On Saturday, November 24th, Claire and I attended a compelling session at Beth Tzedec Congregation with author Yossi Klein Halevi.
This was an especially meaningful moment for me because, 10 years ago, when I was just beginning my research on Stitched Glass’ Judaic tapestry, I met a Rabbi in one of the one-on-one interviews I was doing to discuss the tapestry’s imagery. He asked me if I had read At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land by Yossi Klein Halevi. I hadn’t. He suggested I read the book and come back when I had read it.
The Rabbi was right. Yossi’s book turned out to be a seminal one for me.
So much of Yossi’s book has stuck with me. Here is one passage that I have often quoted:
“If God is literally one, and all of creation is a projection of that unified will, then every living thing exists within the same organism, is in effect a cell in the divine “body,” as mystics insist. I am implicated in all of creation, nothing alive is extraneous to me. And so all love is ultimately self-love; all hatred, self-hate. For the radical monotheist, empathy is the only possible state of being: Human oneness isn’t a philosophical notion or a moral imperative but simply a fact.” (pxvii, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden)
On Saturday night, I realized that Beth Tzedec’s Rabbi, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, had also kindly spoken to me during that research period. So I approached him with Claire at the end of the talk to thank him for his help, to tell him about my connection to Yossi, and to also let him know that, after 15 years, Stitched Glass was finally finished.
I showed him photos of the tapestries on my cell phone. He lifted his glasses onto his forehead and looked at them closely.
Then he insisted we introduce ourselves to Yossi, so that he would know the impact his book had had on my work. Rabbi Baruch told us that At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden was supposed to have its book launch on Sept 11, 2001. The terrible tragedy that day prevented the launch from happening, and Yossi thereafter, in the light of 9/11’s events, had ambivalent feelings about the book as a whole. I told him how much it had affected me in a strong and positive way – how much it had contributed to my journey. One I am still on.
Yossi offered to sign my copy of his book, which Claire thought to bring along. I passed it to him, and he thumbed through it. Well-used he said. Yep, I said.
Yossi told us that At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden is being reprinted in a new edition soon. Which is wonderful.
Yossi has written more books since then: Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided A Nation (2013), and Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor (2018), which I cannot wait to read.
Now that Stitched Glass is finished, I finally have some time.