Posted on 07/31/2011 @ 03:29 PM
Today we continued one of the major themes of our trip . . . transitions.
After spending Shabbat in Jerusalem we left the hotel and went from the “center of the world to the end of the world.” During temple times, when the Temple stood where the Dome of the Rock currently stands, the priests would send the sacrificial scape-goat outside of the city walls to the desert. The desert just at the edge of the ancient city was the “edge of the world.” These days we know the world exists far beyond the surroundings of the walled city of ancient Jerusalem. In many ways the distinction is no less severe though.
Jerusalem is a city of contradictions. It is serene and bustling. Holy and dirty. Inspirational and completely secular. Leaving Jerusalem in many ways was an extension of this conflicted identity. Traveling from Jerusalem towards the south and the Negev we drove through conflicted territory in the shadow of the security barrier/fence and military checkpoints . At one point a soldier boarded the bus to discuss his role and the role of the checkpoints. Before being called back to inspecting vehicles, the soldier told us briefly about his role inspecting cars for both security and commercial purposes. Smuggling of goods and workers from the West Bank is also a concern, not just the more widely reported security threats.
Our first stop in the Negev was at Sde Boker, the area where David Ben-Gurion lived and died. We toured his home which is now a museum and had a chance to explore who he was, his family and his role in shaping the development of the Negev, the Israeli Army and the Israeli State. In addition to his home we also saw the spot where he and his wife Paula are now buried. One of the compelling aspects of Ben-Gurion was his humility. He specifically requested in his will to have a simple funeral and burial. In keeping with those wishes his burial site merely notes his name and the date he made aliyah. The simplicity of his burial site is only accentuated by the impressive viewpoint overlooking the Negev from where he is buried.
Following our tour of Sde Boker and the Ben-Gurion College area we drove further into the Negev to visit one of the many Bedouin settlements in the area. We walked about 1 mile from the highway through fairly barren desert until we were welcomed by Salman, some of his children and relatives in their traditional Bedouin tent. Salman greeted us with tea, made Bedouin pita in the charcoals of a fire and shared his personal story with us. Salman told us of the challenges and struggles of maintaining the Bedouin culture for himself and his family. The Bedouin lifestyle has been constrained by technology, the ongoing development of the Israeli nation-state and the conveniences of running water and electricity. For Salman, maintaining the Bedouin way of life and passing on his traditions is something he is clinging to but seems to sense it slipping away.
In the evening we had dinner at a private home in Yerucham, a development town in the Negev. Our hosts were born in Libya and Tunisia and told us the story of their arrival in the city of Yerucham and how it has evolved over the past 60 years into a town of 9,500 people (and 27 synagogues). Theirs too was a story of connection to a land and the continuity of a way of life.
We’ve explored many themes on the trip so far including holiness of a place and various peoples’ connections to land for various reasons. Over the past week we’ve met with many people who have shared their personal stories of connecting to the land and how that connection has shaped who they are and what their daily struggles are for. That seems to be the unifying factor for most people living here. From the 4th generation Jerusalemite who led us on walking tour of Jerusalem, to Salman who lives in a Bedouin village in the Negev, the struggle is to stake a claim to land that is part of who they are. It seems like everyone in Israel these days is in a struggle with “place”. Ben-Gurion came to Israel and in his 60’s he began a struggle to develop a place, the Negev. Generations later Salman, a Bedouin, is struggling to hold on to a tiny piece of land that is historically his own and desperately trying to maintain an ancient way of life. The people living in Yerucham are creating a new history blending their past with their future.
Identity, history, modernity and ideology intersect everywhere and within everyone we’ve experienced over the past few weeks. Today was another stop on that journey. No big questions were answered but the complexity continues to deepen in a way that in some ways is making the questions make more sense.
Shabbat in Jerusalem
Posted on 07/30/2011 @ 03:28 PM
There’s nothing like Shabbat in Jerusalem. The city shuts down and everyone embraces the concept of rest. This held true for our group as we took pleasure in resting from our intensive week. This Shabbat was quite different from the one we spent in Tel Aviv. Although we had a good amount of free time to take leisurely strolls and take a dip in the pool at the Inbal Hotel, we also had some programming that completed our Shabbat experience.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Rabbi Shlomo Fox from Hebrew Union College, who led us in the discussion of the Parsha Ha’Shavua. The parsha was Masei and discussed the various travels of the Israelites. Rabbi Fox framed the discussion through the lens of a tourist. It was interesting to think about how we have travelled through and across Israel for the last two weeks and have felt more than just as tourists. We have been able to get to know the people that live here and the dilemmas that they face every day. This is something we can relate to our ancestors as they got to know the people that they came across as they travelled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.
