Thursday, July 2, 2015

So beautiful it makes us cry

There are moments when our jaded sensibilities are reawakened by events that take us by surprise, like the family of Charleston victims who extended forgiveness to the killer of their loved ones. The power of forgiveness transmuted pain that could have erupted in rage at the injustice of brutality in a place of worship. Instead, peoples' hearts opened up in deep empathy and compassion, shifting a nation torn by racial prejudice toward a new direction. Many years from now, when we look back at this moment, we should remember the feeling of opening up to the other we never knew. 

This has been a time of great shifts in our country - the Supreme Court of America justifying universal healthcare and same sex marriage - affirming equality and justice for all. It has been a transcendent moment when American jurisprudence meets profound spiritual values at a place of necessary human necessity. Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves means that what we desire for our self, what we consider essential to our own happiness, we should extend to all others. This is what it means to live up to our values in a just and righteous society.

Life at Kishorit

There are also places where we encounter The Other - those living with disabilities who help us see what is broken and missing in society. In a kibbutz in Northern Israel called Kishorit, I experienced an idyllic setting for the developmentally disabled. A revolutionary model for creating an inclusive community for people with special needs, this organic farm gives 160 people a reason to wake up every morning.

Members live in the kibbutz for life, participating actively in farming activities as part of a collective that has built the largest organic goat farm that sells its milk to the largest organic food supplier in Israel. They create a monthly newsletter, operate a TV station, creating films that air on a public television station. They plant and harvest, producing 250,000 organic eggs per year to generate income. They operate a dog kennel that produces prize-winning breeds and horse stables for animal therapy. 

Younger members attend the Ziv Kishorit Democratic High School, the only school of its kind serving Jewish and Arab adolescents with mental health issues in Israel. An Arab kibbutz, Al-Fanara, operated by the Arab community and sensitive to its own cultural needs, was built within Kishorit, also a first for Arabs with special needs.

At a time when peace is still elusive in the Middle East, these villages, working alongside each other, sharing resources and educating their children together, offer a model of what is possible when people can work together and dream together to create a better life for their own communities. 

The ideal behind this intentional community model, the only known village of this kind in the Middle East, is an important message: how people with special needs share an important lesson of giving back, doing whatever they can, with a sense of belonging and self-worth that provides fulfillment.

Today, Kishorit's vineyards produce organic boutique wines marketed to restaurants. This pastoral model of sustainability, ecology and coexistence exudes a healing energy that inspires us to try harder in the awesome task of repairing the world.