Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Home on a High Wire

I landed between rockets into a mine field of ideas, of philosophies, of religions and cultures on the day that I almost kissed the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport upon our return from Malaysia. I was extremely relieved to be home, with my children, with my family, with my people and in my land, having been trapped on the island of Borneo, a primitive, albeit advanced, island of barbaric wonder and a cacophony of culture. We rode planes from there, hopping from one country to the next, until, unknown to us at the time, one of our flights jettisoned through the airspace over the Ukraine. It flew on the same flight path that Malaysian flight MH17 took the very next day, as it was unceremoniously blasted out of existence transporting 298 souls on board… for nothing—not as a step towards the ultimate goal of an obviously mistaken philosophy, but only as a mistake in targeting. And the missile had missed us by an entire day, thankfully, allowing us to continue to perseverate about the airport in Israel, once again, halting all flights in and out, because of an incoming missile from Gaza that was intercepted by an Iron Dome installation. We had accomplished our goal of navigation through the unknown, through danger and chaos, through wonder and lust, through joy and abandon, just to return home; we were coming home…

A few days before our flight, while still in Borneo, we had just arrived at our hotel room in Cuching where we had an air conditioner and a TV to keep us company for a brief time, before heading out on our next adventure into the darkly beautiful, chaotic world that we found ourselves within. On the TV were digital-rags, like Al Jazera, the BBC, and even CNN. They were all bashing Israel and promoting Hamas’s agenda by exploiting the civilian shield casualties for gain and profit. Yes, this is my own philosophy poking its head out from under the rubble of confusion, but they were speaking of MY home and MY children, so I do have a vested interest in the matter. Before we turned the TV off with disgust, however, we briefly watched a report about how at least six to eight masked gunmen wearing black T-shirts and camouflage pants had attacked a popular tourist resort in… Borneo, taking someone hostage and killing another. I took a moment to contemplate; whether we were in danger or not; WE were in Borneo!

So, you can imagine that returning to Israel, where my own children are trained in the IDF to protect my country against tyranny, terror, and chaos, and to do it with the utmost of moral and ethical fiber, continuing their education where I left off, it would have been likely that I could have been so relieved to have landed that I might have had an almost irresistible urge to actually kiss the ground. It was weird, the idea of putting my lips where feet, tires, and the refuse of living had fallen. As I walked out of the plane and down the ramp into the airport, I kept thinking that there would be a place where I could put my lips down and press them, even intimately, satiating this strange emotional desire. We entered the terminal building, pushed our way through passport control, collected our travel loot, and made it outside to the escalator that led to the train. As it turned out, the refuse-stained ground was not so very appealing as to accommodate a kiss, but it did feel good on my feet, so good in fact that I couldn’t stop smiling; we were HOME.

Before we flew to Malaysia, we spent two weeks in Bali, Indonesia, where the view on Israel is also tainted by politics and mass media. Bali is a Hindu island surrounded by a Muslim world view. The Balinese are fierce in their belief, as they would have to be in order to stop the tide of Muslim influence across their land, but even they couldn’t access truth in terms of the current geo-political goings-on. We told almost nobody throughout our trip that we were from Israel, including our guides, but we did ask our driver and guide once about Israel and what he thought about it. I had conversed with him on many occasions about religious philosophy, spiritual healing, and the cultural / historical underpinnings of Balinese society, and he had a lot of things to share on the subjects. I reaffirmed my understanding that in Hinduism there are many gods, three of which are at the top of the echelon, and that they each share equal status, like a trinity, or something, but that it was only important to choose one for certain things, like success in business, success in procreation, success in correcting karma, etc., etc., etc. Our driver, Augusto, said that he didn’t understand why the media said what it did about Israel. He didn’t understand how a people, a whole country, could be so savage, so completely ruthless and totalitarian. He talked about Israelis as Jews, that they did illegal things, and that they had a lot of money; we then changed the subject.

