Finding a Magical World
By Sara Brandes
Like every good ex-pat, I have the manuscript of my first novel tucked away in my desk drawer, in the light filled attic of my Galilean home.
Writing was what I dreamed of doing, during the quiet moments in the cafe I’m working to build on Kibbutz Hannaton, where my young family and I moved last fall. But before arriving here, I did not think of myself as a poet, and certainly never expected to publish a spiritual memoir.
The land of Israel caught me off guard. She took my breath away. It was the way she changed, day to day, I think, that inspired me to break my schooled rational silence, in order to proclaim, “The World Is Magical!”
Magical World: Stories, Reflections, Poems, is the story of my own spiritual searching, and of the beauty I found awaiting me in my new life in Israel. I am a Zionist, but I did not move to Israel with my husband and two young children for ideological reasons. On the contrary, our reasons were entirely selfish.
We wanted to make our life in community, in nature, in a place where we felt safe to let our kids run free, and the affordable day care and national health care didn’t hurt either. What I did not expect to find here was angels around every bend, and whether I believe it or not, I do.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the Torah describes this place as one where God always keeps God’s eye (Deuteronomy 11:10-12). Again and again, day by day, as our mini-crises kept giving way to simple synchronicities, random kindnesses and new friends, I found myself filled with wonder at the endless stream of miracles in my life.
The 2014 Gaza war raged as we made our final preparations for Aliyah last fall, and the only rational perspective on today’s terrible headlines is that the world has gone mad. Amidsts the bloodshed and the insanity, the gang rapes, beheadings and random gun violence, I find myself filled with gratitude that I live here, in the holy land.
Israel is a place where we face danger straight on, where we know that evil and enemies exist, and where we choose to enjoy a cup of strong coffee in the afternoon sun anyway. It is a place where my cell phone company help menu is offered to me in five languages and where religious people of all faiths can cover their heads without risk of violence. It is the beating heart of the world, where violence co-exists with genuine diversity, a tapestry of human existence. And, it’s our home.
Rabbi Sara Brandes is author of Magical World: Stories, Reflections, Poems, where she takes readers on an experiential journey engaging them in the personal reflections and anecdotes experienced during her search for a higher meaning, accompanying others as they walk a similar path.