In his fantastic book “Ahasver the wandering Jew” Stefan Heym writes: “Chapter Three, in which incontrovertible proof is furnished that nothing beyond the scope of our doctrines can exist even though it’s there”
I love this guy; his books were banned in the GDR as of 1976. He truly and honestly believed in the possibility of: “Developing a society of solidarity, in which we guarantee peace and social justice, freedom of the individual, freedom of movement for all, and the protection of the environment.” (From a speech given in Berlin, on 26th November 1989).
And I thought I was a dreamer. Stefan Heym dedicated his life to fighting for the individual’s freedom within corrupt political systems, either bound by economic or fascist motives that limit freedom. For his writings that speak so intelligently and powerfully of this, he won the Jerusalem Prize for Literature.
Freedom is such a significant value for me that I’ve often made strange, seemingly disadvantageous choices to live by my convictions.
Between 1998 and September 2000, I lived in a small village in the ex-GDR called Zeuden, with 100 inhabitants, where I was the only Jew. The people I lived with were born in the ex-GDR. This young generation of East Germans had built into their DNA (epi-genetically probably) the culture and values of solidarity, freedom of the individual, freedom of choice, and mutual acceptance and respect.
It was an inspiring time for me to live my life as a trapeze artist, teaching at the Fabrik in Potsdam, performing on the streets of Wittenberg for money, milking goats, and running in the forests daily with three amazing dogs, who were my constant companions.
This is a region in Germany where Neo-Nazism now seems to abound. I did not encounter it at all. I felt instead protected and loved by the people I lived with. My father was horrified by my choice to live there; we didn’t speak for two years.
When I was living in Zeuden, the men of the young families who came to live there from Potsdam were renovating the old village houses for their families. They would go from one old house to the other, building, rooms, roofs, or whatever was needed. They were skilled Zimmerer.
I, the circus artist Wandering Jew that I was, lived in my old caravan in the garden of one of the farms. The joke was that when Orit will have built her home, they would come to build it for me, no matter when or where it would be in the world.
Twelve years later, a group of three Zimmermann-journeymen dressed in black, with their funny black hats, and bundle sticks, walked out of the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. I picked them up; we went to Hadera. They built the foundation and the frame of the house where I am sitting now and writing this post.
True to their word, these men came to Israel and built my home.
Solidarity, freedom of the individual, freedom of choice.
The less obvious way has always been my way, from the heart.
I learned a lot from my friends in East Germany, and now, I have the possibility to learn some more. We grow, and we learn as we do.
Sometimes our choices seem awkwardly revolutionary to the people who know us. But I think they come from within and lead us in ways we must take.
Likewise, innovation is almost always met with resistance, books may be banned, and revolutions may not be televised, but the human spirit persists.
Sometimes things come around only years later, “there are things only time can do.” The spirit, the hidden, the unknown, is always there, behind the scenes, invoking our personal choices and the worlds we create.
If this speaks to you,
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