In Borneo, we got close enough to one of our guides to ask him about Israel. He was our kayak guide, and it seems that being stuck on a jungle river surrounded by bizarre creatures, evidently, allows for more intimacy. He had grown up in the jungle with a native family. His father was still an Animist (to our guide a pagan, since he had converted to Anglicanism). Our guide converted, he explained, because he couldn’t stand the way the dead were treated by his father’s tradition. Evidently, they were left to rot for a period of time until someone had the necessity to move the body, then taken to a makeshift cemetery where an often times partial cremation would take place, followed by wild animals finishing the job of decomposition. When we asked him about Israel, and whether he had heard of it, he replied that it was always in the news. He didn’t trust the media, but had no other source of information about it. He then went on to say that he didn’t understand how a people, a nation, could be so depraved, so unjust, so completely out of touch; we changed the subject again.

Slowly, we began to acclimate to the seemingly chaotic cacophony around us once we arrived home, in Israel, but were traumatized each time that a siren would go off after Hamas broke the latest ceasefire; or when a bright young man protecting us while in service with the IDF, a young man very much like my own two boys, would be killed and/or captured for ransom; or somewhere in the West, where Israel was inexplicably made out to be a totalitarian regime of racists stealing land and lives from an indigenous population, in-turn sparking rampant anti-Semitism and racial violence across Europe and even the US. Acclimating, it seems, had to do with where we sat while processing the insanity that the world was spewing forth. We weren’t flying over the Ukraine with impeccable timing. We weren’t wandering through terraced rice fields and waterfalls in Indonesia. We weren’t going down river rapids in a kayak on the island of Borneo. We weren’t sitting behind locked doors in a tiny overly air conditioned room in Malaysia. We weren’t having to hide our Jewishness in Europe. We weren’t even having to hide our Israeliness, or to defend our country’s right to protect itself to friends and strangers in the States. We were protected and safe from uncertainty and chaos in the world, with our loved ones, within the ancient Jewish homeland of Israel; we were home.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When Worlds Collide

Pit Viper in the Jungles of Borneo
Sitting here… reading the news on the Internet… I'm having a hard time remembering my travels in Indonesia and Malaysia last week, and the week before that, and the week before. I wanted to share so much about the people, the flora, the fauna… but alas… it may not be possible to do so without the sour taint of the kiss that I almost gave the tarmac upon my return to the Holy Land… last week…

While reading within the allotted WIFI zones at each airport that I leapfrogged through on my way home, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Vienna… I grasped that the world was becoming quite insane, like I was entering more finite levels of chaos/civilization at each step along the way… I was happily coming home and realizing that in doing so… I was losing something important to the 'me' that I had discovered… along the way… interspersed with the people, the flora, the fauna…

I sit here now… sad to the core for the boys that have passed to the next world… while fighting these demons of death and destruction that live a couple hours, give or take, down the street from me. My youngest son, you see, is about to embark upon his one-time personalized soul-forging experience in the IDF (I love him so, so much) and my eldest has amassed a time there longer than the required amount, set by the standards of the civilized, democratic country that I have chosen to rear him in; but, he assures me that he has grown beyond my expectations and that it will ALL be ok… really good, in fact... and I totally, totally believe him.

I can still remember standing in the little, smelly back room of an idol shop in Borneo, listening to a smartly dressed youngster telling me about his experience as a child growing up in the jungle... with vipers, scorpions, monkeys, and more… This youngster grew up in a longhouse and his father used a machete to travel from one street to the next. This young man's grandfather was probably a head-hunter, violently quarreling over territory and turf… yet the youngster had transcended this violence, becoming a civilized salesman that spoke English to tourists… in the smelly backroom of an idol shop…

He told me a story of fatherhood there, in that backroom… He told me about his young obsession with his father's machete and his father's solution to the obvious danger of a child playing with weapons of destruction… He told me of the village shaman and the solution to his father's problem. The shaman would make a mask that the father would wear to teach the child. The smartly dressed youngster told me how the father would wear the mask, becoming something else, and scare him away from the machete… and how they would place the mask, this embodiment of a personalized fear, in strategic locations as the child grew into a smartly dressed young salesman, scaring him into a life of civilization using chaos… using chaos…

