Kallah Blog Group!
By Kallah 2010 Bloggers on 07/23/2010 @ 12:05 PM
Tuesday the 20th was Tisha B’Av. For those of you who don’t know, the 9th of Av is a major fast day which commemorates the destruction of the two temples as well as other catastrophic events. A large amount of Kallah participants chose to take part in the fast, many for the first time. To set the tone for the day, a program was held the night before about the Holocaust in which participants got the chance to express their feelings in a variety of ways (i.e. drawing, writing). Everyone attended Shacharit the next day and had the opportunity to hear Eikha (the Tisha B’Av lamentations) read. Participants then watched the “Paperclips” documentary and instead of lunch, those who fasted had guided meditation. “Rising from Tragedy” rotations filled the rest of the day before a long rest time. Finally, the fast was broken with delicious pizza.
Israel Night Like American Nights, But Cooler
On Wednesday, July 21st, in the midst of the pouring rain, a certain excitement could be felt through Kallah; Israel night was approaching, and no one could wait. Rumors were circling that Yoni would make his world-famous pita. The Israeli delegation was busy planning crazy songs and programs.
Other highlights included:
-Learning how to make bracelets with our Hebrew names
-Drinking Bedouin tea with Dan and Brian
-Rocking out to Israeli dances with Shir and Hadar, the dance instructors
-hearing from educators and Israelis about their most inspiring Israeli experiences
-Admiring fashionable hairwraps by Amanda
Everyone returned to their dorm covered in arts and crafts jewelry with full bellies of pita!
Mora-So Much Fun!
Yesterday we went to visit Camp Morasha along with Camp Moshava, two Orthodox Jewish summer camps. We had the opportunity to split up into small groups and discuss the differences between our lives and theirs. Afterwards we danced with a Mechitza separating boys and girls. From this experience we learned a lot about the Orthodox denomination and can’t wait for them to come visit us next week!
Shabbat Shalom from Kallah!
Posted on 07/23/2010 @ 11:19 AM
We’ve had an eventful couple of days here at camp. Today, it’s raining cats and dogs, so there’s a lot of running from one sheltered space to another. We’ve just about come to the end of our Shabbat planning, and our second week here at camp! Yesterday, participants began their elective sessions, where they selected which educator they wanted to learn with, and we’ve also immersed ourselves deep into the creative arts experience. Some participants will be working on a video yearbook for the program, some are creating art projects, others are singing in our “Kallahcapella” group, and more. All will present at Café Kallah, our end of program ceremony and show.
On an administrative note, we are still missing departure information for 48 participants. We’d really appreciate getting the information from all of you; please input it on b-linked, or send it to our office manager here at camp, Christine (email@example.com). We know that we have the teens here for another week or so, but we’d prefer not to be calling all of you at the last minute – we’re trying to stay organized – so please send this information along as soon as you can.
Last night, participants went to visit Camp Morasha, an Orthodox overnight camp just down the road from us. We were joined by Camp Moshava as well, another Orthodox camp in the area. Overall, about 250 teens gathered together. We began the evening with a bunch of icebreaking questions about experience and observance and led into a general dialogue about religion and how we all experience it differently. Teens from different backgrounds shared their opinions and learned about one another’s choices. Then, we all convened together for some dancing, with the help of the Morasha band! Overall, the participants from all of our groups had a great time and everyone had a chance to make some new friends. We all said, “L’hitraot” (See you soon) because Morasha will be coming over to Perlman Camp to visit us next week!
And now, we move into our second Shabbat together as a community. All rain aside, there’s a new vibe here at Kallah – it’s obvious that these teens are becoming a community, and we are all looking forward to spending Shabbat together. We’re excited to see what all of our planning groups have come up with and seeing how the teens choose to share in the day with one another.
We’ll be in touch again once Shabbat is over.
Shabbat Shalom from all of us at Kallah!
Israeli Life Near the Gaza Strip
Posted on 07/22/2010 @ 07:10 PM
By Sarah Schonberg, Director, BBYO Friends & Alumni Network
Five years and a day after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza (Aza, as it’s called here), our PDI bus (with a new, less-cautious driver) took us to the Negev Desert to meet two Israelis who have been deeply affected by the ongoing war in Gaza. Our day was divided into four parts. First, we visited Kibbutz Sa’ad, a Modern Orthodox cooperative community (http://www.saad.org.il/), located only a few kilometers from Gaza. Our host at Sa’ad was an Irish-born Jew named David who has lived on the Kibbutz for 51 years. After spending a couple of hours with David, we discussed the challenges of combining Judaism with statehood and military. After lunch in the Kibbutz cafeteria, we drove to Nitzan, the site of the relocation of the 1,800 families of the Gaza-based community, Gush Katif, who were taken out of Gaza during the disengagement. We ended the day with a play put on by deaf and blind actors in Jaffa. While there is no typical day on this program, this day mirrored the previous days by raising more questions than were answered.
Kibbutz Sa’ad was established in 1947 when the mentality of Jewish settlers was “dunam po, dunam sham” (wherever you can find land, buy it). Sa’ad was formed by a few dozen people who were committed to working the land and pioneering Jewish community where there was nothing but sand dunes. We first visited the “Mo’az mul Aza” (fortress near Gaza), which is the only original building on the Kibbutz still standing. The Mo’az served as Sa’ad’s safe house during the 1948-49 War of Independence against Egypt. At the site of this round, two-story tall white building we learned about the lives of the pioneers who settled the land during the war, during which they lived underground with little food and water and minimal weaponry. A sign at site memorializing the founders: “Their religious faith kept them strong, helping them to withstand the long months of hardship, to survive and to create the thriving community of Kibbutz Sa’ad as it exists today.”
We stood atop the safe house, which overlooks the city of Gaza, with a tattered Israeli flag flying behind us and an old mortar shell on the ground. We discussed historical and current Israeli relations with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. David, our Irish-born Kibbutznik host, pointed out sites of now extinct kibbutzim that were once riddled with landmines and hit with rockets on various occasions. He went on to say that the Ministry of Defense recently gave Kibbutz Sa’ad funds to build individual bomb shelters for each home on the Kibbutz. David interprets this new investment as the Israeli government anticipating a worsening security situation in the area.
We left the safe house for the central campus of the Kibbutz, where we talked with David in the Beit Midrash (study hall, literally “house of learning). David told his us story of growing up as the only Jew in his Catholic high school in Cork, Ireland. Cork is and was Ireland’s second largest city, which had 50 Jewish families in the late 1940’s. David went to Israel in 1952 on an Israeli-sponsored work/study program. He learned Hebrew for six months and worked for six months. By 1959, David had moved with his wife to Kibbutz Sa’ad where he raised seven children and has spent 51 years.
Kibbuz Sa’ad has 750 people living and working in its community. This number does not include the many foreign workers that the Kibbutz brings to Israel to do much of the manual labor that, as David put it, “the Jews don’t seem to want to do.” This, of course, is very interesting in light of yesterday’s experiences learning about and from the non-Jewish immigrant population in Israel. It’s additionally interesting because a founding principle of Zionism was the importance of working the land.
A major challenge that the entire Kibbutz movement is facing is the changing demographics of these communities. In modern Israel, it is increasingly difficult to attract young families to live this communal lifestyle. Until recently, members of Sa’ad had to leave the cooperative if they did not participate in the financial aspect of the community. Now, members can be in control of their own finances, although if they earn more than a certain amount, they must pay more tax to the Kibbutz to balance income differentials. Additionally, while couples once had to decide whether they were staying on the Kibbutz when they married, they now have up to age 30 to decide. Today, there is a waiting list for the children’s homes, which David attributes to the success of the programs aimed at attracting young families.
David left us and we proceeded with a study session with our Rabbi-in-residence, David Starr. Our reading for the session was a retort to the controversial Goldstone Report entitled “The Goldstone Illusion: What the U.N. report gets wrong about Gaza—and war” by Moshe Halbertal and a fiction piece by Etgar Keret called “Cocked and Locked.” These two pieces shaped our conversation about the macro and micro realities and issues of applying Judaism to running a state, having a military and being a soldier. We learned about the content of the Israeli Army’s ethics code, which incorporates Jewish law, and the inherent and extraordinary challenges of fighting a nontraditional war with a nontraditional enemy.
After our study session and lunch in the Kibbutz Sa’ad cafeteria, we went to Nitzan. Nitzan is a community of Jews who were forced to leave Gaza as a result of the disengagement five years ago. We met with Laurenz, a French woman who made aliyah 19 years ago to Gush Katif, formerly a bloc of 17 Israeli settlements in Gaza. Laurenz now heads the Gush Katif Committee, a group working to restore the lives of the resettled community (the entire community was resettled to the same place). The Committee focuses on finding permanent homes and work for these people.
Gush Katif was formed by settlers in the 1970s; they created a community out of sand, like the settlers of Sa’ad. Gush Katif’s economy was agriculture-based and most of the resettled residents were the original settlers, and continued to be farmers until 2005. To date, 70% of the community members are un- or under-employed. Due to a lack of land and possibly money, farmers cannot farm as they once did. Of the 1,800 families that were taken out of Gush Katif, 161 have permanent homes. The remaining families live in government issued pre-fab trailer homes. Laurenz explained that the government has been very slow to provide this permanent housing. Families pay rent on their trailers and continue to pay their mortgages on the homes they left in Gaza. The homes are no longer standing (the Israeli government destroyed them when the residents left; this is what the residents wanted, as well). According to Laurenz, synagogues and hothouses were left standing, but have since been destroyed by the Gazans.
