Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Weeks 4-6: Blogging Marathon

Shalom, y'all! Sorry it has been a while since I have updated you on my adventures in the Holy Land. I blame lethargy, busyness, some sickness, and a little bit of laziness. Because I have to make up so much time, I'll try to put things on a clear timeline.

This was my last day of Ulpan, my month long intensive course in Hebrew. I finished with a grade much higher than I was anticipating, which was quite a pleasant surprise. In only 4 weeks, I learned 2 entirely new alphabets (both block and script Hebrew letters) and enough Hebrew to make me dangerous (כן, ken, yes; לא, lo, no (my favorite word); אני לא יודעת (ani lo yodat, I don't know)).

This was perhaps one of the most perfect days I have had in Israel to date. A group of my girl friends and I took a bus down to En Gedi on the Dead Sea. It is quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. As you walk down the road, you see the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordan on one side. On the other are these huge majestic desert mountains. It is stunning. We entered the nature reserve and hiked one of the trails past a waterfall up to a spring, a true desert oasis. We stopped and ate lunch by this spring. I relaxed and dipped my feet in the water. On the way down the mountain, we passed various sites of ruins, including an old synagogue. After we got to the bottom, we went back to the waterfall that we had passed and enjoyed some swimming. It was a beautiful day of fun and relaxation with some great people I have met in the program.

I went on a trip to the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank with J Street U. For those of you who don't know, J Street is the more left-leaning Jewish lobbying PAC in Washington. They work in college campuses in the States and in Israel to educate people about the issues surrounding Israel and the conflict.

This particular trip was with Breaking the Silence, an NGO started by IDF soldiers who wanted an outlet to discuss the various things they did during their service. Avner, an IDF veteran was our guide for this tour. He told us about the different "areas" of the West Bank. Area A is completely under Palestinian control. Area B is under Palestinian control politically, but Israel and the IDF still provide security and have a military presence in these areas. Area C is considered to be under Israel's military and political control. Palestinians living in Area C face many obstacles in their everyday life. They are not allowed on certain roads that are in Area C. Legal Jewish settlements or illegal Jewish outposts are typically located in close proximity to Palestinian villages that have existed there for many generations. Some of these villages consist of Bedouins, Arabs who have lived off of the land and moved around the desert as a way of life for years and years. Other villages have stopped practicing the nomadic lifestyle generations ago. They have lived on family land for many generations now.

The way that Avner put it, Israel keeps trying to push the boundaries of the West Bank so that it is as small as possible. The Green Line is the politically agreed upon boundary line that separates Israel from the West Bank. In many places, the separation wall has been built past the Green Line so that Israel occupies more of the West Bank than was previously agreed upon. The separation wall is not complete, and Israel's political actions have made it clear that it wants to build the separation wall as close to the Palestinian cities and as far away from the Green Line as possible. By authorizing new Jewish settlements (and ignoring the presence of illegal outposts), Israel is further imposing on Palestine, making it difficult to work toward peace. With Jewish settlements come the IDF to ensure the security of the Jews. The IDF does not work as security for illegal outposts, neither do they punish the outposts for being in Palestinian territory.

We visited the Palestinian village of Susya (Sosia/Susia/however you want to transliterate it). The village has been demolished by the IDF 5 times. There is currently a demolition order on the village for a sixth time. We were supposed to meet with one of the patriarchs of the village whose family has lived on the land since before many of the demolitions. Unfortunately, he was in Hebron at a demonstration protesting the treatment of Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strikes for over 200 days now. Walking through the village reminded me of what I say in Nicaragua last spring. I felt like I was in a third world country. The village had put tents around the rubble of the foundations and shells of previously standing houses. This village was full of shepherds. They had goats and pigeons and offered us honey to buy. As we walked through the village, we saw one of the only water cisterns (a well-like structure, more like a hole in the ground where water is) that the village can use. You see, a settlement called Susya (but Jewish) has been established about half a mile away from the Palestinian village. As a part of "security," the IDF has forbade Palestinians from going within a certain distance of the settlement. The current "security area" around the village includes about 70% of the water cisterns that the Palestinian Susya has used for years. They can no longer go to the cisterns to get water for fear that the IDF will attack them. Apparently this is happening to rural Palestinian villages all over the West Bank. According to Avner, the hope is that the IDF will make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they will want to move to the larger cities. This frees up more of the rural land for Jewish settlements and further encloses the Palestinians into a concentrated West Bank.

