Birthday thoughts and echoes of Eli Cohen

For years I have hated my birthday.

Most people seem to enjoy celebrating themselves, their friendships and families. Parties, presents and fun activities are – fun and that’s great. I like those things too…

Perhaps it’s just something about the way my brain works. For me birthdays are similar to Yom Kippur, a date to think about everything I have done and everything I have not done. What have I achieved? What do I want to achieve? Birthdays are a day of judgement and I mostly find myself lacking.

I haven’t built empires.
I haven’t built a community – like some people I have met who, with friends, built a new village in our ancestral homeland.
I haven’t written a book – maybe a book would be quickly lost in the pile of so many other books that exist in the world but it might be a way to create something more permanent than blog posts that come up in a feed and get forgotten.

I haven’t saved a life or fought in a war (although I have lived through more than one).

I have had some influence on hearts and minds – in my home, in my writing and even in different jobs I have held. We never know how much we actually impact people. Sometimes a few words can make an extraordinary difference…

This year, on my birthday, I found myself walking through the echo of Eli Cohen. Lenny took me on a beautiful day trip, just the two of us to northern Israel which has always been my favorite part of the country. Although I had been close by before, this was the first time I saw the building that had once been the Syrian Intelligence Command offices. Here, before THAT war, Israeli hero Eli Cohen had to convince Syrian officials that he was one of them, an ex-pat returning to the homeland. Here, this man, alone, braved a new and dangerous world and ultimately succeeded in saving countless Israeli lives – although he was unable to save his own.

This extraordinary building had been built by Russians, occupied and used by Syrians, captured by Israelis and turned into a modern piece of art by random visiting graffiti enthusiasts. Old and new, beautiful and horrible, broken yet still standing. A place that echoes of Eli Cohen whose life was no less complicated than the building, if not more so…

And perhaps that is the point. We are all a little like that.

Glorious is an understanding we gain from perspective. It is easier to recognize something that was glorious in the past – or to recognize those qualities in other people. It is easier to see the beauty of that which is broken yet still standing when we look at something or someone else. It is harder to recognize in ourselves…

We are all lacking. People like Eli Cohen are also lacking, broken and even, failures. He was just one man and he changed the course of history. We can’t all have such an important impact but that doesn’t mean the impact isn’t there. 

Perspective is everything.  


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