I saw a video of a father in Gaza teaching his young daughter how to leap out from behind a corner and shoot a machine gun, evidently at someone… She was so excited, like it was an intimate moment between them, sharing something wonderful together… I have to wonder if a very similar thing occurred to the young salesman's grandfather… when he was a child… maybe he was given a machete and told to wield it against a neighbor for interloping upon the grandfather's mango grove. Maybe…

In the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, evidently you can still buy Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the Dearborn Independent by Henry Ford. I didn't see them, but I wasn’t looking either… The country is run by Islamists, but the people that I met were really nice, helpful, and really very sweet, however extremely brainwashed and ignorant about Jews, the Middle East, and Israel… The subject came up briefly on occasion, even though we found it necessary to withhold our Israeli identities (and our Jewish ones, for that matter), because of the lopsided government controlled news reports about the current crisis…

I sit here now, stories such as these spinning upon my consciousness, wondering who I am… I sit here writing words that may reach out to civilization, or not… I sit here and pray for the peace that has been promised to us all. I pray for a little girl holding a machine gun to find real love. I pray for a salesman born in the jungle that works in an idol shop to be able to let go of the demon in his mind, grown by a shaman's mask that his father still keeps. I pray that the families of the boys that have now passed to the other side can somehow find peace from their tremendous, inconceivable loss. And… I pray that my boys will find their way home, someday, to their loving parents' arms, having heroically saved the entire world from terror and chaos.

Shavua tov.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Building a Round-about in the Middle East

