Have you ever noticed how it takes knowing someone in a particular place to make that place really mean something? Take the frozen world of Siberia, for instance. I haven't paid more than an academic (or should I say literary) attention to the place in my whole life. Not since I read particular Russian writers. The year I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I read both volumes of The Gulag Archapelago, which landed me...er, that is, kept my imagination there for many frozen months, so much so I'm surprised it didn't affect her temperament. That it didn't one whit surely speaks against the notion that we can influence who our child becomes by what we play or read or speak to our wombs from the outside. This reassures me somehow. Maybe lets me off the hook a bit, if I'm looking for that, which I'm really not. And I've read a whole lot of other Russians who wound their way into Siberia one way or another, but it wasn't a real place to me, no more than a place in books or a large barren blot on a map until my brother landed his real person there. Then the real cold which took his breath away at first and the darkness which made sunlight seem like a luxury and the undulating white became real. Photographs of his real life. We're still stuck in winter here in Washington State while the rest of this country has catapulted itself straight into summer but he posted the other day that the temperatures had climbed to 20 degrees F so it seemed almost balmy in Bratsck. And that made me think again about how I've been complaining about our bit of snow. Yes, Siberia has become a real place to me, and I'm looking for it in the news (though that news never comes--thankfully!) because someone I love now works there.
Likewise, of course, Finland has always been a country of import to our family. We have family there. Real family. Brothers and cousins and real kin. We look for it, listen for it, think of it as ours in some real way, though only they have a drop of Finnish blood to them, and only a few of us have visited and among us, only Beve has lived there for any length of time. Still our home is packed with Finnish goods--candy and coffee, glassware and fabric. We are Finnish by allegiance if not Finnish by genetics.
And now, one of those Finnish cousins, our niece M has moved to Israel for the year. She lives in Beersheva, volunteering with an organization that works with autistic adults. The first two months were quiet enough, as she got used to her surroundings, the job, did some sightseeing, made new friends. But the last week...well, the last week has reminded her (and all of us, by extension) that she's living in a war-zone, that to live in the southern part of Israel means learning about bomb shelters and sirens, running to stair wells (even cloaked in only a towel from the shower), learning to watch where you walk.
She's been writing a blog since she got to Beersheva so I thought I'd post the link here. She writes well and her words bring you in contact with her life better than I can. But what I will say is that her being there has brought into sharp relief what all the news stories fail to do for me...I'm sorry to say. It puts a face on it--the face of a young woman I love. M is a very strong young woman--she's so much like E you'd think them twins, temperamentally. It's really quite crazy how this can be since they grew up across the world from each other and E's six years older than M. But as they would say, it is what it is.
So M's blog:
When you see the news about Israel, think about all the M's there. All the nieces and sisters and daughters and wives living there, doing their jobs, just trying to grow up and live their lives. And all the sons, brothers, nephews, husbands doing the same. Most don't have any more notion of this conflict than you and I do. Most are simply people who would get along with their neighbors, no matter what those neighbors believed and how they practice those beliefs, if they could do so. Most simply want to live in peace.
One of the most baffling things about the history of the Old Testament is that God sent His people to conquer a land that was already populated, thus, we might say, insuring this conflict from as far back as Joshua and the people crossed the Jordan. I would be less than honest if I didn't admit it troubles me. But I have to believe--I absolutely DO believe--that God knew/knows what He's about. Then and now. And that peace is coming. Someday. There's prophecy to back that belief up, of course. So we continue to trust Him amid the struggle and war and difficulty that abounds in that region, the one that has a more human face for me at the moment. The face of my Finnish niece.