"Stayin' alive, uh, uh, uh, stayin' alive…" Hearing those words push people of a certain age to bounce around, punch their arms in the air and sing along with the Bee Gees.
March 10th at Judy's 65th birthday party with disco lights casting their multi-colored hues on the dance floor, I found myself together with 35 other women singing our hearts out and dancing in a circle as if we had choreographed the numbers.As I considered where I was, the words hit me hard as all of us joyous women danced.
The birthday party was in the outskirts of Jerusalem in a suburb overflowing with new immigrants and people who can't afford the beautiful new apartments being built in the heart of Jerusalem.Mercaz Rachel houses a program for about 600 children who need assessment or tutoring. The Center also provides after school care and programs to help parents learn best practices for parenting and how to negotiate the Israeli bureaucracy.Instead of presents for the birthday celebrant, we gladly donated to the center and enjoyed a tour of the bright and welcoming spaces.
Judy and her family have turned every tragedy into a "stayin' alive" moment.The center was founded in memory of her sister-in-law Rachel Karwan who died much too young.This year has been a tough one on Judy as well with too many deaths in her family but she chose to dance, celebrate with friends, and help others rather than surrender to despair.
The timing made the words poignant.The birthday party was held in the midst of a new wave of knife attacks in Israel, some in Jerusalem. I had debated whether or not to go, but I decided to become one with the Israeli spirit and hop on a city bus at Mt. Scopus and ride the ninety minutes to the last stop. We passed through every kind of Jerusalem neighborhood from the apartments in French Hill to an Islamic neighborhood where the graffiti on the school and mosque were unfriendly towards Jewish Israelis to say the least to the Old City to the Russian Compound, through the center of Jerusalem, Rehavia, and then outside the city towards Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. Nowhere did I sense fear –bus passengers included a cross section of Israeli society including schoolchildren heading home on public transportation. Of course, everyone knew to be alert, but Israelis are not sunk in depression or huddled in their apartments.
The moment of crisis on the bus hit when a little schoolboy fell on his way to exit, dropping his ice cream cone and bursting into tears. Passengers shouted to the driver to stop. Others checked the boy to see if he was okay and a friend took his hand and promised they'd get another ice cream.
"Stayin' Alive" with all the verve and bass and energy of the Bee Gees' song is what we were all doing.Much more than just existing, but being alive to celebrate the happy occasions that life brings and the joy of being with others-especially in Jerusalem.