Israel - Day 6

Celebrating Shabbat in Israel, even in the midst of the current political situation, even in Tel Aviv which is largely secular, even if you are not in services, is quite holy.

I went on a long run today along the river.  There were people running, jogging, biking, electric biking, walking, doing cross fit in a pagoda, scootering, crewing, kayaking, fishing and paddle boarding.  There were the old, the young, the teens, the parents and the grandparents.  They were in small groups and large groups, individuals and families. 

The only language I heard was Hebrew and it was crowded with activity.  It felt like any other small city on a weekend morning.  No one seemed worried, going on with their "weekend.”   Very few people wore helmets on their bikes.  It was only 8:15 am and it was so much hotter than the times I have been running.

The paths were intersecting with other paths, that intersected with other paths.  Fabulous.  Although many of the cafes were open as any other day, there was a level of peacefulness that hadn't been there the past few days.

Fredi went with a few of our colleagues to Beit Daniel, a Reform Synagogue for an Israeli Bar Mitzvah!

After a long breakfast with Lee and Nancy Fuch Kramer we met Josh, Nina, and Fredi to go to the hip area of Neve Tzedek.  During my time with Nancy she spoke about relationships, with family members, with children with each other.  She recommended the book, "Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity."  We spoke about the crucial question, to what extent should parents accept children for who they are and to what extent they should help them become their best selves.  The premise is that experiencing difference within families is universal. However, the author believes that love triumphs over prejudice in every chapter.  I look forward to integrating this philosophy into our educational community.

Neve Tzedek is a gentrified area near the tachana (the renovated train station).  New condos are popping up next to old, the combination is a neighborhood filled with authentic ice cream stores, cafes, housing and almost no cars!  Everyone walks and we found a wonderful pottery store that we all loved.  Some of Ella's work seemed similar to the pieces in this store.

We made our way to the Tachana.  We sat in a cafe and had wonderful salads and cold drinks.  But here, in this area that is usually filled with performers and throngs of people (because all the stores are open), was empty.   There was one store SOHO that had Contigo water bottles for 99 shekels about 30 dollars each!  3 to a pack back home in Costco for $14 for all 3!  Wow!!!

After getting the frozen yogurt with toppings mixed in (kind of like a Dairy Queen Blizzard) Lee and Fredi went back to the Hotel and Nina, Josh and I took a stroll along the boardwalk for over 3 miles.  Although it was hot, there was a nice breeze and it was wonderful seeing people out, although far fewer than in past summers.  People were playing kadima, surfing and riding the waves.  There were portable Beach libraries every few beaches.  It reminded me of the book cart at RSNS :).

It feels weird to report what a wonderful day we had in Tel Aviv with what is going on just around the corner.  There are actually no young army people around.  It appears that they are getting called for active duty. 

Being in Israel and experiencing this I can empathize with parents of teenagers.  It is also a reality check on the stress many of us have about the next step for many of our youth.  The tests Israeli high school students take have a direct impact on where and what they will be doing for their army service.  I can't help but think of Aaron and what it would feel like to support him through this process.  I had in the past thought about myself, that I would feel comfortable fighting for the State of Israel.  I don't know how I would feel about sending my child to war, to fight, for that cause, for any cause.  When I walk around, run, tour, talk to the many Israelis and Arabs, when I witness their children running, playing, swimming, biking I can't help but age them to 18 and envision them in the army green uniforms and wonder when will this ever end.

We met with Eran Brill, from the Social Justice Movement.  Beit Ha'am began as an open building to host and sustain the charged energy from the summer 2011 encampments throughout Israel. It has since become a hub for thoughtful activity; an autonomous space that pursues peace and social justice for all people.  Like occupy Wall Street before there was occupy Wall Street.

As a public center for creative political enrichment, conversations, lectures, workshops, screenings, receptions, exhibitions, and more, take place regularly.  Beit Ha'am strives to be but the first of many open homes in this country that serve its people with love and devotion, until all of Israel becomes a good home that values its inhabitants and respects its neighbors. 

Built by the people for the people, this organization works on anti-violent demonstrations in Israel.  This is not a single topic organization, but an organization that works to support people and communities regardless of topic.  The organization helps to provide structure for how to work on issues.  Here is a secular guy who still comes back to the Jewish tradition for his political protesting.

We then met with Joe Perlov from Israel Experts to do a Changing Map of the Middle East Program.  We learned that there are 8 million citizens in Israel.  23 percent not Jewish, 93 percent of that is Suni Moslems.

He recommended "The Syrian Bride" a movie that deals with a Druze wedding and the troubles the politically unresolved situation creates for the personal lives of the people in and from the village. 

In his discussion of the changing map of Israel he stated a people who conquers another people will never be free.  He feels that the map is complex, it is not black and white.  No one peoples claim is more than another's claim.  The amazing thing is that all of these countries surrounding Israel were established around the same time.

We went straight to dinner.  One of our colleagues is an expert restaurant picker! We got in a cab with the funniest driver.  He spoke English well.  He told us that when he hears the sirens he does whatever the person he is driving wants to do.  If they want to stop and get out, he gets out, if not he keeps driving.  He started to tell us about his children and 2 of his kids are in the states studying.  We asked why. He said to get into University in Israel, you have to know someone in the States, "You are wise or you a dummy."

We went to Popina, it is a chefs restaurant (whatever that means).  The menu is divided into five cooking techniques.  Each category includes a cocktail, small dishes and a dessert.  The categories include, cured, steamed, baked, seared, and slow-cured.  We did a tasting menu.  We sat at dinner for close to 4 hours!  No sirens.  Just excellent food, fabulous location and wonderful company.  The restaurant was empty and they said due to what is going on, people stay home.

We walked home, over 3 miles on the boardwalk, tired but peaceful.  Much love on this Shabbat.