While 5,000 mortar shells were launched on Gush Katif over the years before the disengagement, the community members long to return to their homes. Two billion dollars were spent by the Israeli government on the disengagement. When asked if she could look beyond her personal situation and determine whether the disengagement was for the greater good of Israel, Laurenz sighed and said with the resignation of someone who has fought for years that she didn’t know; results are yet to be seen, but she hasn’t seen peace yet.
We left Nitzan with heavy hearts and the desire to learn more, to hear the other sides of this incredibly complex and nuanced situation. What do the Gazans think of the disengagement? How did it affect them and their communities and economy? What are the stories of the Jewish soldiers that were tasked with removing fellow Israeli citizens from their homes? How does the Israeli government and military now view the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza? How did the disengagement factor into international politics and what gains and compromises were made?
After time to unwind, we went to the NaLaGaat Theater for a showing of Lo al HaLechem Levado (Not by Bread Alone) performed by the NaLaGaat, a deaf and blind theater company. The play was put on by actors who were both deaf and blind. The play was about what it is like to live with these disabilities and what dreams these people have. Having worked in arts programming for people with disabilities prior to coming to BBYO, I was struck by the content of the play. Performing arts in the US that is put on by actors with disabilities rarely, if ever, focuses on the presence of disability. This play here focused on them. This difference raises an interesting insight into attitudes of Israelis as compared with those of Americans (confronting issues head-on as opposed to overlooking them in order to move past them). Or, maybe this difference speaks the evolution of the distinct disability rights movements.
Our long day ended with dinner at the theater served to us by a deaf waitstaff. We learned some Israeli sign language (different gestures than ASL). We went to bed late and exhausted. One more day until Shabbat!
Jammers Lobby on Capitol Hill
Posted on 07/22/2010 @ 10:58 AM
Hi, my name is Seth Lipshutz and today during Impact D.C. JAM our group of 'JAMMERS' got to go and lobby on Capitol Hill. Lobbying was an amazing experience for everyone on this program. Each one of the 'JAMMERS' got to go to each of our respective state Senators and Representatives, depending on the situation, and talked about issues that effect both our communities and nation.
During my personal experience going to meet Senator Lautenberg and his Legislative Correspondent, a fellow JAMMER and I were able to lobby him on the issue of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Me and my fellow New Jersey citizens, were then able to get a picture with the senator himself and talk about where we are from and where we go to school.
After leaving the Senators office a few of the campers, one counselor, and myself ran into Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana and Noah Weinberg, another camper, was able to lobby her to vote for The Dream Act. Before the left she said, “Go home and tell your friends that you just won a Senator’s vote.” It was incredible.
After the group left the Senate building we walked to Union Station to get some lunch. After lunch we used our gallery passes to watch the Senate in session. It was amazing, considering we saw Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. After watching this for a few minutes, a few of us left Capitol Hill, but most of the group watched the House of Representatives vote and pass a bill.
With all of the scorching heat and hustle and bustle of the metro station, the day was very good and we were all able to share an amazing experience on Capitol Hill we won't soon forget.
Is Israeli Society Just?
Posted on 07/21/2010 @ 07:10 PM
By Shayna Kreisler, Director of Civic Engagement and Leadership
Today we traveled to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. We will be in the first Hebrew city from today through Shabbat before heading to the north to continue our studies. Tel Aviv sits in a near stark contrast to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is in the hills, and Tel Aviv sits on the Mediterranean. Jerusalem is dry, and Tel Aviv is not! Jerusalem is religious and Tel Aviv is seen as more secular. Jerusalem is perceived as ancient and Tel Aviv is seen as modern - even as the oldest Hebrew City (also known as Tel Aviv-Jaffa) from it's architecture to it's attitude and it's embrace of the ever changing landscape of Israeli culture and society. It has been the perfect setting to really start looking at different aspects of society that you normally would not think of when you think of Israel. Israel has many archeological sites, and until we arrived here, I did not realize that Tel Aviv was one of them. It has even been named as a UNESCO site, one of the few in the world. The day started off with a visit to the Religious LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered) community. We met with two of the leaders of this community, Eyal Lieberman and Zehorit Sorek, who shared with us their personal stories of how they came to find themselves in this community and what it really means to be a religious Jew who is also Lesbian/Gay. They answered our questions which ranged from how they celebrate Shabbat, to what the implications are for being gay in the military in Israel (since service is mandatory for nearly all of it's citizens) and what they think of the USA policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". This center is one of the only places for those who are both religious and gay in Israel, and it was evident that it is a need in the community.