Avner also told us about a fairly common practice of the IDF called "straw widow." Essentially, the IDF can take a Palestinian house at any time, for any reason, and occupy it as long as there are orders to occupy the house. This type of practice is reminiscent of the British quartering during the American Revolution but worse. He said they will simply enter a house in the middle of the night so that they don't cause a scene. They move all of the family into one room. Throughout the occupation, the family can only do something if the soldiers allow it. They cannot go to school or work. They can't even go about their routine in their house. They only go to the bathroom if the soldiers let them out of the prison that their house has become. The IDF "justifies" this act by saying that it is a security risk for the family to be around as they discuss military information. Obviously the West Bank and the Palestinians do not have the right to self-determination.

I left this experience struggling with these ideas. I knew that I was seeing a very biased perspective and portrayal of the conflict, and I was curious about the justification of these acts. It has led to many interesting conversations with my roommates and other people in our program. Throughout these various conversations, I am continuously reminded of the influence that upbringing, background, and culture have on forming who each of us is and our values and beliefs. I am not going to claim that I have figured out the whole conflict and have worked out a game plan for peace. No one has. Being here has shown me that the conflict is multi-faceted and that around every corner is another nuance in the cultures that you hadn't seen before. It is definitely not a black-and-white issue, and peace will not come from a black-and-white approach. We must not ignore the shades of gray, for it is through them that the light of peace will come.

This weekend was the Jewish holiday of Purim. It is basically a Jewish Halloween. Everyone dresses up in crazy costumes and goes anywhere to party, literally anywhere. On Saturday, we all went to Tel Aviv on an organized bus trip that took us to an Orthodox Synagogue. Two of my roommates and I dressed as internet browsers. Shira was Safari, Julia was Google Chrome, and I was Mozilla Firefox, naturally.

Shira-Safari, Julia-Google Chrome, Me-Mozilla Firefox

A lot of my friends and I were staying in the same hostel. When I returned to the hostel at the end of the night, I realized that my phone and wallet were missing. My friend, Scott, also had his phone, wallet, and watch stolen. We didn't really know what to do at this point. When I woke up Sunday morning, I thought about the ingenious app Find My iPhone. I used my friend's iPhone to try to locate mine, even though I thought that my belongings had just been a casualty of Purim. However, I was able to locate my phone to a specific location. Scott's phone had died by this point, so we could not see it. Scott and I went to the Tel Aviv Police Station to try to get someone to take us to where my phone was so that we could hopefully get everything back.

After filing a report and much waiting, two plainclothes cops (or detectives) showed up to take us to my phone. We did not see whoever took the stuff, but people around said that it was a black man. When we told this to the police officers, I realized that racism is anything but dead in this country. We drove to the block where my phone was located. The officers looked at everyone on the sidewalk. When they saw the first black man, they immediately pulled the car over, got out, and began harassing this man. My phone had not moved in the two hours since I had first located it. I did not think that this man who was simply walking down the street was the one who had my phone. The officers yelled at him, forcibly frisked him, and pushed him to the point of tears. I could not believe that my desire to get my stuff back led to this innocent man being humiliated by these supposed law enforcers. It broke my heart to watch them accuse him of stealing my phone. I could not believe that I was witnessing racial profiling. After about 10 minutes, they realized that he did not have it.

They drove us to an alleyway and parked the car. They told Scott and me to wait there as they took my friend's phone to try to find my phone. Scott and I spent the next minutes contemplating the situation. What did it mean to have our wallets gone with all of our money, credit cards, identification cards, and health insurance cards? I think I was handling it a bit better than Scott because I realized that all those things were replaceable. It may be a hassle, but the world was not over. Scott asked me multiple times, "Where is Jesus right now?" I told him that Jesus was still here even though the situation seemed dismal. In my head, no matter what the outcome would be, I knew that I would learn a lesson from this experience. Everything happens for a reason even if I didn't know yet the reason for this situation.

After about 45 minutes, we watched the detectives returning to the car...holding my phone in a piece of cardboard. They asked me to identify my phone, but wouldn't let me touch it (I assume they wanted to check for fingerprints). I was absolutely ecstatic. They didn't really elaborate on how they found it, where it was, or who had it. Scott and I agreed that maybe we didn't want to know what had to happen for them to find it and bring it back to me. We asked about the rest of our stuff. They said to wait again while they tried to find the rest of our stuff. It was another long while for Scott and I to sit alone in the unmarked car. I joked that Jesus was with me, but not with him because he is Jewish. (Note: This is not what I actually believe at all. Jesus loves everyone. End of story.) We could not believe that I had actually been able to get my phone back.

