Useful Lives

Anyone who's read The Hebrew Republic, or who has seen my lecture on the book, will remember my dear friends Chanan and Esther Shiloh from Kfar Yehoshua, the couple with whom I stayed when I was a young volunteer in 1967, and whose sensibilities in many ways inspired my writing all these years. I just dropped off my car with them, as I do every summer, when Sidra and I leave for New Hampshire, as we will tonight; the ostensible reason is to keep the car under a secure roof; the actual reason is the chance to be reminded why I came here in the first place.

Chanan and Esther are the soul of the Zionist revolution: curious about how things work, from the smallest weld to the arguable claims for God; full of loving humor and patriotic pride (and shame); certain of the value of their Hebrew lives, which their parents invented. And even at age 78, they are still opening to the future. The roof under which my car will be locked now produces 50 kilowatts of power owing to the solar panels Chanan just helped assemble. The investment of over a million shekels will break even in about ten years, and Chanan isn't at all sure he will live to see this. But he is already concerned about the problems of recycling the panels when their useful life is over. Then again, what other kind of life is there, even if you can't know how things will turn out? Here is a song they love, about a dove that flies high above the hills of Gilboa, on a very long journey.