Stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale and Terry The Dog, as Toto
In Frank L. Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is transported to the Land of Oz on the gale force winds of a cyclone. On the Kansas prairie, all is grey and dried out. In Oz, the vibrant colors are breathtaking. And yet, from the moment she arrives, all she wants is to find her way home. Dorothy has been removed abruptly from her familiar context. Upon arriving in Oz, she is no longer an ordinary farm girl. By virtue of landing upon the Wicked Witch, she has inadvertently begun her journey . She has become “the hero” and must re-invent herself in order to survive the difficulties and crises she will face. Dorothy is challenged and threatened by the Witch, the Winged Monkeys, and others, but through it all, she never gives up her determination to return to her context. After she has stood up to her “ordeal,” freed the oppressed peoples of Oz and proven herself extremely worthy, Dorothy learns that she has had the power to return home all along. Would Dorothy understand and appreciate her identity and perspective had she not experienced her journey? Her arrival in Oz, with the sudden erasure of her context, forces her to see things differently and step out of her old perspective. This leads to growth, resilience and grit. She has redefined and reinvented herself, found new sources of knowledge and strength so that she can return home and appreciate who she is and what she has.
Scores of Israelis travel abroad. They travel near and far to see new views, to challenge themselves on trails, to meet new people and to experience adventure. How do they feel when they are cut off from their context, from friends, family, country?
This summer, I was a lone Israeli traveling abroad. I participated in an international theater camp, and experienced the challenging adventure of being an Israeli among many nationalities, including a country that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Like Dorothy, without my agreement or acknowledgment, I was torn from my context. No longer mother, spouse, teacher and olah vatika, to some participants, I became Amy, the Israeli – a symbol. Suddenly, I WAS the State of Israel, its government and its policies. Just like Dorothy, no one asked me whether I was willing to have my context removed and re-configured. It just happened. The role was bestowed upon me at the beginning of my adventure.
Through it all, I found myself viewing my experiences from both inside and out, appreciating my challenges, and shifting my perspective regularly – to create meaning of the events as they unfolded. Unlike Dorothy, I always knew that I wielded the power to return home. This kept me strong.
As we enter the reflective month of Elul, let us remember that this is a time of heightened awareness. We experience the continual movement of turning back and looking forward. Where has our journey taken us so far? Where will our next steps lead?
Let us all appreciate just how fortunate we are to live in a democracy – where we are free to choose our lifestyle, to criticize, even to hate – if we choose to do so. Much more importantly, we are free to accept, love, appreciate, do good deeds and try to make this small corner of the world a better place.
i The first quote is from Chapter 23 of Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The second quote is from the MGM movie 19… entitled The Wizard of Oz.
ii See Joseph Campbell’s seminal The Hero with a Thousand Faces published in 1949. This book identifies the universal journey of the hero in scores of mythologies. Over the last few decades, use of the stages of this journey has become fairly widespread in various classrooms, in theater workshops, etc.
iii I continue to borrow from Joseph Campbell’s terminology here.