After about another hour, one of the detectives returned and asked me if I had received an email from a man who said he found my wallet. I checked my email on my friend's phone and saw the following email:


I found your wallet in my building

King george 23

Call me
(his number here)

I was in shock. How did the detective know that this guy had emailed me saying he had found my wallet? The detective left again. About 10 minutes later, he returned and said we were going back to the station. Unfortunately, they were not able to find any of Scott's items. When we got to the station, they gave me my wallet and phone back. I looked through the wallet to make sure nothing was missing. Absolutely nothing was. I had all of my identification cards, credit cards, insurance cards, and money, down to the last shequel. After four hours with the Israeli police, I had been reunited with all of my missing belongings.

A man was sitting in the corner of the room. He looked at me, smiled, and said, "I'm sorry." I didn't know who he was until the detectives said I should thank him for getting my wallet back. I asked him how he found my wallet and then how he found my email address because it is not on anything in my wallet. He said it was on the stoop to his building. He didn't want to go through all of my stuff, but he did want to return it to me. He went through my 8 forms of identification and found my Washington and Lee student id. He realized it was a university. With a friend's help, he googled Washington and Lee and looked me up in the directory because they had my username and id number. From there, they found my W&L email address and emailed me. Now if that's not a miracle, I don't know what is. This whole happy ending never would have happened for me if it weren't for technology. If I hadn't had Find My iPhone. If my phone had died. If this nice Israeli hadn't had Google. Through this whole experience, I can say that I know exactly where Jesus was. Unfortunately for Scott, he never got his phone, wallet, or watch back. Luckily for Scott, he left his passport and health insurance card at the hostel. Also, Scott came prepared with backup phones in case his old iPhone couldn't hold out for the duration of our trip.

Scott and I met up with the rest of our friends on the beach and then took a bus back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was celebrating Purim on Sunday night. My friends and I had bought tickets to the student party in downtown Jerusalem. When we got to the party, we realized it was in a parking garage under City Hall. It was a rave of about 3,000 people dressed in any costume imaginable in a parking garage. However sketchy this may sound, I promise it wasn't. Brittany, Julia, and I stayed together for the night and had a great time. When we left to go home at around 2 am, we were amazed to see so many people, not just young college students, still walking around the streets. Purim in the Holy Land is definitely a different experience.


After a lovely break from Hebrew and an exciting Purim, it was time to start the real classes of the semester. It has definitely taken me a while to get used to taking classes and doing real work again. Even though I am purposefully taking it easy this semester, I still find that my time disappears way too quickly. I only had class for three days during this first week. The classes were the typical first classes when you get the syllabus and an overview of the class.

Being at Rothberg International School has opened my eyes to a whole host of epiphanies about other countries, cultures, and languages. Students at Rothberg come from North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia (I know of at least one who has been to Antarctica, so let's just say we're the definition of international). I am amazed that the Europeans, for whom English may not be their first language, who are in my Christianity and Judaism in Late Antiquity class can actively participate in class discussions of theological terminology that most Americans probably wouldn't even understand. I wouldn't say that I am fluent in Spanish on any level, but it is the language that I know best after English. I couldn't fathom being in an academic setting discussing anything more advanced than the environment (only because I had to do that for my final exam in high school). I am in awe of the rest of the world and their knowledge of other languages. Again, Americans come from an arrogant culture that simply expects the rest of the world to be able to communicate with America in English. However, I know many people from other countries who are bi- or trilingual. I am still astounded by people from Nigeria, Botswana, Malawi, Korea, Taiwan, and China who are in my Hebrew class. They are learning another language through a language that is not their first. Imagining trying to learn Hebrew in a class where everyone else primarily speaks Spanish, including the teacher, is almost impossible for me to fathom. However, I find that these students are the ones who work the hardest and are learning the language best. Through these experiences, I am finding a love of languages and yearning to be able to communicate with more people in the world.


