Monday, March 19, 2012

The Themes of Israel and Parkinson's Disease

Israel, like Parkinson's disease, is complex. It astounds even the astute observer. It defies definition. It exists in a constant state of tension. It falls victim to denial while clinging to idealism, suffers depression while expressing incomprehensible hope. It is a land of courage and fear. It is a place of questions, many of them left unanswered.
Despite confusion, Israel welcomed me, as if it knew that there was some strange affinity between the disease I carry and the country I came to explore. Its boundaries have shifted like the symptoms of PD, sometimes gradually and other times suddenly and painfully. Its excavations disclosed such a troubled history. The dirt and dust is whisked away to reveal each succession of occupants building its empire, layer upon layer, not knowing how long their dominance over the land would prevail. Israel's origins, like those of my disease, lie buried beneath the passage of time, largely unknown but for an occasional clue unearthed.
The themes of the land became obvious. First, the juxtaposition of bountiful and barren. As we traveled north from Tel Aviv to the land around Capernaum, the contradiction of the lush and green with brown and barren seemed artificial. It was as if someone had drawn a line between the land of the good productive life and the desert of disability. It was a line I felt I understood. Staring from the Golan Heights into Lebanon and Syria, noticeably lacking the green fields, it seemed there was so little defense along this uneasy boundary. What would the future hold? Would it remain the "promised land"?
The second theme was unpredictability. Crossing the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) started out glassy smooth, the boats slicing the water as soundless skates on a freshly flooded ice rink. I felt at peace without knowing why. But it was temporary. The historic reality of this temperamental body of water became evident as we were about halfway across. The sun was setting. Night winds disturbed the waters, and the cold cut through my fair weather clothing. The message was clear; the future may hold storms for which better preparation may be required.
The third theme was fulfillment of destiny. Those same Galilee waters, which had found their genesis on the snowy slopes of Mount Hermon were destined for the Dead Sea. It was as if their travels along the Jordan River, that ancient boundary, would find themselves at the lowest point on the face of the earth with too much salt (or too much dopamine) to be useful.
And the final climactic theme, written on the land and etched into the determined stare of every settler: defiance. We learn to laugh in the face of our fate, and fight to stem the flow.  It is what we must do. Even floating in the Dead Sea, buoyant, uplifted, we know that its salts, though stinging, heal our wounds. This is our hope. This is our battle cry. We will not give up.
Like the land of Israel we will cling to life. Like the people of Israel we will work and pray for a better day; a time when trembling will cease and peace will reign. A time of Shalom.


  1. Noble effort, but sometimes a metaphor can be stretched past the point of applicability and break down into unintentional self-mockery, "with too much salt (or too much dopamine) to be useful."

  2. Anonymous;

    Good Point! I can always benefit from constructive criticism. Thanks.