Friday, October 12, 2012

leaving it all on the shore

This post was written on October 12, re: October 11. I'm only describing one event from the whole day, but there was plenty else that I could have written about. Read the group blog's account of the day, entitled "Dancing on the Sea of Galilee, Holy Sites, and a Jewish Mystic Peacemaker" here.

Had you told me prior to this trip that I would dance on a boat on the Sea of Galilee with people from all over the world to both Jewish and Arab traditional music, I probably wouldn't have believed you. 

This happened yesterday. The sky was blue, nearly cloudless, the water of the Sea of Galilee calm. We set sail around 12:30pm, and so began what was no less than a magical boat ride.

Our group was joined on the boat by a group of Japanese tourists, only one of whom spoke English. As we departed the shore one of the Arab boat operators hoisted the Israeli, American, and Japanese flages on the ship's mast, and we listened and stood respectfully for each country's national anthem. 

It was already at this point that I was marveling at the many juxtapositions--Arab and Israeli, Japanese and American. Though both events happened long before my lifetime, my mind immediately went to Pearl Harbor (1941) and Hiroshima (1945). These events are still part of people's consciousnesses; in Japan, there are those who still suffer negative physical effects from the radiation. And there we were, on the Sea of Galilee, a group of Arabs, Israelis, Americans, and Japanese, honoring each other and enjoying this beautiful day together. 

Then the real fun began. One of our boat operators (a couple of whom were Arab), started blaring over the speakers the traditional Jewish song Hava Nagila (literally, 'let us rejoice'). At first there were just a couple of brave dancers in the middle of the floor--Marietta and our (Arab) guide Raedwan (I'm sorry to keep belaboring the point of who was Arab as if you didn't read it the first time, but this is just a detail that can't go unnoticed.  An Arab and an American, dancing to a traditional Jewish song!). 

A few moments went by and I joined them, followed by other members of our group, as well as some from the Japanese group. As we held hands and danced in a circle, I had a moment where time seemed to freeze and I really saw what was happening...all of us dancing, together, on the Sea of Galilee, as if this were the most normal thing to do, following Raedwan's lead. There wasn't one face without a smile among the dancers, or among those observing and clapping to the beat. 

Next, one of the boat operators put on an Arabic song. The dancing continued, and someone even pulled out a couple of white paper napkins to wave around as we danced. The napkins got passed around from person to person, and almost everyone had the spotlight at some point. 

It was a time of joyful being among people who left the things that normally divide us on the shore. There was no memory of or resentment for past or present conflict; no isolation due to the language barrier; no suspicion because of differing religious beliefs or political ideologies. We simply danced.

Not quite walking on water, but still pretty miraculous, if you ask me. 

"And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh." -Friedrich Nietzsche 

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