I guess it started with almost getting run down by a car skittering onto the sidewalk, stopping in front of me, the driver looking as if he was already coming up with a plan of action to downplay his fault in the matter, and…  ultimately causing me to jump out of the way of the out-of-control little green beast on wheels; but… that might be presumptuous... in the sense that it probably started with someone or something else that has more clout in the universe of real life, not the fringe-floppy one that I seem to inhabit. I worried about walking up and down that busy street right from the start. This was when I walked a whole of 10 minutes to get to the German gas system factory from my house, when I lived in a place called the Place across from The Winery. Now it takes me a half of an hour to get there… and then another half of an hour to get back home again.
I see so much stuff on my daily walks, stuff that could never be noticed from a car window, or even a bike or skateboard for that matter. There are ant trails to meticulously avoid stepping on, left rubber boots half buried inside weed-strewn hillsides, and an ever-changing kaleidoscope of construction debris and just plain trash to contend with… on my daily walks to and from the German gas system factory. There are stuffed animals and single bunny slippers waiting to be embraced with an artistic hand… from someone that lives in a fringe-floppy universe, that is… It seems that there ‘is’ reason, or harmony if you wish, written into the nature of the world’s happenings; you know, things seem to happen for a reason, and all that.
Now I live next to a place that the Shlubs call the Gate. The gate leads to a nature reserve that was created by Baron Von Rothschild about 100 years ago, or thereabouts… He’s buried there with his wife in a cave that descends down under the Height of the Gift, Ramat HaNadiv. I walk a lot there too. It’s outside of the Eruv (an arbitrary line defined by a structure that delineates an area that a Jew can carry stuff in on Shabbat, but that is another story); so, sometimes on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) I empty my pockets and drink enough water to get me all the way over to the Canaanite graveyard, on the opposite side of the reserve from the Gate near my house. There are Tumuli there, but to get there I have to descend, again, down through time, through the Crusader ruins, the Byzantine ruins, and the Roman ruins, eventually arriving at a vista that gazes upon all of coastal Israel, well… at least down past Caesarea to the scrapers of Tel Aviv.
Yeah, you got stuck on Shubs (unless you ‘are’ one, upon which when reading you grinned from ear to ear… I know you guys). For all you non-Shlubs, a Shlub is actually a Coffee-biker-shlub and yes, I am one too. We ride mountain bikes and drink coffee in the nature reserve, as well as other well established riding Meccas around the area. We even have our own whisky label, Shlaberlour… But, enough on the subject of Shlubs. I began our journey with an event that established my awareness of a kind of lack of urban planning that exists in the Middle East. You see, I am spoiled, being the son of an urban planner that designed whole cities. My dad was no shlub, but he did design the city of Irvine in California (with help, of course). He would be rolling in his grave if he could see the lack of ‘said’ urban planning that exists here, in the center of the Middle East, in Israel…
So, in the Middle East it is very complicated to get anything done, but the exact process that complicates absolutely everything seems to cause a pattern in the fabric to occur. Case-in-point: I went to my friend Yosi’s garden the other day and witnessed the same fractured depth that I keep seeing in every dark, fetid corner around the Middle East. It’s a depth that can only come from time, and lots of it… Well, I guess about 2000 years of time. You see, about 2000 years ago, there were multiple factions vying for control of the Promised Land, some Jewish, some not. These factions destroyed the world that we are told God had sought to build here. Our petty, selfish ranting and goings-on collapsed the dream of the Devine… We splintered into a fecund pile of once human relics; and that was only 2000 years ago. Before that we failed as well…
So… when I stood on the corner, in the same spot that I had to jump out of the way of the little oncoming green machine, looking up at the German gas system factory that had been built by Christian Zionists in the Holy Land, I thought these thoughts; and then I realized that the Arab workers, that had been taking a break with a sweet smelling nargillah from their work sweeping asphalt into a ditch, were one of the factions, as were the Germans, as were the seemingly failed urban planners that presided from the local council of elders on the hill above the winery that had been across from where I used to live. I realized all this as I looked across the street at the Germans animatedly waving their hands, pointing with the clear authority of a doomed species, gesturing at the round-about that the local Jewish government had imposed upon them. They wanted a traffic light, I know, and the traffic circle was going to impede their designs to occupy the Promised Land, conceivably making a difference in the lives of the People of the Book. A traffic light would allow order to ensue, imposed upon the general public with robotic consistency, while a traffic circle would require ‘getting along’ with your neighbor.
In that moment, it appeared to be ‘real’ Rabbinic Judaism in action – bringing the masses together from all walks of life as one, cunningly requiring them (us) to work together and to give right-away to the guy that got there first. The Zealots were going to have to get along with the Pharisees, the Sadducees were going to have to accept the Christians, and the Idolaters were going to have to get used to the idea that Allah ran the world…
Yes, a smiley face goes here…
Happy travels to all you seekers out there and Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Dream

Birthing belief in the stars, I feel the suck swooping down to encompass my silent haggis.

Her rattle swears in its own single mammogram clutch selling crystal liquid from a bottle,

The container that produces me spinning overhead like a cat in a burlap sack or a sacrificial chicken.

Writing poetry over the wall furiously with blood green and messy, she is…

Singing along with the echoes of her voice bouncing across the wallpaper around my mind

Rattling with magnesium bullets, ricocheting in the ramshackle village where I grew up, showing bones bleached in the moonlight.

My list of worries selfishly rolls out onto the floor, scratching the tile with a shifty rustling, like snakeskin catching on grass,

My skin has risen, but I don't mind since I have forgotten what it felt like and don't know or care.

In a sweat full of cheap and easy transactions, I awake,

And awash with the wonder of clarity becoming emptiness,

I look up to the blue sky that wasn’t a color just a moment before;

I see cheating there puffy clouds, and I lift my feet off the ground,

My knees don't bend, an angelic stump; my body moves up into the jet stream, twirling, spinning, bliss abandoned.

I realize I was dreaming in the other place; but, now awake, I soar,

From my own caged mind a trap door opens, I fly though it and fall.

She’s not in the world;

Not reading poetry from planet other, over the telephone, click beep, click beep,

Not waiting for me to parent-up and being cute and small, telephoning, click beep, click beep.

I soar and I spin,

I’m alive,

And then I wake to realize that I cannot fly,

I was only sleeping, dreaming, and I have been left alone with loving care.