Essay: For the birds | Jewish News from Detroit


Migratory birds in the Hula Valley. (Photo by Flash90)

The large number of these migrants from heaven have suggested what lies beyond, what happens when our souls join the Ultimate Oneness.

BIn the light of a rising moon, we saw thousands of birds appear in the sky. Before seeing them, we heard the cacophony of bird voices, loud and insistent, here we are, make way for us, let us pass. And then the awe-inspiring sight of the soaring and magnificent wings joined the sound across the hazy sky. Flocks of bird families arrived, using the winds to find their way, to rest their weary feet in the tiny land mass they sought over continents and oceans.

That the destination of those noble travelers from Siberia, Europe and Scandinavia en route south to Africa is a stopover at Argamon Hula in Israel is a well-documented annual phenomenon. But witnessing this event in all its noisy and graceful reality was breathtaking. And as darkness came and the moonlight grew stronger, the shadows of the arriving families and flocks of birds continued to dazzle the night sky.

I first cried at the sound, when I realized that the show we were waiting for was starting. And my emotion deepens at the sight of the birds. I’m not an “ornithologist”, just an ordinary fan of the bird songs we hear in our everyday life, just a sucker for our colorful feathered friends. “Why do you like birds so much?” My granddaughter asked me with quite a bit of nerve. “They are like flying flowers,” I say, “the miraculous creation of God in so many colors and shapes. How not to love a clumsy pelican, a delicate pink flamingo?

However, my emotion at the Hula took me by surprise. Now I think it was the sight of so many life asserting itself in a most wonderful way. We came north for the event after a few weeks of loss, death in our little human world. We have lost two dear friends and our community has suffered another great loss. My mind was filled with questions about death, where their souls dwell, how we will cope as we age and our losses continue to draw closer. If not for answers, the birds have given me overwhelming joy, and the persistence of their flight mission has given me hope. And maybe the large number of birds coming from the sky gave me a conscious image of what lies beyond, what happens when our souls join the Ultimate Oneness.

Scientists seem to know a lot about how animals and birds migrate. I don’t understand much about it and I prefer to see the mystery unfold in real time. I realized that the birds gave me yet another reason to be grateful to this country. The Hula Marshes were known to be the source of malaria and the death of the early settlers who came with the hope of taming the land and building it. But the drying up of the swamps, while solving one problem, created another. The heroes of a generation have created a catastrophe for the ecosystem. Over the years the remarkable process of “re-submersion” began and the land fed on seeds and other necessities for flora and fauna. The arrival of birds, half a billion of them, testifies to this process. It is still in progress. But regardless of geopolitics or pandemic, these birds really want to be there! Like so many aspects of life in this country, there is a lot that needs to be fixed and a lot of things are so inspiring.

Judy Mars Kupchan is an olah in israel from Chicago. She is a retired CEO of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and a Jewish educator for over 40 years in the United States. This essay first appeared in The Times of Israel.


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