After the first three days of real class, my friends and I decided to go to Tel Aviv again for the weekend. Most of my friends had a place to stay Friday night, but I didn't. I decided just to go for the day to spend time with my friends and go back to Jerusalem that night. We went to Tel Aviv and sat on the beach. It was beautiful and perfectly relaxing. I could do that all day everyday until I got too burned to function. We went to dinner and met up with some friends who had already been in Tel Aviv. After our dessert of גלידה (glida, ice cream), my friends put me in a cab going toward the Central Bus Station. When I got to the Central Bus Station, I was looking for a sheirut to take me back to Jerusalem. It's kind of like a bus/taxi that takes about 10 people to a city for a set price. It was Shabbat by this point so the buses and light rail had stopped running. A sheirut and taxi is the only option to go anywhere on Shabbat. The sheirut dropped me off near the Old City, so they said. This was my first time traveling alone. I was a girl, alone, in the dark, on Shabbat (so no one was around), and I don't really know Hebrew. When I got off the sheirut, I had no idea where I was. I decided to walk up to a main road and realized I was actually near one of the main roads that I knew. I contemplated walking back to the Kfar so I wouldn't have to pay for a taxi, but it was cold. I was still alone and still didn't know Hebrew. I walked to a group of parked taxis near City Hall and got one to take me to the Kfar. It cost me 18 shequels to get to Tel Aviv that morning. My lovely return adventure cost me 105 after the sheirut and 2 taxis. I was not too happy about that, but I survived my first inter-city travel alone and got home safely.


Saturday, I went with a different group of friends to the Israel Museum for the second time. This was my one and only experience in which I have been the token non-Jew but known more about a place than anyone else in the group. We started at the new exhibit on Herod the Great. For those of you who remember Herod from the Bible, this is the Herod that wanted to kill Jesus as a baby. You know, in the Wise Men story. The Herod from the Passion story is a descendent of this Herod. There are about four different Herod's from about this time in history. I looked it up while I was in line for the exhibit. Apparently this Herod really liked his architecture, but he was super paranoid. It was cool seeing all of the artifacts from his palaces, tombs, and other various structures. Part of the exhibit mentioned Masada, which I visited about a month ago. I don't think I could have picked a better place to study what I am studying. Everything connects so nicely from museums, to the classroom, to places I visit wandering through the city. My education is so much a part of my life here.


On Sunday, I went to the Old City with my roommate, Shira, and our friend, Daniel Mapa, to do the Rampart Walk. It is a walking tour that is along the walls of the Old City. The walk has some great lookouts into the German Colony, lots of old churches, and various villages that are around the Old City. The history connected to these ramparts is amazing, too. Thinking of the people who stood there in the past defending Jerusalem from whoever the attacker was at the time makes me appreciate the city and this opportunity even more. Even though the walk isn't very handicap accessible, it isn't really restrictive, either. Mapa, Shira, and I frequently took advantage of the photo opportunities that the higher levels of the rampart provided. Anyone who was worried for my safety at Natural Bridge in Kentucky this summer probably would have had another heart attack watching us. Like this summer, we all returned unscathed.

Mapa, Angela, and Shira on the Rampart Walk

Through this adventure, I realized I absolutely love going to the Old City on Sunday. Because Sunday is the start of the work week here, the Old City is not busy. It is so peaceful and is the perfect atmosphere for a leisurely Sunday stroll. Also, everything is open, which makes it even better.


Unfortunately, I seem to have caught a cold of some sort. Last week was kind of boring because I was trying to prevent, and then recover from, this illness. It didn't really work. One night, I was walking back from school after studying after class. It was cold. I didn't feel well. All I wanted was to get home and have someone offer to make me some soup. I got home to find that my roommate, Julia, had actually made soup for dinner and was offering it to people earlier. No one took her up on her offer, but she literally made my night.


Thursday, I went to class and went straight back to bed. I only got up to go to the Vagina Monologues that was at the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center. I had never seen the show, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first performance. It is a part of V Day: A Global Movement to End Violence Against Women and Girls Worldwide If you want to more about the Vagina Monologues and V Day, please click here.


I tried to do more recovering during the day Friday. Then I realized that most of my friends had plans for Shabbat dinner. I didn't want to sit around doing nothing or cooking for one on Shabbat. The concept of Shabbat dinner (or a communal meal of any sort) is definitely an important part of this experience that I am going to take away after I leave. My friend, Scott, invited me to Shabbat dinner with his parents, who had just arrived to Israel. I went with Mollie and Brittany to meet Scott and his family for dinner. His parents are hilarious and just a lot of fun to be around. Spending time with them and seeing Scott interact with his parents made me miss my family and our own quirky interactions.


