Ups and Downs for a Berliner Environmentalist Jew

This month I hit my lowest low. On of the leading Berlin newspaper's

headline commented on my mood: "Berlin's Environmentalists Between Despair

And Defiance". This month referendum about the ownership of the city's

electric grid was rejected. The idea was to force the city's government to

re-buy the grid that was privatised almost 20 years ago. A great idea

actually since grid ownership comes with guaranteed returns. and the

possibility t Along with a strong municipal utility it would have been

possible to create a decentralised, ecologic power system under democratic

control and with social responsibility. The referendum failed not because

people were against it (83% voted in favour) but because the turnout of

voters was a tiny bit too low to be valid. I am depressed and sad not so

much because politicans did go out of their way to assure this outcome (it

would have been so much cheaper to just hold the referendum six weeks

earlier, together with general elections) – I do not expect much from them

anyway. But the fact that people- no matter what their opinion on the

actual matter is- allow government to overrule the sovereign in such an

sleesy act makes me furious and truly wonder if I live in the right place.

The fact that I had to find out later that people I know did not cast

their vote made it a personal failure. And phrases like "We showed how

much we want to be involved; they cannot ignore the will of that many

voters" just cannot help me over the fact that I am not an effective

advocate for democracy as I wish to be. Difinance and despair.

Fortunately also good things happend this month. The 17th November was

Mitzvah-Day. Originally an initiative coming from the UK, it was the

second year to attempt it in Germany. While last year we took baby steps,

this year overwhelming 2000 activist of 50 Jewish organisations engaged in

120 events. One could argue the sence and effectiveness of putting effords

to promote good deeds on ONE day. However, it certainly does create Jewish

identity and maybe changes the preception a of non-Jews.

Jews Go Green removed stinging nettles from a public playground. We

planted berries, plant tipis and perennial herbs. All this took place in

the neighbourhood my grandmother grew up in, in a street I walk every day.

And just 50 meters from where the old freight depot used to be. Over 30000

Jews got deported from there. While I was digging the ground wearing a

bright green shirt with a Magen David on it I felt liberated. Just being

there doing a little to improve someones life and openly identifying

myself as Jewish. There where no discussions about identity, religion or

politics; without facing my very favorit questions: Where are you from?

When are you going back? It was just being there.

Tonight we lit the first Hanukkah candle. Yarden and I made a huge

Hanukkiah out of old milk cartons and we put it on our roof top terrace.

It has been long since I last lit a Hanukkiah that people can actually see

from outside. I feel that sometime between Mitzvah-Day and the first night

of Hanukkah, almost ten years after deciding to stay in Germany, I arrived


Happy Hanukkah!

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