How often do we hear the lament "what can I do, I am only one person." But we also know, deep down, that it is only with one person at a time that anything of significance can happen. Oh, its scary alright, to be among the first...a start-up of one is quite lonely. And two people, well, perhaps too close to a marriage...but three people, well then, lets remember what the great prophet Arlo Guthrie told us so many years ago (from Alice's Restaurant, full lyrics can be found at http://www.arlo.net/resources/lyrics/alices.shtml):
"And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in
singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an
organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said
fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and
walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement."
This past Friday I participated in two poles of the Alice's Restaurant philosophy, let me tell you about one and then the other...
1. LOCAL: Thursday night my neighbor Itay came to talk to me -- and I embarrassed that he actually had to introduce himself (had seen him, but never knew his name, a symptom of modern city life). Itay explain to me that there are changes coming to the traffic flow in our little neighborhood of Baka in Jerusalem, that will turn our village in the city to a giant highway/parking lot (traffic being redirected right into our until-now child friendly side streets). Itay asked me if the next morning I would stand with him and his wife, maybe another neighbor, to explain to residents the danger that was looming. He prepared some flyers already, we would put some posters together, and set up on the main street (called Bethlehem Road, because guess what, it leads to Bethlehem, how wild). Now, I easily could have found an excuse, he was only giving me a few hours notice, I had planned to go on a bike ride, etc., but I knew if I said no, Itay might not go out (Itay said he and his wife didn't want to go out alone, would not feel like a organized group, paraphrasing Arlo above) -- and something needed to happen. I said yes. I would join him at 9 AM, but only stay out for hour so, because needed to attend ....see below. We went out, and within minutes a crowd gathered. "What, I can't believe." "Insane." "We must fight against this." "This will ruin the neighborhood." A petition was formulated, and by the time I left (and hour or so later) we had dozens of signatures...and created a lot of noise. Stand Up And Be Counted.
2. GLOBAL: As some of you know, a great deal of attention was devoted in the media the last few weeks to the Pride March and Festival to take place in Jerusalem. For those not following, this is a march and festival coordinated by the Gay and Lesbian community in Jerusalem (through a wonderful institution, the Open House of Jerusalem, www.joh.org.il) but attended by many "straight" people to lend support. Putting aside whatever one might feel about Gay/Lesbian reality, this community came under extreme attack the past few weeks, by local hooligans masquerading as "Ultra-Orthodox" activists (obviously someone who genuinely was ultra-orthodox would never threaten violence....it would be an oxymoronic identity), the Vatican, and a few Muslim leaders, just to create some "unity." And what was under attack? A plan to have a very peaceful march and then festival (in an enclosed park). The parade was not planned to go anywhere near "ultra-orthodox" neighborhoods, or Muslim neighborhoods. For over a week the threats were flying, and then for a few nights there were violent protests. Finally a compromise was reached, and the parade/march was canceled (for a variety of reasons, including a heightened terrorist attack alert), but the festival would take place, at the campus of Hebrew University in Givat Ram. Now again, easily could have found reasons not to attend...difficult to get to, we would have all the kids, who knew if there would still be violence, etc., etc. But we needed to Stand Up and Be Counted. Especially to come as a family, to be proud of the pluralism that we wish our may-it-be-Holy City to exemplify. Jerusalem needs to be a place where everyone feels home --- where everyone feels safe, as long as they are not physically attacking anyone else. We were proud to be there with our kids, proud to be interviewed by the media to explain why we were there. Haviva was so surprised that many of our community did not attend the festival/rally. And I reminded her, sometimes even the best of people forget that every person counts -- that we all need to Stand Up and Be Counted. Here is a snapshot of the crowd, and you can just make out Shaanan Street from Hadag Naschash as he called out "Stand Up for Your Rights!"
Whether there will be three or three thousand -- it all starts with one person, looking to their right and their left, and seeing they are not alone. That is how we build community, in the real world and the virtual world. The millions will not be there without one-by-one.