Tag Archives: israel

Welcoming a New Year – and Wondering What it Will Bring

Blowing the Shofar in Israel

Originally uploaded by matthewray

One of the first things I saw when I woke up on New Year’s Day was a tweet from @yokoono (next to her War is Over! icon), asking people to send her “interesting questions”.

I feel John Lennon really became the man he wanted to be when he met Yoko (not that I know either one of them, but from anything I’ve ever read) and so I’m interested in what she’s up to. The things she says today are the same things that turned John Lennon into who he was destined to be.

Anyway, my immediate idea for a question went something like this (I was inspired by the year’s dawning as well as her War is Over! icon): “When war is finally over, how will you react?”

Now, I’m not a pacifist, and I take war as such: it is a sometimes necessary tool that brings expected – and accepted – risks for fatalities and devastation. I’m not a fan of war, but that’s what war is to me.

Recently, I was approached through my Flickr photostream by an Israeli who wants to use the above photo on a brochure in Israel. For whatever reason, this picture has sparked something fervent in many people. When I came home from Israel, my parents were thrilled with it and other family members reacted in kind. I was surprised to see that it’s generated more favorites on Flickr than any other picture I own. (For the record, I never thought it was that special compared to other shots I’ve got, but it goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

When I took that picture, I was a first time visitor to Jerusalem. Just moments earlier, 80 of us were standing blindfolded in a whipping wind, gripping a cold metal railing, with no clue what we’d see when we were told to remove the blindfolds.

When I finally was told to remove the blindfold, my eyes met the most breathtaking and inspirational sight of my life. The brilliant orange sun was setting behind the Old City. So many were moved to tears, and momentarily, I could react with nothing other than “Wow”.

I snapped plenty of pictures that evening atop the Mt. of Olives, including the one above. It shows a man blowing a shofar (best known for being sounded to announce the Jewish New Year) to trumpet our arrival. Around him, we danced in a circle and celebrated. Later, standing there, looking over the city, sun igniting clouds, I thought about how improbable it was that such a brilliant sight could bely the terrible things that have happened because of peoples’ claims to it. That time spent on the Mount of Olives was perhaps the most spiritual and peaceful experience of my life.

And that brings me back to Yoko. As we begin this New Year, with a picture that could have been taken on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I wonder what’s to become in our world. Will this be the year when some breakthrough allows us to move closer together as humans, rather than further apart as Jews/Arabs, Blacks/Whites, etc.? Will 2010 be the year we look back on one day and say, “This is when we began to desire that war is over, and that peace reign upon us?”

Wouldn’t that make for a happy new year? Wouldn’t that make for a memorable sight?