Sisterhood Blog

Hawaii's Lessons for 5771

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share
visitmaui.com

I’ve been here in Maui for nearly three weeks — far from my home in Israel nearly 180 longitudinal degrees away — and the contrasts are striking.

Drivers stop at crosswalks even if the pedestrian is standing still on the sidewalk. Everyone stops to say a cheery “aloha” to people they pass on the street, making me wonder at first if my host actually knows everyone on the island. The talk is slow, the breeze is refreshing and the surrounding waters remind you that there is no current known threat of enemy or terror in the foreseeable distance. Even the looming volcanoes are dormant and benign.

I realize that the tranquility here is something of an illusion. After all, Hawaii has socio-economic and ethnic woes like many other places, as well as a severe drug problem and less-than-perfect educational system. Locals like to say that Maui is a tough place that spits some people out. Still, there is something about the energy here that I want to bring back with me to Israel. When the ocean breeze blows in the afternoon, I feel like everything washes away. I can close my eyes and let myself drift out into the grand universe, allowing God to take me wherever the wind can carry me.

But there is actually much more in common between Maui and Israel than it may seem. Both are charged spiritual centers on the planet. The spirituality of Maui, where people regularly mention the spirits that direct them on their journeys and the voices of guides around them leading them through their decision-making, is one of a rich and ancient cultural heritage that blends forces with contemporary people escaping pains of their current lives. That’s not so different from Israel. Maui calls people, and Jerusalem calls people. They are locations for seekers and sensitive souls, searching for meaning, depth and inner serenity.

I took a drive through a region called Pukalani, which means “hole in the sky,” and its neighboring town, Makawoa, which means “eyes,” famous as a spot where people go for visions. It’s a charming town where rainfall is spontaneous and invigorating. The air is positively charged, and locals believe that ancient spirits wander around at night. There is an old Portuguese community there, which has been discovered to be composed of descendants of Crypto-Jews running from the Inquisition. I met a woman named Kaaty, a 63-year-old former surfing champion and devout Christian who recently discovered that she is from a famous Crypto-Jewish family named Carvajal who were burned at the stake in Mexico City. She was working for many years as a Christian missionary only a block from the square where her ancestors were killed, but she only recently discovered the connection during a trip to Israel. Today she is exploring her connection to Judaism, and has started a group called “Voice for Israel” to support Israel.

If there is one thing I’ve learned here it’s that life can be a little easier. It seems to me that a lot of the stress of Israeli life is self-inflicted: the aggression, the anxiety, the overworking, the interruptions, the abrasiveness, the sense that people are constantly putting the squeeze on one another. It doesn’t have to be that way. Israel has a rich cadre of spiritual ancestors who would like to direct the region to peace, if only we would heed their voices. But first, we have to believe that we are deserving of that peace and tranquility. That seems to be our greatest obstacle.

My prayer for this coming new year is that the Jewish people will come to see ourselves as deserving of peace — internally and externally — and that we will allow ourselves to receive the healing blessings that are around us, the spirit of peace that are waiting for us to embrace them.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Maui, Hawaii, 5771

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.