In the Jewish tradition, our first words on hearing of the death of someone are usually Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet, Blessed is the True Judge. It reminds us that we may not know why, but our friend has been taken. We give up our questions to a higher power.
Today, I learned that a friend here in Jerusalem from the creative-activist communities, Ester Karen Aida, passed away. Her funeral will be this evening, as I write this. In 2018, I published some of her poems on my blog, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play. Karen, as I knew her, contributed to The BeZine starting in 2021, when I invited her to send her words and art to us. Her most recent contributions were in this summer’s Waging Peace issue—an important theme in her activist and creative work. Her writing and artwork added strength, beauty, and compassion to each issue in which it appeared.
I first met Karen some years ago at a reading in an art gallery in Jerusalem, which had been organized by our mutual friend, Lonnie Monka. She was in a wheelchair, but active, engaged, and cheerful. We spoke, finding common ground in our creative work and activism. We both had trained in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) techniques. And we became friends from that conversation.
We would see each other mostly at poetry events. We kept up in email and on Facebook. She was making progress with her ongoing health issues, from wheelchair to walker to cane. I gave her rides home from some of these events, after she moved to a neighborhood near mine. She supported peace in the region here with words and deeds, helped individuals in need, and encouraged NVC training. She also supported accompanying and traditional health practices (aka alternative) to work alongside of Western medicine.
She was a dynamic, compassionate, and strong woman. She leaves grieving family, friends, colleagues. I am still in a bit of shock at the news. Not long from now, I will get ready to attend her funeral, drive across Jerusalem, and join the mourners.
In our Jewish tradition, the family will sit Shiva for 7 days. It is customary to sit with these mourners and listen to their sorrow and their memories as they process the loss. The stories they tell preserve their memory in our hearts. May it be so for all who knew and loved Karen, that her memory be for a blessing.
Those who visit to comfort the mourners say, when we leave: Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim, In this place may G-d console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
—Michael, Jerusalem, 11 August 14:36
Featured image at top of the post: Pines, Pencil on Paper, Ester Karen Aida ©2021
Words ©2022 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved