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Age 65: Like it or not Here I am

I have long been one who makes a "big deal" about birthdays, my birthdays (as well as those closest to me), and most noteably with birthdays that have a "0" or "5" at the end. I realize that I am a bit (or more than a bit?) weird for many others who really don't "get it", as they say. The "big deal" for me is not about "celebrating externally" but more about "connecting and reflecting internally"- in different ways and forms.

To me birthdays are like "chapters in a book", the most important book you will ever have, "the book of your life". Every year is a new chapter. You will "write" it and every chapter connects with every other. Until one day- you are finished with the book! It really is like a long and winding journey- and I love those things, the longer the better, the windier the more interesting. I would say that saying "congratulations" to someone on their birthday should really be re-directed to saying "congratulations" to their mother, or parents. After all, they did all the work...and of course, for many or most of us, are parents are no longer with us to wish them so. For me it is a very delicate and profound "internal marking" of life moving on- and it deserves that recognition!

Rolling into 65

It was a bit challenging getting my head around this birthday, however, on June 3, 2024, as it would be that magic number "65". Magic, you ask? What is so magical about 65- in the US it was always the retirment age (at least when I was growing up), you get social security, medicare, people expect you to be "grandpa"- you know, that kind of thing. If you look at the surveys and research reports on trends and analysis of "elders around the world", you will undoubtedly find that age 65 is the most common "gate of entry". So if you did not fancy yourself "old" at 60, you will have to come to terms with it at 65. I planned to mark it in a "special" way, but found I was lacking the creativity to dig deeper, which was present at age 40, 50 and 60. Too much noise, worry and emotional roler-coasting around the war.

When I turned 40 I spent a night in a monastery outside Jerusalem, alone, with a journal to write in and a reading text to ponder over (probably was Buddhist psychology, but I don't recall). At age 50, the "biggie", I traveled to the south of England, to participate in a 9 day "Vision Quest" in the wooded areas of Devon, fasting alone for four days, along in communion with nature and my busy mind. At age 60, I ventured to India for a self-designed "rite of passage", to give volunteer worshops, undergo retreats and transformational yoga programs. The pending death of my father, brought me back early, which I today wonder if THAT was my rite of passage...

But now, in the midst of a long and painful war, who cares about birthdays? But in the end something did piece togther.

I began with a weekend retreat at the very same monastery where I brought in year 40, way back then, 25 years ago- Sisters of our Lady of Sion in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. As usual, I was one of two men and 12 women in a workshop that brought together the principles of the work of Virginia Satir and the world and practice of the playback theater- a type of improvisational theater in which people can gain insight, catharsis, connection, and self-expression through telling their stories and participating in enacting stories of others. In retrospect I did not feel it was the best fit for me, but I did learn and experience all types of new experiences. For example, there was one exercise in which we were asked to put blindfolds on and move in the room to music feeling for another person and beginning to dance and move with them- without knowing who they were. We changed partners three times- what an experience in embracing the unknown, uncertain and literally "going with the flow"!

After the workshop, I drove home and met my wife Merav for a "date" to drink some cocktails and "let it all flow out". Well, the alcohol came in but the next I knew it I was snoring my way at the table...end of this evening.

The next day had us at the movies for a handpicked movie in "Zen experience" in the award-winning flick, "Perfect Days" , about a Japanese man who is a public toilet cleaner. The man has an amazingly structured day, one after the next, somehow managing to appreciate the routine and smallest things about just living. For me, this type of Zen is challenging, but that does not mean it is not illuminating. There is a lot to learn- not about public toilets (that, too by the way!), but about the "doing", "being" and "breathing" of life.

However, it was the last step of this 4 day celebration which I knew would be the most meaningful one for me. I had decided to walk a couple of sections of the Israel Mediterranean Sea Trail in Israel that is not well-known. I did about 27 km from Atlit (south of Haifa) to Caeserea, waking up at 3:00 AM, at my point of departure at 5:45 AM and walking about 7 hours, doing my "usual" of "getting lost" for a few km on the way "trying to make short cuts"- ha ha! Loved it, the energy, the heat, the beautiful blue sky, clear waters, white sand. Miles and more miles, stopping to drink on the way and write in my journal every so often- the very same journal I wrote in on 50th B- Day and 60th B-Day- so we have a few rituals going on here.

Beyond the enjoyment that I crave from "physical exertion" with a goal in nature, there is the quiet of being alone, the addition of "recorded books" to listen to, but it is more than that. As I walked this piece of beautiful coastline, marking a milestone for my own "personal history", I could feel myself walking through a piece of history of this country and this land. I recalled just how much of a "miracle" it was to even have a "State of Israel" in Jewish history, and this amazing story of initiative, hope and determination. It deeply disappoints me how unfortunate, and even tragic, it is to see how Israel has been casted as the "world's villain" by the powers of world politics, social media and a huge amount of ignorance and brainwashing.

Departing just south of Atlit, and the Atlit Detention Camp, a National Heritage Site, which serves as an educational center about clandestine immigration (ha’apala) to the Land of Israel. Many Jews- mostly Holocaust survivors- who tried to reach the homeland by sea were intercepted by British authorities and incarcerated in the Atlit camp, along with Jews who fought against British rule. These were the dramatic days before the partition and the UN establishment of the State of Israel.

I walked by Tel-Dor, the ancient port city that goes back over 3,000 years, where more than 20 shipwrecks have been found. Dor is also close to the place where the Palestinian village of Tantura was until the 1948 Israeli War of Independence- a village where there is a controversy if a massacre (allegedly killing 200 Palestinians) took place by the Israeli military or if the episode has been part of a "fake news" in retrospect. We might never know. Some things just don't change.

I passed by and marveled at the fish ponds and hatcheries of Kibbutz Maagan Michael, one of Israel's best-known, largest and most economically independent kibbutzim. It is also just near the place where in 1978 Palestinian terrorists came in from the ocean and seized an Israeli bus (number 300) which lead to the murder of 35 Israelis, the largest terrorist attack on Israel until October 7, 2023 occured.

The Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa, "Blue Ridge" in Arabic, is right on the beach, a struggling town on a beautiful beach, where 80% of the population is said to be living beneath the poverty line. Jisr az-Zarqa is the only Arab-majority town in Israel located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The people of Jisr az-Zarqa belong are believed to have descended from Sudanese people brought to work as slaves for the Bedouins. I wondered about how such poverty lives amidst such beauty and nearby comfortable living of the Kibbutz nearby.

I ended my journey at the Aqueduct beach of Caesearea, a site remaining from the time of the Roman King Herod, 2000 years ago.

This may sound like a tourist promotion for coming to Israel, but it really was not about that at all. It was about sensing once again that I am a part of history and that history is a part of me, whether I am aware of it or not. We all go through this life and end it at one point or another but history "moves on", just keeps growing. Whatever I or anybody reading this post will do, will never change that. But...

But we do make our mark in some way, as the Zen toilet-cleaner teaches us, life is not really about all those "big things", although we tend to think it is. It is probably a lot closer to "many little things" interspersed with a few "big things".

Be that as it may, I am grateful to be around here at 65, feeling that we will get through all this mess, this difficult period in Israel and around the world, and when we do we will look back and remember it all someday. And even if we will be among those who "stop being able to remember" as age seeps in, no problem at all. It is all in the deep silos of history. Somehwere. Maybe one day somebody will find it in a shipwreck off the coast and wonder what that was all about.


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