Coming to terms with past and present

Nes Ammim, Israel.

Last time I wrote I was on my way to my grandparents’ grave. I saw my plans falling apart because the train was late and I felt fear of being confronted with something. Well, as my taxi arrived in Nes Ammim and I had walked from my grandparents’ house to the grave I felt a deep sadness coming up and I did broke down in tears when I stood in front of them. But that wasn’t the biggest lesson I learned. What I learned that my planning had been naïve. My idea to go to their grave, pay respect and then take the taxi back to Naharya to visit friends was not realistic. What was unforeseen was that the sudden appearance of a grandson on the founder caused a bit of a shock in the small community. I realized I had to spend a bit of time there to learn how things are going these days. Traveling is not the same as a day off in Amsterdam. I have to give things time and be flexible.

The last time I had been to Nes Ammim was to attend my grandmother’s funeral in 2002. I was 30 then. It was the only the second time I saw my father since I was 4 years old. He completely ignored me even though we (and the rest of the family) were in the same living room most of the time. Years before my grandmother made me promise that I would speak at her funeral so I had to write a speech during the night. One could say that my previous visit to Nes Ammim was emotional, in conventional and unconventional ways.

By walking around in the life work of my grandfather I realized that it was the first time that I saw the project with adult eyes and that I never had really looked at is a project before. For me it was always the place where my grandmother lived. Now the house was turned into a museum which meant that the place was hardly touched. My grandmothers glasses where still next to the phone and the Rummikub was still in the cupboard. Kind of eery. Felt like if she could walk in there any moment. Kind of eerie.

Volunteers run the place. Which means that there are young people, who just graduated from high school, and old people, who retired. Apart from the manager and his wife there is not much in between. I am happy that there are still people coming to work in Nes Ammim but on the other hand it is not a sustainable foundation for a prosperous future. I was cool to overhear the young volunteers sharing stories with each other how much they liked their time in Israel and Nes Ammim.

Coincidently I was present at a meeting where a communal trip was reviewed. Suddenly I realized that I offer workshops to all kinds of groups and that I was now facing a group of young people in the life work of my grandfather. I saw a possibility to make a contribution to this work. I realized I needed to speak up and make myself know. So I did, in a nervous voice. A told the group a bit about myself, my backgrounds and offered them the workshops that I give. Somewhere I mentioned “I can give you a modern Buddhist perspective”. Complete silence.

Boy, did that little b-word cause upheaval. Next morning I was requested to meet the manager and was told that Nes Ammim could not agree with something “Buddhist”. They had read my About Atalwin page where I speak about my awakening experience of March 2004 and for the first time I heard that there was something ‘wrong’ about my experience: one cannot open one’s heart by themselves, only Jesus Christ, our Savior, can do such work. Pretty flabbergasting. I had never met people who took the Bible or Jesus’ teachings so literal. I never had to defend myself as a Buddhist. I hardly see myself as a Buddhist.

My grandfather’s vision was to welcome all faiths. Well, there was certainly no unconditional welcoming this time. But I could also understand that I took them by surprise and didn’t give them an opportunity to reflect upon my proposal. And although their strong beliefs about their faith felt rigid to me I respect their intentions. It was very clear that they came to Israel to do something that felt right in their hearts. I didn’t feel like seeking the confrontation. They are running the place these days. Perhaps not with a very enlightened vision but with a lot of devotion.

Nes Ammim didn’t endorse the workshop. But I was allowed to do something on personal title. I did that. Only five people showed up and I did the best I could do. For the community I had preferred a gigantic success. But for me this was ok too. This was healing for me. At least I tried to make a difference. I never expected to contribute to my grandfather’s life work and my contribution was very limited. But I tried.

I left the place with a sense of closure. Nes Ammim is not what it used to be. But it still exists and people are doing what they feel is right. I am a big promoter of finding new ways to co-exist, of creating containers for practice and raising the level of consciousness. Nes Ammim has all the tools but lacks the vision. It strengthens me on my quest: we really need warriors. We need people who can inspire others to transcend their old paradigms.

Twice I meditated at my grandparent’s graves; the first day facing them, the second day facing the rising sun and with my ancestors behind me. The third day I meditated in the house with the picture of my grandfather in front of me. I burned candles. I thanked him for his inspiration and asked him for courage, guidance and wisdom. Just before I left I walked to the graves to say goodbye. They are resting peacefully in The Land. They did the best they could during their lives. I promised to do the same.

I am free to go.

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