Israel - Day 8

It rained this morning!  So much for taking my raincoat out of my luggage :(.  It actually cooled Tel Aviv off a little.  On my run I was again reminded of how amazing Israel is.  In the states when there is a park, usually there is playground equipment for children.  Although they have that here too, they also have built outside workout stations for adults (kids love to play on them as well).  They are found in many city parks.  And they are really used!  At night, mid day, in the mornings, by older people, younger people, women and men.

We checked out of the Tel Aviv hotel and went straight to Alma.  This was founded in 1996 by Ruth Calderon, the parliament representative we met with earlier.  The goal is to reclaim Jewish wisdom, text and ritual culture as the legacy of ALL Jewish Israelis, regardless of prior background or religious orientation.  They offer many programs and they are instrumental in driving Israeli's social and educational movement.    Alma that offers daily Talmud study.  A page a day.  It is open to the public.  If you study a page a day of Talmud it would take 7 years to study the whole text!

The man who we studied with is a rock star, Kobi Oz!  The blending of modern and traditional.  His Jewish learning influences his writing.  He sees himself as an amateur traditional Jew (not as a professional), Judaism is a pleasurable hobby for him.

We took a graffiti tour of the American Colony.  It is in the process of becoming gentrified.  There are beautiful condos next to the traditional concrete apartment buildings.  The old and the new.  Thai (the guide) told us that 95 percent of the art is terrible. 5 percent is spectacular.  Broken Fingaz is an example of 4 guys who live and do work together in Haifi.

Walking towards the Florentine area. Is it vandalism or is it art?  Most of the graffiti is in English.  They want to attract more of an audience.  

The siren went off in the middle of tour, we went into a building that was getting worked on.

There were 5 booms, 5 interceptions from the iron dome.  It felt like it was very close.
Thai again reiterated how amazing it was that we are here.

We finished the tour, winding our way through this industrial work area.  The most amazing piece was a brail piece.  Her idea is that we are often blind to what is going on around us.  

When this artist did an exhibit in the diaspora she was walking around the neighborhood and saw swas stickers all over and asked the organization she was working with if they had noticed them.  They had not.  So she did a piece near all these swas stickers in brail, it said,  "Have you seen the swas stickers?  No, I have not seen them."

We ended at the restaurant Maganda.  We ate there on the last synagogue trip.  We had our final de-briefing session and our goodbyes.  This was the official end of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association trip.  

10 of us were continuing with the organization Encounter.  This was an additional add on offered through the rabbinical association.  Encounter is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of the Jewish people to be constructive agents of change in transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This happens through encountering Palestinian perspectives firsthand.  It was supposed to take place in the West Bank with home hospitably, but due to the current political situation they changed the location...

We drove to Jerusalem to Tantur. It is a Christian retreat center in West Jerusalem.  We began as soon as we got here.  Ali Abu Awwad was our first speaker.  He is one of the leaders from Leading Leaders for Peace.  Instead of being pro, a specific topic, be, pro a solution.  A peace agreement should not be signing a piece of paper, but peace engagement.  He was not raised to hate, he was not raised to throw stones.  His mother was an activist.  If you live in the refugee camps, you don't need a curriculum for hate, you live it.

2 arrests, first one for 3 months during the intifada, the second one for 4 years (his mother was arrested at the same time, hers for 5 years).  He did a 17 day hunger strike.  Legally he was allowed to see his mother every 3 months.  3 years and 17 days, he got to see her.  By doing that protest, he took the whole Israeli army by using his stomach.  When he finally met his mother, both of them on a hunger strike, he felt so proud.  Shift from violent protest to non-violent.

It is very hard, because an 18 year old soldier can slap him across the face anytime he wants to.  His brother was killed by Israeli soldiers, he could live with moving around, lack of land but the loss of his brother was too much.  He felt even if the whole Israeli population was to be killed, it wouldn't have been enough.

The price for peace has to be greater than the price for war.  It is very hard for other Palestinians to understand this comment.  It is hard now to have this conversation of peace with such death and devastation going on on both sides.  In his village today they said that they will have 1 day a week.  80 percent of the water is given to the settlers.  

Counterpoints is a film that he is in.  When asked if he had anger about other people not engaged in non violent work.  Most of anger is sadness.  He does feel anger, and that feels good, because it pushes towards change.  His anger is often towards blaming himself, what did he not do.  How can I transform, everyone.  He believes killing people will not bring us to freedom.  We have to stand together to fight for water for the Palestinians, to stand at the check points, to stand at the area outside of Gaza.  That would truly be a partner for peace.

He feels that the settlements are not a Palestinian and Israeli conflict, it is actually an Israeli/Israeli conflict.  Israel needs to deal internally with the settlements.  Israel likes to drive its citizens with fear, like Hamas rules with fear.  Don't go into the territories, don't have contact, don't get to know the other side.  Hatred will serve the occupation.

When Jewish people see the conditions of refuge camps, they say they have never known.  Jews can not say they have never known, they have known.  They have lived it and now what are we spilling our kids blood for.

In small group discussion we were asked how it is to begin this journey in light of where we have been up until this point.  Part of me is completely tired of having to think so much anymore.  Part of me is interested in this perspective.   I guess I will find myself somewhere in the middle.
Clearly speak truth, clearly live in pain and still is hopeful.

After we debriefed as a group we were given our room keys.  I don't know that anyone has stayed in this hallway, let alone this room in the past decade!  It is fine and I am now sitting outside on a balcony with Jason, Lee, Jonathan, Josh and Elliott. I am having a nice cold glass of water.

Off to sleep soon, tomorrow will be a day of listening. Much love.