Saturday night, I got a text from Pavel that read, "Ice skating in two hours?" I said, "Sure." Little did I know what that meant. Apparently there is an ice skating rink in the German Colony. It is called עיר קרים (air carim), literally "cold city." The skates were made of plastic, and the rink hadn't seen a zambouni in far too long. I also haven't been ice skating since about sophomore year of high school. Pavel is from Canada, so he can skate. Brittany skated for 12 years, so she's basically a pro. Mollie has been roller skating with kids in Philadelphia. So that left Gemma, from Australia, and me. I'm from the south. I don't care that there's an ice rink in Charlotte. I don't ice skate. It was rough. Brittany tried to pull me. At one point, I lost my balance, and my legs flew out in front of me. I landed hard on the ice like they do in cartoons. I started crying because I was laughing so hard.


This Sunday, I wanted to go to church. I emailed Douglas Dicks, the Presbyterian liaison for the Middle East, who is located in Amman, Jordan. He sent me a list of churches in/near Jerusalem. Last Sunday, I intended to go to one near Bethlehem. At 7:30, my bed felt too good, and I wasn't sure how to get there. This Sunday, I decided to try the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City. I knew about where it was and how to get there. I went to the light rail, and accidentally got off a stop too late. Jaffa-Center is not the stop that takes you to Jaffa Gate. I walked to the Old City and found the church. I walked into the main door and realized I was in the main chapel where they held the service in Arabic. I stayed for about five minutes. I thought I could have this different religious experience. Then I realized that I came here to experience the English service and the community I was told I would find.

I left the sanctuary and went to the chapel where the English service was. I was only 20 minutes late. I walked in to find a beautiful chapel. The architecture was elegant, yet simple. It had high ceilings with beautiful capitals on the columns. At the front of the chapel were a few small stained glass windows. It was a Protestant church just the way I liked it. The sanctuary was actually full because they were installing a co-pastor couple during the service. I arrived just as the bishop began his sermon.
The scripture was the story of the prodigal son. Now this is a story that I have known my entire life. Even though I have always heard and always taught children at camp that you can always get something different out of the Bible, I thought that I had exhausted the interpretations of this story. I have covered it in Sunday School, at youth conferences, at retreats, at camp, at church, at small group, at large group, and any other context imaginable. I have pictured myself as the younger brother, the older brother, and the father. I thought I knew everything about this parable. False. The bishop began his sermon and talked about how important it was that the prodigal son found himself among the pigs. He elaborated on how this was vehemently against his kosher upbringing. It brought a whole new interpretation to the rock bottom that the younger brother hit. Only here, in Israel, would I have found this interpretation. For me growing up in the southern Bible Belt where Jews are virtually non-existent, this was never even considered in all of my studies of this parable. Again, where you come from is so important in forming your worldview and approach to any situation.

During the sermon, the Arabic congregation joined us to celebrate welcoming the new pastors to this church. During the installation portion of the service, I contemplated my own vocational discernment. Could I do what this couple is doing? Could I leave the states to minister in the Middle East? Maybe I could? Maybe I'm called to do that? Maybe not. Only time and God will tell.

After the installation was Communion. I hadn't had Communion since before I left the States. As I was waiting to receive Communion, it hit me. Even though I was thousands of miles away from my family and my church family, this is the one thing that connects us all. No matter what our doctrinal differences may be, the Christian Church celebrates Communion (or the Eucharist or whatever you want to call it). That is the tie that binds us together. I thought about what World Communion Sunday actually means. In this moment I felt so connected to my Christian brothers and sisters. I hadn't realized until now how much I was on a spiritual island and how that was affecting my faith. I needed this connection to others. I needed this like-minded community. Even though I wished that my dad was serving me Communion rather than this Lutheran bishop, I still felt and saw the love in his eyes as he gave me the piece of pita and said, "This is the body of Christ. Take and eat." I found myself emotionally overwhelmed. I went back to my pew and cried. I tried to hold it together, but I couldn't. I was just so happy that I had found this like-minded Christian community that I have been yearning for for the past six weeks. It was the most meaningful and emotional Communion experience I have ever had. My friend, Evan, who is going to Harvard Divinity School next year told later told me that I had had a mystical experience.

After Communion, they asked anyone who was visiting from abroad to stand and introduce themselves. There was a group from a church in the States and a group of audiologists volunteering in Jerusalem. I stood, introduced myself, and thanked them for being the first real Christian community I had found here. In the typical church fashion, the pastor thanked me and told me not to leave without giving them my contact information. After the service, Jenna introduced herself to me. She has been here since August as a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (like the PCUSA Young Adult Volunteer program). She offered to take me around to the Arab neighborhoods that some of my Jewish friends may feel uncomfortable in. I also talked with a pastor from a church in Michigan. We chatted about Christianity in the Middle East and the conflict. It was like I was at Oakland or Lex Pres on any given Sunday. I also met a grad student at Hebrew U who actually lives exactly four floors below me. After seeing so many examples of the Jewish network, it was comforting to experience the Christian network again. I am definitely going to continue attending this church. Next Sunday is a congregational hike/potluck in the West Bank that I am excited to attend.