From The LGBT Center, the PDI group split in two in order to cover more ground. The group I was with went to Jaffa, at the southern edge of Tel Aviv. Jaffa is one of the oldest communities in Israel, settled before Tel Aviv, and is home to a large Arab population (about 50, 000 – 60,000 Arabs live there out of the 3 million in Tel Aviv who are Jewish). In Jaffa, the Jews and the Arabs have lived side by side for a very long time - it is a part of what the community is all about, an everyday, normal part of life. In economic terms, Jaffa is also considered a low-income area, with many people (both Jewish and Arab) living in poverty. The place we visited is called the Jaffa Institute. The Institute has been around for 28 years providing programming (both after school and summer) for children ages 6-12, in many cases, this is the place for children and families who have no where else to turn for social services and education beyond school. There are four centers throughout Jaffa which support a variety of people from different backgrounds - Jewish, Arab, Ethiopian, and others. The majority of the students at the center we visited were either Jewish or Arab, and all were under served. As an educator, visiting the Jaffa Institute was very meaningful for me. I was excited to learn about the work being done there. Not only are the students a mix of Jews and Arabs, the staff are as well. The Institute does not just provide programming to keep the children busy; they really try to holistically educate the children in their care. They work with the social worker, the teachers and the parents, they run groups for new mother's to teach them parenting skills, and just a important, they teach the Arab children how to read and write Hebrew, and they teach the Jewish Children how to read and write Arabic. The philosophy of the Jaffa Institute is to present children with choices, and to let them make decisions for themselves, helping them foster a life long desire for knowledge. In speaking with the staff, it was apparent that building community between the Jewish and Arab population is an important part of life in Jaffa.
Group number 2 went to meet and speak with Immigrant Workers in Tel Aviv. However, since I cannot be in two places at one time, Rebekah Smith, another member of our cohort, will be guest blogging to share a little bit about this piece of the PDI Israel experience (coming soon!).
After our two groups finished visiting with each of the organizations, we met back at our hotel for what may have been one of the most meaningful pieces of the program so far, hearing from and speaking with two Darfurian refugees from the organization B'ani Darfur, Asine and Avodyah. Their two stories were difficult, but extremely important to hear. Not only did they tell us about their own experience fleeing Darfur, they told us what happened after they were forced from their homeland. How Avodyah went to Egypt and was kicked out (like so many other refugees), and that he needed to pay someone to smuggle him into Israel. That once he arrived here, the soldiers in the IDF did not know what to do with him because he is a Muslim man. He was put in prison for two years (for the protection of the state of Israel, and also largely because there was not an understanding from the IDF of what kind of Muslims these people from Darfur are). After his time in prison he was then sent to a Kibbutz to work for two more years in a kind of protective custody. At the end of all of this, Avodayah and other Darfurian men were put in a van and taken to Tel Aviv where they were dumped off onto a street without any money, jobs or places to stay.
The biggest question I walked away wanting to know the answer to, was what responsibility does Israel have for these men who all have similar stories to Avodayah and Asine? Clearly, it is a financial burden to the state to support them with social services, but if they are sent back to Darfur, they will almost certainly be put back in grave danger, and this would be a violation of the value Pikuach Nefesh (the saving of a human life, no matter if they are Jewish or not). The reason the IDF had such a terrible time understanding what to do with these people is because Darfur is considered to be an Muslim country, but it is split, with 80% of the population being African Muslims or Christians and 15% being Arab Islamic and the remaining 5% being "non-believers" or tribal people. Darfur is a case of the minority ruling the majority. There is a large identity conflict in the country because Arab Muslims and African Muslims are two very different kinds of Muslims. While many of us knew some of the basics of the Darfur/Sudanese conflict, not one of us heard the story as told so eloquently as it was by Avodayah and Asine - I think it raised our level of consciousness around the conflict (which still goes on) and reignited passion in many of us to continue to keep shedding light on the situation. If you want to find out more about B'nai Darfur and how you can help, visit their site at: www.bnaidarfur.org.
While it seems like it was a long day (and it was!) we still had dinner to eat. We went as a group to the restaurant Liliyot, which is unlike many other eating establishments. Liliyot The restaurant integrates a social project into the business of the restaurant by working with youth at risk. Liliyot provides these teens with a real opportunity to integrate into society in a positive way through professional training in a real business setting. Liliyot is a part of the nonprofit organization Elem, an organization that works with youth at risk. Their mission is to provide the means for people to live their lives honorably. Needless to say, not only was this a wonderful way to end our first day in Tel Aviv with a wonderful organization, the meal they made for us was incredible. To truly understand the effort and thought behind our meal and the restaurant that provided it was extremely satisfying and fulfilling.