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