Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Return from SA

SA is South Africa.

I am still at that stage of my return when I can close my eyes and feel myself right there - I hear the sound of the hah-de-dahs as they fly overhead at dawn and at dusk. I can imagine myself in a restaurant, I can taste the lamb curry, and I can hear the people around me talking in a familiar accent.
I can feel the sand scrunching underfoot as I walk along Muizenberg beach, I hear the great silence of Namakwa. It feels like I can still lie outside on the stoep of the little cottage we rented and reach up and touch the night sky, heavy and glistening with stars and planets.l I can see the Southern Cross and the Milky Way. I open the curtains of my room in Bakubung and see Wildebeest grazing not too far away. The Warthog family greet the day. I can smell the dry veld, and still can deeply inane the wonderful aromas of the flowers in the Hantam Reserve and all around us in Namakwa.
I can still feel and imagine all these things, but the memories are beginning to slip away, overrun by the constant noise of the demolition crew in our street - down goes a school, changes, changes.
On my first day driving down 23rd Street in Richmond I see more shuttered shops and buildings.
A drive by shooting takes place right near the office at 2.00 p.m.  I am back.

Friday, October 3, 2014

To Fast or Not?

Kol Nidre night of the Yom Kipur of the War, was spent in the disco of Ein Dor. It was the first time since my bat mitzvah that I was not fasting. This was because I was living on the kibbutz where no one seemed even to know about Yom Kipur. My first Yom Kipur there was so strange, because it was a day like any other and I worked in the children's house just like on any other day of the year. Growing up in South Africa it was a really special day, and everyone went to the synagogue and everyone fasted.
When the war broke out the next day I silently vowed to myself that if we all survived, then I would fast every Yom Kipur from then on. We did not all survive, but nevertheless, I kept to my vow and have always fasted - except for last year, Yom Kipur 2013. It was 40 years since the war, and I was on Kibbutz Ein Dor. Over the years, many things had changed, including Yom Kipur. For Kol Nidre there was a lovely, meaningful service next to the moadon (clubhouse.) Many people fasted and observed Yom Kipur. I was staying with a good friend and would be there for only that night - as usual it was extremely hot. We went to the cemetery very early in the morning and spent time sitting under the trees, amongst the graves, talking, remembering, just being. The thing that was completely different for me was that I did not fast. The friend I was staying with had asked other friends over for dinner, and for me it was more important to be with them thnt to be alone and to fast.
The sky did not fall, the earth did not open - the day continued and ended with the blowing of the shofar, night came, dawn came, another day ......
This year I am in America, and have decided that I shall fast, and I realize way - it is this symbolic act which ties me to the unbroken chain of my 'tribe,' to my ancestors, and here in the diaspora I do not want to break that chain.