Essays

  • The Motorcycle

    Though a lonely endeavor by virtue of space, motorcycles function to bring people together. It doesn’t matter whether you ride a sport bike, cruiser or enduro, or whether it’s a Honda, BMW or Harley, as long as you ride you belong. On the loneliest road, after hours of solitude you will pass a biker and he will extend his hand in greeting, engulfing you in a wave of warmth and camaraderie.

    A thousand unspoken words pass through that hand, and there is only one way to hear those words: buy a motorcycle. Then, as you make your first fall, soak during your first unexpected downpour, blow a tire in the middle of nowhere, have your marrow frozen by the damp and wind, become happily lost on precipice framed switchbacks… then all of you will be shared in the wave and as the other passes he too will know and share your story.

    This sounds like owning a motorcycle is an exclusive pursuit, but I would argue that it is one of the most inclusive activities in the world, capable of bringing together people from every corner of the world.

    A motorcycle is the cheapest form of mechanized transportation available, and the most ubiquitous throughout the world. This means that rich or poor, 1st or 3rd world, you have access to the club. Doctors will ride next to teachers, and plumbers, and fruit vendors. Unlike so many other pursuits, regardless of whether you are seasoned or a novice, you are welcome in the club, and no grizzly rider of 30 years will scoff at the youth on his first steed when he waves “hello”. The motorcycle is the great equalizer; it eliminates the divergence of peoples that society inflicts on us. The motorcycle also means access. Access to parts of the world where cars cannot reach, access to people who are generally more empathic towards the traveler for whom safety and comfort are not a given. That degree of shared danger, like that of wars or other worldly struggles, creates a bond between riders, and those who understand their challenges.

    Invariably motorcycles pique interest, arriving in a ...

  • Choosing The Truth of Our Humanity

    Rain doesn’t start as a drop; a cloud begins to empty its content of moisture in a torrential release, like a damn breaking. But no matter how hard or how much it rains we feel it one drop at a time. When we soak, we are soaked by individual droplets: small pieces of that release broken from the whole and falling desperately towards earth. When rivers rise and flood, and land tears away from the slopes of mountains, when the sea engulfs us – it all happens one drop at a time. So we too, a living mass of billions of people, do not destroy as a whole, do not irrigate as a whole, we do so individually. All the horrors of which we are capable are enacted one person at a time. All the good that we bring, all the beauty we create, is done so by individuals. And just like each drop of water is indistinguishable from any other, though unique it may be, so we too are just single parts of a whole – a whole from which we are not really all that different.

    Each person, regardless of race or creed, carries within themselves all of what a human being is capable. Our being a part of the greater mass ensures that we are just a small, yet an exact, manifestation of humanity’s whole. The power to inundate, the power to create and grow, the power to choose which of those paths are ours, is something contained within each of us as well.

    The water, once released, once born, immediately takes on a course towards earth. That course is altered from the second of release by dozens of factors, like wind, other drops of water, pressures rising from earth itself. So we too, from the moment we are born have our trajectories constantly affected by our environment. But just as the water has no choice but to eventually hit earth and bring its effect, whether that of destruction of irrigation, regardless of influence on where it will land, so we too, inevitably, leave our ...

  • Forever Refugees

    Are refugees limited to the images which come to our minds?

    People walking in herds with their possessions reduced to what can be easily carried or put on a mule. Camps, dirt roads and tents, tents, tents. Communities of tents always contained within barbed wire; tents for sleeping, tents for eating from enormous pots, tents with outhouses, the few and far between tents for children and hospitals. Volunteers, red cross, soldiers, havoc, disorder, chaos, tears, fights, death, hope. Old people carted about like the young. Young men in protest – of what they are not always sure.

    The tearing apart, tearing away, something always tearing, like life itself coming apart at the seams. African, Albanian, Kurdish, South Asian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Jewish… all these faces you know, or think you know. You recognize us from something – a billboard, a commercial, a telethon, a magazine article… but this is not what a refugee is; it is not what you see, it is precisely what you don’t see that makes being one so…amazing!

    Amazingly difficult, amazingly angry, amazingly inconsistent, amazingly dissociated, amazingly…unique. The fires contained within our souls, the unquenchable thirst in our throat, the turbulent imbalance in our brains… these things cannot be seen, cannot be spoken about, cannot have funds raised for them, cannot be mended – will not die out! We can only hope that the generations that follow will find peace, will find their place, will find a balance.

     

    For the Russian-Jewish refugee circumstantially things have changed, the world as we found it having landed in an airport and disembarked from a jet, is quite different from the one found by those who landed in Ellis Island and disembarked from a steamer. Ironically, the challenges have remained the same – in spite of advances in technologies, communication, social awareness and social programming. Because the greatest challenges are not contained in the physical realm of the tenements, ghettos, sweat shops, mills, factories, street corners, pizza parlors, kitchens, living-rooms, retirement homes, oil stained handyman trucks, sweat drenched movers trucks, or pizza funk infested delivery trucks. No, the greatest challenges are in fact contained ...

  • Considering 4000 Years in 2 Moments

    None of the things I’ve seen or places I’ve visited on this last trip to Israel were new to me. Between the six times I’ve been here, there are few places in this country where I have not tread, and yet as I stood on a rooftop in Tsfat looking over the valley beneath I was overcome with the awe of Our Survival.

    Minutes earlier I walked through an ancient synagogue which bore a hole in one of its walls from the shrapnel of a bomb. At the time of the explosion, 1967, the synagogue was full of worshippers, but none were injured from this burning piece of metal as they were simultaneously bowed as it whizzed over their backs and into the wall. It was but one piece of shrapnel and it is possible none would have died had it hit them, but at that moment that hole represented 4000 years of my people’s struggle, and there was little I could do about myself.

    Instead of passing, the emotion further flooded my already leaking ducts when I came to the rooftop overlooking the valley. I saw the place where the source of every living civilization has trodden. From the far reaches of Europe and Asia and the Americas to the very cradle of humanity in Africa – all peoples at some point traversed the valley I now beheld. The great human migration came over this tiny, tiny land, a land to which we have desperately clung for countless millennia, but which has always eluded us as we were flung, time and again, into the far reaches of the globe.

    With the valley below me blurred, my mind took me back 10 years when I first stood at the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem). There have been very few dull periods in my life, in fact, looking back, there is a certain maniacal ribbon along which I have soared and which has brought me countless incredible experiences. But this moment, 10 years ago, in the holiest place for Jews around the world, stands out more clearly than almost anything else ...

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