then sit down at a festive table, overflowing with food of all kind, being poured four glasses of wine, sitting on pillows, laughing, joking, reading the Haggadah, singing and biting into matza, which has no taste whatsoever, to remind us, that on the inside our poverty is what is also our wealth, that we, us, we are all that we need to be rich and be able to create our homes, wealth, life and future. We eat the poor man’s bread, while dining as kings to remind us and never let us forget, where we were and what we had to leave in Egypt to be able to partake in that festivity.

One of the midrashim says that Hashem created the soul of the nation of Israel at the moment he spared its first born males. In addition, on the month of Nisan, and only then, we are supposed to stand between two blooming trees and recite the appropriate blessing. Kabalistically, during that month, while we recite that blessing, we have that creative power to release the souls trapped between the worlds. Flowers are blooming; the cycle begins again, as always the wheel comes to a full cycle. We have left what was in the past, springing as bright green sprouts and looking at the sun. We are alive, while we thought we were dead. We are alive to live, not just exist. We are alive to create, multiply but above all, breathe and enjoy what we have produced. It is the time of resetting our past, making new beginnings and taking new opportunities. This is what makes me so happy; the endless capacity of a human potential.

My Gregorian birthday falls during the month Iyar, which follows the month of Nisan, the month of rebirth, transformation, new beginning; it is the month of healing. I never understood why the month of healing would come after the new beginning. Wouldn’t it make more sense to first heal the wounds and then start anew? But it is really so obvious; while we think we are dead, we have no hope, we don’t see anything beyond the black wall, we have no strength left, so if we were asked if we wanted to be healed, we would probably say that yes, but only if it meant death, because, after all, what have we got to live for? This reminds me of a movie I watched, an adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s book “Veronika decides to die”. I recommend both the book and the movie, so I will not tell you too much apart from that Veronika was certainly determined to end her life on her own terms, not seeing anything to live for. Her only thought of relief was death. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt she suffered even more having to live until she began something new in her life. Then when she rediscovered her love for playing the piano, life and generally just love, and suddenly, quite frankly, she didn’t want to die, but the suicide attempt affected her heart and, for all that she knew, she was going to die anyway. She was only ready for healing, when she rediscovered her love for life and this is, I think, why Iyar could not come before Nisan. Because, sometimes, we just need a break, we need something good to happen to us and then, with our hope rekindled, we are ready to move on.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this month featured a new glass exhibition at the Rothschild Centre in Tel Aviv. I think we were all excited to be there. This was my first glass exhibition I attended in Israel while my friends were very pleasantly surprised that it has greatly surpassed the previous exhibition. This time there seemed to be a theme, which initially escaped me, because I was absolutely engrossed in the expressed creativity. I am not a regular fan of art. I have been criticised for it, but I despise infantilism. A dollop of mud on the canvas does not make it art for me. It’s absolutely fine to disagree with me. However, I much more prefer art to touch on different aspects of expression. I can appreciate when looking at a painting, sculpture or an installation I am instantly transported to a book that I read, a piece of music which I heard and a historical event that I can associate it with. The art, for me to pay attention to it, should be either thought-provoking, invoking emotions however extreme they may be, give form and shape to my thoughts or provide a feast for my eyes or ears, soothing and expressing transcendent beauty. Seeing how many Is I used here, it occurred to me, that if art is such a personal thing, then certainly everyone should and do have a different opinion; therefore I refuse to be politically correct. Dadaism is not art for me and I suffered through art classes at school having to recreate the idea behind it and present it as a piece of art. This however does not make me an art critic, certainly neither an acclaimed, nor a recognised one.

The exhibition is more than worth seeing. The artists played with forms, materials and lights with pieces raging from a beating heart inside a halved clay vase, a half-dead, half-alive human face in a bucket, a broken Shabbat table and a human sized glass sperm hanging from the gallows. This actually, quite not coincidentally, reminded me of Haman, probably because we are post-Purim.

