All or Nothing at All

Dearest Rachel –

For all that it’s been an edifying trip (even with the distraction of me trying to write everything down as I’m walking through every single site), it’s really good to get back home, and pile myself into my own bed. Daniel agrees, despite the fact that his bed is essentially the family room couch; there really is, as Dorothy Gale puts it, “no place like home.”

Even the fact that the bedroom is, for some reason, a chilly 65°, isn’t a real deterrent; I can just stack some more blankets on the bed, and wear my fuzzy terrycloth robe as I drop into it. However, I do make a point of adjusting the thermostat to 72-75° (it’s analog, so it isn’t particularly precise, as you well remember), just to see if the space heater kicks in overnight.

It does, actually. By the time I wake up at around two (which would be akin to ten in the morning back in Israel), I’m already sweating, but am determined to finish my night’s sleep. When I finally surrender to wakefulness at six, and check the thermostat, it reads the actual temperature in the room to being somewhere more in the neighborhood of 80°. It’s like the thing has no way to internally moderate itself; to say “hey, I reached the temperature I was set to, now I take a break and turn myself off for a little while.” It’s either all or nothing at all.

Much as we tend to understand that the world contains shades of gray, just as much as it does black and white, there are so many points within it where someone insists otherwise, forcing the issue of good versus bad, right versus wrong, and inflexibly requiring everyone within their sphere of influence to abide by this dualistic dichotomy. The past week and a half have included numerous examples on both sides.

From a modern perspective, we have the Palestinian Authority. There have been various compromise treaties extended to them throughout the course of Israel’s existence – several “one nation, two state” agreements – all of which have been turned down by them. to them, the Jews (or the Israelis, depending on your view) are the interlopers, despite so much archaeological evidence that they existed here long before there was even such a thing as ‘Palestine’ (a name given to the region by emperor Hadrian after the second Jewish revolt in 132 A.D.) but each time that they have tried to go to war with the Israelis, even backed by as many as five other allied nations (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt), they have had their heads handed to them, and the Israelis have simply taken more territory – which they have as often as not given back in the interests of peace. So they know they cannot defeat Israel in a military campaign.

So, they wage a PR campaign against Israel these days, calling it an apartheid state. and yet, the question is, who is able to go where? In the West Bank (and presumably, Gaza) it is the Israelis who are forbidden. Not so much by law, but the Israeli police and military are not allowed in these areas, and thus cannot protect their citizens there. As a result, they are advised strongly to keep out. You might as well pull a John McClane in Die Hard with a Vengeance (remember the sandwich board stunt?) It would be virtual suicide. And that’s why Yael could not accompany us into Bethlehem.

Meanwhile, there are cities within Israeli borders that are predominantly Arab, such as Nazareth itself. And they seem to be doing fairly well, in comparison. But that doesn’t seem to be what the Authority wants. It’s all or nothing at all, and in their minds, it’s Israel’s fault that they aren’t given everything they want.

Not that the Israelis are entirely simon-pure, either. After all, the Sicarii of Masada literally destroyed a nearby town of fellow Jews in En Gedi in order to keep their futile fight against the Romans going, under the rubric of ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us.’ There was no room for nuance, no live and let live. Either support the revolt, or you were mortal enemies. Honestly, it’s not a good way for making allies, which one generally needs in a time of war.

And that attitude was not restricted to that time period. After all, a century or so earlier, even among the disciples was a man named Simon, who is specifically identified as ‘the Zealot,’ which would have put him squarely at odds with the tax collector Matthew, who he would have considered among the most loathsome of traitors. It says something about Jesus’ message and personality (to say nothing of the fact that He was God Himself, not that all the disciples always realized this) that the two of them never clashed – or if they did, even Matthew himself doesn’t bother to record it.

This attitude of the disciples wasn’t limited to politics, though. They even tried to stop someone else from attempting to work miracles in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ reply?

But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him, because anyone who uses my name to do powerful things will not ·easily [quickly] say evil things about me. Whoever is not against us is ·with [for] us. I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a drink of water because you belong to the ·Christ [Messiah] will ·truly get [L certainly not lose] his reward.

Mark 9:39-41, Expanded Bible

He flipped the expression on its head, expanding it to include more than it excludes. Interestingly, it’s still a black-and-white dichotomy (either with or against), but He intends that it be used to embrace rather than reject others.

On a more personal level, I suppose that same dichotomy existed between you and me, and – hopefully, if she exists – me and Megumi. Sure, there are many ways in which we were different; certain things we would have liked (and maybe even tried) to change, others that we just realized we would have to accept. But at the end of the day (or perhaps more accurately, at the beginning of our story), it comes down to “do you take this person?” There are only two answers; “I do,” or “No, I do not.” There is middle ground in the relationship – any relationship, but there is no middle ground in decided whether or not it should be. You either take it all, or you leave it with nothing at all, don’t you?

I won’t say I enjoyed it all – although most of the truly hard times had nothing to do with you, and in fact, you made them that much better most of the time – and I’m sure you would say the same of me. But we had it all together, and I’d like to think we were that much better off for it.

And besides, I’d much rather you were there to keep me warm, rather than an overactive space heater.

Talk to you later, honey. Keep an eye on me, and wish me luck; I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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