Israel - Day 4
Lest you think my night ended with a nice hot waffle with amazing toppings, it did not :(. Everything ended well, but it became an even longer night than anticipated.
Fredi got into Tel Aviv and took a cab to the hotel and then realized that she took the wrong piece of luggage! When I got back to the hotel after our long day, Fredi and I got into a cab to go back and work it out at the airport. Round trip and about a half hour of negotiations, we had her bag back and we were in Jerusalem before 1 am. Fredi was thrilled to be finished with the travel drama and ready to be part of our travel experience.
The weather has been fabulous in and around Jerusalem. This morning my run and yoga had a sad feeling to it, because I knew it would be my last in Jerusalem this trip.
The morning experience included a thoughtful, songful, morning service. We sat in the Reform movements rabbinical school sanctuary. It is like a fortress. The whole campus is made of white Jerusalem stone. There are nooks and crannies and terraces and patios. We were addressed by the Reform movements leadership. The dean of the college and the director of the Reform Israeli movement. I learned that the government pays rabbis in the communities they work. They have just won a case that now allows a Reform rabbi to work in the Negev and get paid by the government. It seems like this is the first time. They are challenged like the American Jewish community to bring families into "Jewish communities". Each family who chooses to have a bar/bat mitzvah in one of these congregations, each family who joins the community in kabbalat shabbat is one step closer to bringing about a pluralistic Jewish state. They are trying to figure out what is Jewish and democratic in Israel.
In the middle of this talk I realized that I had left my precious marzipan rugelach in my room refrigerator and I had already checked out. I ran out (no joke) and wove through the maze to get my key and get to my room. As I got there, I saw the door open and the sheets stripped and much to my sadness my rugelach was already gone! I found the person who was taking care of the room and he said, "ah!" Well that said it all. He went into the back room and got them for me (I thought half would be gone). All were there safe and sound :).
I got back just in time to sit on a panel with two reform Israeli rabbis. The theme of the panel was "Making Judaism Relevant – Engaging People in Meaningful Jewish Life" It was interesting to be paired with them and to present in front of my Reconstructionist and Israeli Reform colleagues. The similarities were that our work is all "people" based and the differences were cultural. We have a lot to learn from each other and it is wonderful to be in the conversation.
As soon as it was over I ran out to get to Babette's Cafe (my waffle lady) before we had to get on the bus. I was going to miss lunch, I think mine was better! I found a great short cut and ordered my waffles. They let you "top" 2 different sides. I ordered half with butterscotch and crush oreo's and the other half with vanilla creme and bananas. And then I promptly switched it to butterscotch with bananas and vanilla with cookies :). She told me to eat it like a "pizza." Fantastic!
We left with Rabbis for Human Rights which is a cross denominational organization that works towards human rights for Arab and Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. We saw refugee camps created with no concept that people would still be in them in 2014. Small, fenced in communities. We met with a Palestinian in his home, a tent that is made up of concrete, with styrofoam insulation and ropes with tires attached to make sure that the burlap does not fall off. He too, had a compelling narrative. His family is from an area called Susya. He lives with extremist Jewish settlements around him. The Israeli government does not want them where they are and do everything to prevent them from remaining. They had always lived in caves, most were blown up. They have little to no access to a central water supply and electricity. There could be access to it, however the Israeli government does not allow it. Their tents get demolished because they do not have the correct permits. They are then unable to get permits. It is a challenging life."
What I heard was that they want to live in the area that their family was from and they are unable to. A compelling narrative with a lot of physical and emotional hardship. We passed through some developed Beduion townships. They function better in their own communities and townships because they are able to hold onto some of their Beduion culture. Even in Israel proper, Beduion communities have a bad infer structure and services.
We then passed the Israel trail. . . 500+ miles from north to south (the Israeli version of the Appalachian Trail).
The tie to the land is so interesting to me. I am not one of those people who feels nostalgia of homes. If my parents wanted to sell my childhood home, please sell! When my kids are out of the house and feel secure where they are, I will be perfectly happy to move. The narrative of the Jewish settlers and the narrative of the Palestinians is about the "right to the land." Since we are talking about the same land, there is a huge conflict. Israel is currently in power so they become the oppressor and the Palestinians the victims. There are no easy answers about the land for me. However, I believe each person should be treated equally. This is currently not happening.
After a long drive through the dessert we arrived in Tel Aviv. We had a short debriefing session where people offered appreciation for the group and the experience. It is quite amazing to be in this experience with 20+ colleagues who are usually in charge of processing yet on this trip we are all participants! My colleagues are so bright and respectful of each others voices, it really has been a blessing.
The Hotel we are staying in is a block from the Mediterranean. When you come in they instruct you to the location of the safe room. In this Hotel the hallways are safe areas as well. After you hear the siren you have 90 seconds to move to the safe room/area. We were told what to do when you hear a siren and you are at a restaurant, on the street, in a vehicle. The best choice is to go to a nearby building and get into the safe room If this is not possible, stand near a wall and if you are out in the open you should lay belly down with your hands over your head. It was all theoretical to me.
Tel Aviv actually seemed more crowded than Jerusalem. We went down to the port to eat. After a wonderful feta cheese salad with seven colleagues (no, they did not eat my salad, they all had something different) we were waiting for the bill when I faintly heard a siren and saw everyone in the restaurant quietly and quickly get up. We got up and moved into the restaurant safe room. People running on the board walk, orthodox, secular, mostly adults (it was 10:30 pm) all piled in to the back of the kitchen. We stayed in the safe room for a few moments (they say to stay 10 minutes) and then you leave.
I wasn't nervous at all, neither did it appear anyone else was. It was a matter of daily life. A challenging daily life. A few days ago I remember with Yossi Klein HaLevi that he spoke about layers of trauma. I have empathy towards this, yet I don't live it.
Fredi and I are now safe and sound in our tiny, tiny room with our beds side by side.