Building a Home of Our Own: The True Meaning of Jewish Autonomy in the State of Israel
Copyright © Scott Larsen
Throughout A Pigeon and A Boy, Meir Shalev weaves together two stories, the first a tale of the coming of age for the young people living in the Jewish homeland simultaneous to the rebirth of an ancient nation.
Concurrently, we read the story of Yair, a man finding his way with the love of his mother and the birds overhead leading the way. Pigeons, cranes, and other types of birds play a central role to both stories. While the people are bound by relationships, rules, and obligations, the birds of pre-1948 and modern day Israel seem to be above all that, literally. They are portrayed as being responsible to themselves and at times each other but without all the human ties that we tend to bind ourselves up in.
For example, birds, to our knowledge, do not have the sibling rivalry issues that Yair and his brother Benjamin grapple with throughout their lives. Does a mother bird choose a favorite child the way we read that Raya did? Do birds become tied up in love triangles the way that the baby, the girl, and the young student did? A triangle that haunted them long after the death of the baby? Do birds couple and uncouple the way that Yair, Tirzah, and Liora did? Do father birds suffer the extreme pain at the loss of a child or try orchestrate the happiness of their daughter the way that Meshulum did?
While they might not have to cope with the range of emotions that humans do, the birds of pre-1948 Israel played a very important role in helping the young fighters send messages to each other regarding battle plans. For those of us who rely on text messaging with family and friends to make arrangements or find out the latest news, we can certainly relate to the pivotal role that these homing pigeons played. As a Zionist, I have a newfound regard for these flying messengers.
As a Zionist, I am also swept up in the romantic notion of the importance of a home that Shalev drives home throughout the book. Toward the end of the story Raya says,
“Take it, Yair, while my hand is warm and I am still alive to give it to you. A home that will wrap you up inside it, protect you, revive you. A home that will build you as you build it, and you will be grateful for each other, and the two of you will heal each other, and you will change each other’s roof and floor, and build walls and open windows and doors.”
While Raya may have been speaking literally about the importance of a home of one’s own and figuratively about the freedom to learn and grow that a home provides for us, I see so much more in that passage. I see Shalev’s message to all of us about the true meaning of the Jewish people having autonomy in their own land, their own home.
Even for those of us who only visit Israel by plane, or by websites and books, as Jews, having our own “home” gifts us the ability to stand on our own, to contribute to each other and to the larger society.
By changing the figurative roofs and floors that Raya spoke to Yair about we have the ability to join together and create the kind of society that we strive to live in. A society based on respect for the Jewish laws that have guided our people for the past three thousand years. A society where all matter and through acts of kindness and charity those in need are taken care of. Raya’s walls can be built to secure our people in our own land and the opening of doors and windows can help create peace with others around the globe.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this book selection as much as I did.
Heidi Krizer Daroff enjoys sharing her passion for Israel with others as North America Director of The Israel Forever Foundation. While her passport indicates that she does not reside in Israel, her heart definitely does. Through her storytelling, Heidi invites you to grow your involvement and add more Israel Forever into your daily life.