SUNDAY, July 25, 1993. Smiling, bespectacled George Weissman meets me at Tel Aviv airport at four-thirty A.M. We drive north up Highway Four via Haifa to Nahariya. George is a nuclear physicist from Berkeley. We discuss Sautrantika and Yogacara philosophy as we pass through dusty towns and villages in a muddle of construction. At Nahariya we turn inland. After straying for miles through country roads, Druze olive farms, and a kibbutz, we locate Clil, an ecological village of thirty families in the hills of western Galilee.
“Buddhism and Consciousness” is the title of the retreat at which I am to give a series of lectures. It has been arranged by Stephen Fulder, a writer on herbal medicine with a long-standing interest in Buddhism. I am to stay at his self-made, solar-powered house with Stephen, his wife, Rachel, and their three charming daughters.
Over a lunch of olives, hummus, tahini, salad, and bread, I hear several staccato bursts of gunfire. I imagine soldiers are doing target practice nearby. “Katyushas,” explains Aurielle, the youngest daughter. “Rockets from Lebanon,” she adds to dispel myevident confusion. “Will you pass the hummus, please.” Every few minutes a dull thud interrupts the meal. Fear tightens my belly. “During the Iraq War,” recalls Aurielle with unassuming pride, “at night we used to watch the SCUDs on their way to Tel Aviv.” As fresh grapes from the vines around the house are served, the massive thump of a rocket or shell is followed by a palpable reverberation.
Stephen Fulder is only slightly concerned that the train to Nahariya bringing the course participants might be held up because of the fighting. He has heard on the radio that the town is under rocket attack, stores have closed, and people are in shelters.
By mid-afternoon almost everyone has arrived. They sit under trees in the garden chatting, laughing, and sipping cold lemongrass tea. When the intense dry heat of the day fades, we sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. Many are professionals: teachers, psychologists, therapists. One man is here because his daughter has been in India for two years, living in poverty and meditating. He blames Buddhism for this.
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