Turning away from evil

I had a dream last night.

An epic, Joseph Campbell/ CG Jung type dream.

The part I want to share with you involved a snake.

Back off, Freud wanna-be. Before you go analyzing me, let’s take a journey together.

It wasn’t really a snake — more like a supernatural serpent demon type thing — the body of a serpent but the head of a monster — that most everyone else around me was mistaking for an interesting, but somewhat harmless boa constrictor.

In the dream, I was safe inside an enclosed car. The serpent thing couldn’t really hurt me. I knew this, but I also knew he was a threat. My boss was in the car, too. He noticed the evil behind us and suggested we high tail it out of the forest we were in. Smart thinking.

As I looked back, however, I saw the serpent make its way towards another car — an open-topped convertible– in which a young child sat alone strapped into a car seat. I screamed as I watched the serpent begin to devour the child.

I turned away then.

I urged with my eyes my boss to look too, but he refused. He knew what was back there and knew there was nothing we could do to save the child. We drove away.

As we often do in dreams, I suddenly appeared in a different setting with different people, but the serpent still loomed. This time, I wasn’t shielded by the metal frame of the car. I was in an old kibbutz building. The roof and windows were open. I knew it was only time before I would be in grave danger again.

Obviously disturbing, I soon forgot the dream when I woke up this morning. But I recalled it just now as I also recalled the incident that happened to me in real life yesterday that likely inspired the dream.

On my way to work yesterday morning, minutes before arriving at my destination, I had slowed behind another vehicle as we were both approaching a traffic light.

Suddenly, I saw the driver, clearly a grown man, reach across to the passenger seat and strike violently at the person sitting there.

I couldn’t tell if the passenger was a child or a small woman. All I knew is that the person was small enough that his or her head didn’t reach above the head rest, and that what the driver was doing was very, very wrong.

My mouth gaped open in shock. It was that jarring.

Immediately, the person in the passenger seat reached out in a defensive swipe back at the offender and the driver returned to the road.

Moments later, as the light turned green and we inched toward it, the driver did it again. Struck at the passenger violently with his right hand, while his left remained on the wheel.

This time, horrified, I honked my horn. The driver looked up into his rear view mirror.

He understood I was honking at him. That I had seen him.

But my seeing him did not stop him. Not for long.

As we drove through the green light, his car swerved a little from side to side as he again struck out at the passenger.

Beside myself, I started to feel my heart in my throat. But my left turn into the industrial park where my office is located was approaching. I quickly memorized his licensed plate number before making the turn.

And then he was gone.

Evil. There in front of me.

Me. An observer. Powerless.

Now, of course, I don’t know what was taking place in that car. I don’t know the words exchanged or the history between the passenger and the driver.

But I do know one thing. In the back seat, sat a young child …strapped into a car seat …witnessing the entire ordeal.

So, no matter what was taking place in the front seat, the child in the back seat, like I, was exposed to something horrific.  The child, in a sense, had been devoured, while I watched in horror.

I didn’t do anything with the license plate number. I didn’t report the incident. In fact, I did everything I could to forget about it as soon as I parked my car and walked the steps up to my office.

But clearly, I couldn’t forget about it. The experience haunted me in my dreams. It haunts me still.

What is my role when faced with evil in the world?

When can I be an active force — not a hero, per say, but a force — against evil?

And when am I compelled by time or by space or by powerlessness to remain a spectator? Left behind with only my heart in my throat and a deep sense of regret that there is some evil in the world in which we must simply turn away from.

Acknowledging it exists. And hoping that in the acknowledgement, we have done something small to stop it in its tracks.

Kadima!

Spring is often used as a metaphor for rebirth. Combine this with the Jewish tradition of cleaning house before Passover and you’ve got yourself a good season for change here in Israel.

And so it is for our family.  Changes abound that are already impacting our immigrant experience…and more so mine than anyone else’s.

I blogged recently (in my regular Patch.com column, “That Mindful Mama”) about our family’s “team trade.” More specifically, how I recently accepted a full-time position as a marcom specialist for a hi-tech incubator here in Israel, and will be leaving my position of the last five years: part-time primary caretaker and work-at-home freelancer. In addition, my husband will consult part-time (he’s a grant-writer and fundraiser, work that may be done from home), but will take over responsibility of caring for our kids and maintaining our home needs. 

This is a huge shift for us as a family, and for me as a new olah.

First of all, it means I need to leave my bubble. My safe little kibbutz cocoon. It means I need to get in my new car, figure out the different mechanisms (like how to work the windshield wipers), and brave Israel’s roads. Worse than navigating the hilly, foggy roads in the morning is navigating psychotic Israeli drivers who are either constantly riding up my rear or trying to run me off the road as they pass me.

Most of all, getting a job means I need to interact with a lot more people who might want to speak Hebrew with me. However, I have a feeling, that just like an enema, this decision might make me momentarily uncomfortable, but is likely exactly what I need to get things moving in the right direction.

My new job is at a mainly English-speaking company with many Anglos on staff. It’s also primarily an English-speaking position.  While a high level of Hebrew is not required for the position, the office is not a Hebrew-free zone. Mostly everyone except for me speaks a fluent Hebrew and when an Israeli is in the conversation, the language quickly converts over to Hebrew. Therefore, I’m required to listen and understand or, at the very least, nod as if I do.

Most of my new colleagues have been told that my Hebrew is still “a work in progress,” but that hasn’t kept all of them from trying. Which they should and which I reluctantly encourage. Reluctantly because it usually leads to some level of humiliation and discomfort for me.

At least twice during my first week here, I thought someone was speaking to me — they were looking straight at me, after all– but it turned out they weren’t.  I’ve also been spoken to without realizing it was me who was being spoken to. In those cases, I learned, a smile and nod only get you so far. If the statement ends in a period, there’s a 50-50 chance I can get away with a simple smile. If the statement ends with a question mark, however, I might be in trouble. “Ken” or “lo” only get you so far in the workplace.

Thankfully, I haven’t yet been made fun of or chided for my lack of Hebrew. So far, most people here seem to think my broken Hebrew is cute and endearing. However, I am fully aware the “olah hadasha” tag will only work its magic for so long.

The big question is: How long?

When are you no longer considered an new immigrant? When do you make the transition over to just plain old immigrant? Or “olah vatika?” (“Seasoned oleh”) How is my status measured? In “daylight, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee?” Is it when the sal klita ends? When my kids are fluent in Hebrew? When I make five Israeli friends?

I certainly hope getting a full-time job doesn’t prevent me from milking this status for as long as I can.

I need all the help…and breaks…I can get.

(This was previously published as part of my blog, “Israeli in Progress,” on The Jerusalem Post.)