One of the pieces which I found intriguing an unsettling was an installation by Nelli Lorch titled “The Race”. On a concrete ring one could find human-like creatures made of glass and small mechanisms, losing their limbs, but continuing moving forward, to no end, in a circle, chained to a pole in the middle. Almost as if they were forced to keep moving and while losing their parts, not recovering, on their knees, exhausted, convulsing, perhaps hoping that there will be an end to it, but there won’t be, because they have no escape.

Another installation featuring glass, presented cut chunks of lambs as if in a butcher shop pictured no limits an item, an animal, or a human can be exhausted to. One can see heads, legs, tails and testicles; all for sale, all to be utilised. Isn’t that really what history has shown us, whether in terms of war, Holocaust, gas chambers, or an everyday sale of all what we have and all that we are for someone else’s profit, weather compulsory or willingly? Last century we were shown the lowest of how people can be animalised, undignified, belittled, slaughtered and then their remnants manufactured into the items of everyday use, such as mattresses stuffed with human hair, soaps made of human fat and paper weights made of human skulls. There seems to be no end to creativity in terms of efficient utilisation of what we are as biologically and chemically combined creatures. These days, driven by economic difficulty, we face ‘voluntary’ sale of human organs, whatever they might be, including eyes, skin and even testicles; all because we have been shown that our bodies can be easily appreciated more as merchandise.

Moving further anti-clockwise we saw what we really came for – Jeremy Langford’s “Brave New World“. I read that book in the secondary school and it had a tremendous effect on the way I began perceiving life and death, and the power of human indoctrination in pursuit of creating an alternative society. The society, which is not driven by invention, human spirit, birth, life, challenge and pursuit of excellence, but rather a society which is controlled, censored, limited and penalised for the basic human instinctive need: achievement and the joy that we find in excellence. The danger of societal change remains as long as creative units, i.e. people, exist. Jeremy presented that brilliantly by hanging a human-sized sperm on the wooden gallows.

Of course the moment we started taking pictures with ‘the convicted’, it turned more into an extreme-feminist inside joke, with four girls, standing next to the victim and smiling widely. I guess it is all about perspective and the background, especially since when you continued further you saw a bunch of eggs positioned on the floor, completely abandoned and with little expression to them. That made us feel sorry for the sperm, mostly on the account of the eggs.

Just at the exit there was a glass wall, made my Mira Maylor, which was made to look as if it was made of bricks with a sprayed blue Star of David and a graffiti-like exclamation: We will win! Walking through the whole exhibition featuring exploitation, death of thought and invention, broken Shabbat table, glass fish swallowing ships, a beautiful peacock symbolising beauty, integrity and immortality, finally coming to that wall made one think: We will be fine. All that happened, yes, we are not denying it, but we have a future, a new beginning and rebirth. We are alive and to live is to succeed. Being alive allows us to create, innovate, progress and, in return, gives us hope.

The exhibition was brilliant. It was probably also due to the excellent company I was in, the man who created the “Brave New World” and one of the most charming people I have met in my life, Rut Dayan. Then again, if anyone knows me, I am fascinated by anyone who is older than me by at least 30 years. That is because I am obsessed with history, both in general and on a personal level; and I never have enough of listening to people and learning from them.

This has been an amazing Pesach so far; tonight it will conclude. It started hectically by getting things organised for the Seder and then on the Seder night looking for someone to help us with the blech. The pets are doing their job of being absolutely hysterical and charming at the same time, and the family is just overwhelmingly amazing and heart-warming. I have adopted a role of a sous chef peaking over the shoulder of one of the sisters hoping to pick up some tips and now I really have to stop writing, because the smell is just mouth-watering and I am already rambling here.

I wish you all Chag Pesach kasher v’sameach and that wherever you are, this will be the new, fresh start for you; that another year will be better than the last and that you will find strength to catch the opportunities presented to you with thankful joy, drive and passion, never stopping and never giving up with your eyes on the goal before you.

We will win!

brave new world 2

brave new world

butcher shop

fish

flying cows

glass girl

glass 2015

peacock

the race

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