Our Shabbat continued with a walking tour of some Jerusalem neighborhoods lead by Elan Ezrachi. He gave us a brief history of the development of Jerusalem as a modern city. We walked through the oldest new neighborhood, outside the Old City, where Elan described the growth patterns among Jews, Arabs and Christians in Jerusalem after World War I and during the British Mandate. It was compelling to hear that Jerusalem was developed as a modern city once the British had control since they utilized modern city planning. We then walked to Mamilla, the open-air pedestrian mall leading up to the Jaffa Gate. There, we were able to see where the border between Jordan and Israel stood between 1948 and 1967. It was mind-blowing to see how small the city was when it was divided.
Our final Shabbat in Israel together, concluded with a rousing Havdallah in a park that was overlooking the Old City. The Havdallah was even more memorable as we heard celebratory fireworks (possibly gunfire) from a nearby Arab neighborhood celebrating a wedding. As Shabbat came to a close, we prepared to head south to the Negev to see how it has bloomed, according to Ben-Gurion’s dream.
Justin Pollack and Ben Kozberg
Kallah 2011 Wrap Up
Posted on 07/30/2011 @ 07:00 AM
As we pack our bags and clean the dorms for the last time, it is apparent that emotional ties to Kallah run deep. We have all become so accustomed to life here that the switch back home will be as weird as arriving here so long ago. There is no denying, however, that everyone has come a long way in this time. We have all tried new things and engaged in meaningful experiences, as well as making friendship ties that will last a lifetime.
We have taken classes and explored our Judaism, questioned our values, and studied our past. We visited places like Morasha and learned about all the different ways of practicing Judaism. We had an intense and competitive color war, learned about wizards and witches at Harry Potter, and bonded with our dorms through late night activities.
The way everyone here has progressed through this time has truly been spectacular. We as a Kallah team hope everyone has gained from their experiences and will be able to join their home communities and to practice their Judaism with pride and in an enhanced manor.
The friendships that were made will last a lifetime and the memories will last just as long. The participants are all packed and ready to depart tomorrow morning and will be saying their sad goodbyes in just a few hours as they get on the buses to go home. We hope everyone had a great time at Kallah 2011!
Posted on 07/29/2011 @ 09:28 PM
Hey guys! Today is our fourth day of CLTC 7! Yesterday I was elected Sh’licha of Lev Yafeh BBG #7123, my chapter here. It was really cool to know that I would be able to be a part of my chapter on a board level! My chapter has been planning our Shabbat Program for tonight, and it’ll be really awesome to lead the first chapter-lead program of the session! We’re all working together and it’s been great getting to know the BBGs and AZAs from all across the country! -Maddie from Mountain Region
Posted on 07/29/2011 @ 03:19 PM
Friday began our second stint in ירושלים and our first Shabbat there. We started the day with a Hebrew lesson with Roberta in the hotel, then a session with Shahar Fisher, a representative from the Hitorerut party (http://www.in-jerusalem.org, in Hebrew).
After the program, we went to the Israel Museum (http://www.english.imjnet.org.il/htmls/home.aspx) for a brief history of Israeli art, from pre-state Canaan to the current time. We looked at works from the Bezalel School - which was founded in Jerusalem in 1906, Reuven Rubin - perhaps Israel's most famous painter, and photographer Adi Ness - one of Israel's most famous living artists.
The Museum also houses immense collections of Western art from the 17th century to the present day, including - in Aaron Bock's opinion - one of the finest collections of 20th century art in any museum. There are also extensive collections of photography, art from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It is, again according to Aaron, a phenomenally well curated gallery.
Closer to home, the Museum has extensive exhibits on Jewish art from around the world, Israeli archaeology, and a large model of Herodian Jerusalem. The Museum's centerpiece, and most recognizable landmark, is the Shrine of the Book. A beautiful archive built to house the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Shrine of the Book is an amazing space in which to gaze upon the oldest known copies of the Tanakh.
After the Museum, we had several hours of free time to prepare for Shabbat and rest. We split up for Kabbalat Shabbat, with groups going to the Kotel and to Yakar Synagogue, an orthodox Carlebach minyan. We reconvened for dinner, and a low-key oneg with desserts and singing of both traditional Shabbat songs and some more modern camp songs of our youth.