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Friday, August 08, 2008

Israel as 'Giving Tree'

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the book 'The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein.  Notice I didn't call it a children's book... because there are many layers of complexity to the book, and as one grows older (and even... perhaps especially as one goes trough the various stages of being a parent), new messages and meaning are revealed.

The storyline of the book follows a young boy that is given ever greater gifts by his favorite tree as he, and his needs, grow... until one day the tree has nothing left to give.

I sometimes feel like no matter how lucky we are to be living here, or how idyllic our lives are in this most special corner of the world, that I am like that little boy; demanding ever more from a country that has already given me so much.

This morning, being a weekend here in Israel, I was able to spend a few minutes with Yonah (our youngest) before walking him up to his bus stop to wait for his ride to kaytanah (day camp).  It was a perfect morning... not too warm and not too cool... and with just the right amount of gentle breeze blowing to tousle Yonah's honey-colored hair as he tossed his multi-colored kippah happily from hand to hand.

Just as we arrived at the bus stop we caught sight of his bus coming down the street and Yonah began enthusiastically waving to the driver - David - who is a beloved pillar of Yonah's care-free existence.

As the bus pulled up and opened its heavy door, David called out a greeting to Yonah that was clearly the opening line of a well-rehearsed banter between them and Yonah pointed excitedly back towards me saying (in a perfectly accented Hebrew I will never be able to duplicate) "Look, my abba brought me here this morning!"

As David the bus driver shouted a warm greeting to David the father, the precious boy we shared between us lept happily up the steps into the waiting bus and was swallowed up in the shouted greeting of his friends.

I waved one last goodbye to Yonah even though I couldn't see him clearly through the thick, tinted windows of the bus and imagined he was waving back at me. 

As the bus pulled away I stood for a moment awash in my good fortune to be living at this time, in this place... and made a conscious effort to enjoy and appreciate my incredible luck at being a citizen of a Jewish country where little Jewish boys greet Jewish bus drivers and then join their Jewish friends on their way to a day camp full of Jewish kids and counselors who have been given such gifts that they rarely (if ever) feel the need to acknowledge them.

Standing there watcing the bus drive away I felt like that kid in 'The 'Giving Tree' book who has taken and taken and been given literally everything he has ever asked for.  Yet I wanted to ask for just one more thing (isn't it always 'just one more thing'?); 

But as the thought entered my mind, I wondered; am I being selfish and demanding when I send my silent wish into the warm morning air... a wish that maybe, one day, my son will be able to ride to his care-free summer day camp on a bus that isn't armored and fitted with bullet-proof windows?

Posted by David Bogner on August 8, 2008 | Permalink


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David, sorry to interrupt this idyllic moment when it's not Yom HaZikaron, but this post reminds me of the classic tear jerker Mah Avarech:
hug them long and tight

Posted by: Gidon Ariel | Aug 8, 2008 10:51:39 AM


Posted by: triLcat | Aug 8, 2008 11:27:23 AM

i have chills

Posted by: the sabra | Aug 8, 2008 12:28:00 PM

I have a lump in my throat.

Posted by: Rahel | Aug 8, 2008 3:21:36 PM

You know, I don't read that book to my children or to my students because I have never liked the message that a selfish person and a selfless treee makes a good partnership. I do hope your wish comes true. You do realize that you, and all parents in Israel, are the selfless trees, not the selfish child, don't you?

Beautiful post.



Posted by: Debbie Ellenbogen | Aug 8, 2008 4:20:22 PM

I cannot read this book out loud, as the lump in my throat prevents any sound from escaping my mouth and I cannot see the words at a certain point, as they are blinded by the tears that fill them.

EXCELLENT book... sigh.
Shabbat shalom.

P.S. Can't wait to see you next week!

Posted by: Val | Aug 8, 2008 4:33:10 PM

::wiping away tears::

Shabbat Shalom

Posted by: SaraK | Aug 8, 2008 6:01:52 PM

Wow, great post and so beautifully expressed.

Posted by: Erachet | Aug 8, 2008 9:06:37 PM

Trepp, don't know how it could be selfish to silently wish to live in a peaceful world. Such a touching post.

Posted by: cruisin-mom | Aug 9, 2008 1:58:34 AM

Same thought I had when I came to Israel. A courteous driver on-board an Egged bus dropped me off a point where I easily found my Hostel, after vaguely explaining to him in English and the little Hebrew I knew where I wanted to go. I couldn't help think... was it really worth it? all those lives lost on-board such a bus.

Posted by: Rami | Aug 9, 2008 2:51:35 AM

Mr. Bogner,
How you make me miss Israel so. (But it's a good miss)

Shabbat Shalom

Am Yisrael Chai!

Posted by: Kae Gregory | Aug 9, 2008 3:01:10 AM

"am I being selfish and demanding when I send my silent wish into the warm morning air... a wish that maybe, one day, my son will be able to ride to his care-free summer day camp on a bus that isn't armored and fitted with bullet-proof windows?"

C'mon, Trep -- let's not get crazy! ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Aug 9, 2008 11:36:35 AM

Spare a thought for each and every parent who has a ruin of their home in one of 500 villages scattered throughout the Israel to which they are not allowed to return to raise their children in misty eyed happiness. Instead their children are stuck in dusty hell holes of refugee camps or getting hungry in Gaza.......

Posted by: Eva Smagacz | Aug 10, 2008 7:26:28 AM

Of course I have what to answer to your final question to yourself -not quite in the tone of the last commenter, but definitely not a "Giving Tree" moment either, I'm afraid. Either way, I'm not about to create more Sina (Hinam or otherwise) between fellow Jews on 9 Av.

Let's pray instead for a day when all Jews can be at peace with one another- I suspect that only then will we truly be able to work on achieving peace with the co-dwellers and neighbours...

Posted by: PP | Aug 10, 2008 12:01:10 PM

(totally ignoring that far-out (far-left) comment that made no sense here)

So many mixed feelings about The Giving Tree. I loved it for years. There were also a few years, during which time, I could not read it without tearing up. But then I started being very disturbed about the take-take-take nature of the boy.

There are some interesting parodies online if you are interested. One year, during our community Tu B'Shvat celebration, we read some of them (in Hebrew).

Anyway, good post.

Definitely not too much to ask to send your kid off in a "regular" bus. I sure miss those innocent, little yellow school bus days....

Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Aug 10, 2008 3:58:10 PM

To Wry Mouth: Not for the parents. Now, they are great-grandparents, the grandchildren and children of people that refused to rebuild their lives, that have been supported by UNRWA, a speical UN agency created just for them. Some of them had lived in what became Israel for only two years, and nevertheless were given the status of refugees, they and their descendents for ever and ever. For God's sake, 60 years ago, a huge proportion of Europe were refugees. They all - yes all - rebuilt their lives. The Palestinians are the only refugees in the world that have made a career out of it, passing it on to their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. Come on, enough already.

Posted by: Ruchie | Aug 11, 2008 1:09:26 PM

note to Ruchie - the name of the comment-er appears AFTER the comment, NOT before

Posted by: asher | Aug 11, 2008 3:56:46 PM

Well said.

Posted by: Gila | Aug 15, 2008 10:17:28 AM

every parent should be able to have that wish fulfilled...

Posted by: nrg | Aug 15, 2008 8:52:18 PM

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