Coming to terms with my year of Bashert

Jewish karma does exist.

Jaffa Gate, Old City, Jerusalem. January 14, 2021 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jaffa Gate, Old City, Jerusalem. January 14, 2021
My grandmother on my father’s side was a great believer in bashert, a Yiddish term that may be interpreted as meaning stuff that was meant to be. She was convinced it ran in our family. For example, it was bashert that she and my grandfather fled pogroms in Ukraine and ended up in Pittsburgh.
Fast forward to Israel some 60 years later. Fleeing America amid the social upheaval of the Vietnam War, three assassinations, black liberation, women’s liberation, and the liberation of Soviet Jewry, I chose a quieter life in Israel.
Segue past a few wars and decades of marital bliss, and a different sort of challenge strikes in the form of a pandemic. The world enters a year of crisis and inconceivable and many needless deaths, but there are individual exceptions to the horrible year. This is due to the undeniable influence of the ever-present, yet inscrutable bashertian factor, a sort of Ashkenazi karma.
As the only American Israeli journalist who has both undergone a kidney transplant and published a debut novel since the plague began, I could say dayenu and sheheheyanu and be satisfied. But just as my grandparents prospered beyond reasonable expectations in Pittsburgh, I have prospered in Jerusalem.
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I first came to the park in San Simon in 1968, a penniless college student hitchhiking through Israel on his first visit.
Today I come to my neighborhood park with my 11 grandchildren.
Actually, number 12, a girl, is expected in May. The bashertian year began with the birth of granddaughter number 5, about a week before I was blessed with my transplant. I held her in the delivery room for the first and last time until she was seven months old. Today, more than two weeks after my second inoculation, I can kiss and hug her, plague or no plague. We Zoomed tonight for the last time. Kisses and hugs must be delivered in person.
No bashertian year would be complete without at least one verifiable miracle. Ours was the recovery of a loved one from a second bout of cancer, thank God.
So, like bookends: a year with births at both ends, sandwiching two victories over death, the publication of a novel and the soon publication of a non-fiction book. Full disclosure: It was also undeniably bashert that my 21-year-old Sonata died on its 260,000th kilometer in the Negev, but was replaced with a 2013 convertible that I found on Yad Shtayim THAT SAME DAY. Just sayin’.
MY POINT is to illustrate that there does exist a Jewish karma, and while the study of bashertianism is still an inexact science in its infancy, logic and mathematics dictate that bashert is not limited to specific individuals, such as inventors or presidential candidates, but is available to all under certain conditions, from a fortuitous birth to choosing a major and beyond. Some theologians have speculated that it is part of incomprehensible infinity, while several astronomers have speculated that bashert is the astronomical counter-force to the black hole concept, a sort of white hole.
Perhaps there is a genetic factor. Just as my grandparents’ bashert brought them to Pittsburgh, I have been blessed with the bashert that brought me to Israel. One confirmation of this came from my son when he was a combat medic in the paratroopers: “Abba, thank you for making aliyah.” I live on nachas.
That is why, as an American Israeli journalist for the past 50 years, I found it sad and more than a little depressing to read that the only reference to Israel among all the respondents to a recent survey on American Jewish attitudes (by Fig Tree Books) was a pro forma response to the ongoing silliness of the anti-Zionism as antisemitism non-debate.
Why was there no pro-Zionist response to antisemitism? Like that of Herzl and the Evangelicals in the British cabinet of Lord Balfour, or those folks who made the desert bloom without hi-tecH. Israel seems to have evolved from an ideology to a well-armed start-up nation without this having much of an impact on Diaspora Jewish youth.
Forgive this humble boomer who made aliyah in his youth, but where is the Zionism? Is this the true meaning of all the much-bemoaned Great Diaspora-Israel Rift blah blah: politics over peoplehood, rhetoric trumping (yes, intended) action? I choose to hope for a growing awareness among post-boomers of the synergy between the two communities. In practical illustration, I wrote a novel on the subject (spoiler alert: happy ending).
As a former sixties’ activist in the causes of the day, I founded an organization at the University of Pittsburgh to counter Arab propaganda in the time of the first terrorist airplane hijackings by Arafat et al. In 1968, it was called the Arab-Israeli crisis, since the arch terrorist’s PLO was just four years old and yet to launch its irredentist and self-defeating narrative of anti-Zionism, which too much of the world incomprehensibly fails to realize is just antisemitism. That’s because part of bashertianism is its bipolarity, its yin and yang, black and white side. The important thing is that it works, plague or no plague.
The writer is a former chief copy editor and editorial writer of
The Jerusalem Post. His novel, The Flying Blue Meanies, is available on Amazon.