A Special Place in Hell / What I wanted for Father's Day, and what I got
A glimpse of a future in which the bedrock denominators of humanity, our hopes for loved ones, apply regardless of blood, faith and history.
ABU GHOSH, Israel – As a rule, the best times to be a reporter are the worst times to be alive. In the Holy Land, this is one of those times.
Relative even to the sub-basement expectations of the modern Middle East, the recent period has been a roller-coaster whose only direction is down. The reporter in me would stand to gain from the thundering asininity, the tabloid leadership, the tragic, reflexive resort to violence.
The father in me wants it to stop.
What to ask for this Father's Day, if in this bludgeon of a Holy Land there were such a thing?
Just this: One night, no more than a few hours, in which the only thing shattered, beaten down, and abruptly displaced, is the bitter air of hatred and despair that we here have all somehow learned to breathe.
Nothing more than a glimpse of a future in which the bedrock denominators of humanity, our hopes for loved ones, apply regardless of blood, faith and history.
Wouldn't you know it. For all that I had despaired of any of it, this year, in my household, this day which never comes at all, came a week early.
It came in this village, the Jerusalem foothills town in which my daughter and her beloved chose to hold their wedding.
A wedding does something to people. Perhaps not to everyone. But for most, it slaps sense into us. It buoys the sunken soul. A villager, a longtime acquaintance still in the glow of his own daughter's recent nuptials, rolled down his window to shout Mabruk! as I passed, just as I called out Mazal Tov! to him – Arabic and Hebrew suddenly completing one another, enhancing one another. Arabic and Hebrew suddenly instruments of joy.
I left my native America long enough ago that I have forgotten – if, in fact, I ever really knew – what Father's Day was intended to be. But I have lived here long enough to know what, just this once, for a few hours, it could be. A cascading reminder of the first moments of our first born, the tiny vermilion girl, shorter by far than my forearm, weightless, effortless in triumph over hopelessness, over the awful, insistent, corrosive gravity of current events.
This, then, was my Father's Day: In a single, miraculously defiant act of commitment and unbridled dancing, I received a marvelous son-in-law and an extraordinary extended family, with whom all of us, objective differences notwithstanding, felt remarkably and immediately at home.
For a few hours, a week early, this Father's Day was the best time of all to be alive.