It has definitely become spring/summer in Israel! The weather is beautiful, and the sun is out! Monday afternoon, I sat outside and did my Hebrew homework as I had lunch with Julia. We were only outside for about an hour. My back, neck, shoulders have never ever been so burnt after one hour. Apparently, the sun is a little bit more intense here than in the States.


Tuesday, I went on my first field trip with my archaeology class. We went to the City of David, which is outside of the Old City near the Temple Mount, which is where the Dome of the Rock currently sits. It was another crazy experience of history and class coming together. We were able to see the walls, tunnels, and even houses of people who lived there in the First Temple Period (~1000-750 BCE). Parts of our information comes from the Bible, while other information comes to us from historical documents found in Israel and Egypt. It is crazy to learn about some place in history in the classroom and then to actually see it the next week. The history and ancient-ness of this city and this country never ceases to amaze me. I don't know if it is the climate, the architectural style, or the materials used that have preserved so many buildings and sites for thousands and thousands of years. Whatever it is, they don't make things like they used to. I think about how young the US is. I can guarantee that in 2,000 years, only a fraction of our civilization will remain, compared to how much still stands and functions in Israel today.
One of the many archaeological sites in the City of David


I don't really have anything fun to mention about today. I have just been in my room trying to finish this blog that I started Saturday. I guess this is where I will put the general thoughts and musings that have been going through my head since I last posted.

I have realized how the 21st century works. We like to compartmentalize. We compartmentalize everything. We to put everything in its own little box with its nice little label so that way we don't actually have to think about things below the surface. Once we know the label, we know a whole host of other details about whatever it is that is labeled. Unfortunately, the real world, people, and situations don't work like that. In reality, everything exists on a spectrum that is full of various nuances. This really became apparent to me as I tried to understand the political spectrum that exists in the Jewish community in America. 

Allow me to do exactly what I just said was bad. For the most part, I would say American Jews are pretty left-leaning. Now, political views regarding Israel and the conflict is on its whole different spectrum. It is difficult for me to understand what it means to be left-wing or right-wing on the conflict because the Arab-Israeli conflict spectrum is a completely separate entity from the typical American political spectrum. I have come to realize, thanks to the help of my friends and roommates, that right-wing is more pro-Israel, while left-wing is more pro-Palestine. However, like I previously said, there are so many variations and nuances on this spectrum that it is difficult to put people at a particular place on this spectrum. 

I also have learned that there is a big difference between American Jews and Israelis on this spectrum. When I asked a friend about about another friend's politics that are very pro-Israel and called them right-wing, this friend claimed that the politics were right of center, at most. I didn't get it. In trying to listen to many voices on this issue, I realized that I have been limited by the language barrier. I have focused mainly on the Rothberg bubble and haven't been able to hear the perspectives of actual Palestinians or Israelis.  From what I understand, Israelis tend to be more right-wing in general and in respect to American Jews. I was struggling to understand how so many American Jews could be so vehemently pro-Israel even when they knew about the human rights violations and oppression that is currently occurring in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I realized that many of the more pro-Palestine people in our program are those who are not Jewish. I thought that perhaps it was easier for non-Jews to think critically of Israel and about Israel's actions. 

My roommate, Julia, and I had a great conversation about how Jews are educated, especially with respect to Israel. Shira, another roommate, also joined in the conversation as we discussed who chooses what American Jews learn in Hebrew schools, Jewish Day Schools, and any other avenue of Jewish education. The generations with the funds and influence over this curriculum come from a time when the Jews were the victims (i.e., post-WWII, post-Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the 6-Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973). Since then, with the help of the US, Israel has become more powerful. However the rest of the Middle East may hate Israel, the tables have turned in the past 70 years. Unfortunately, it seems that the American Jews with the power have not really grasped this fact, yet. I'm not trying to say that everyone I have met who has a Jewish education wants to get rid of Palestine and the Arabs. In fact, that is quite far from the truth. For the most part, everyone understands what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza. It just depends on the extent to which they believe the IDF's actions are justified. Julia sent me this link to a great article that helps to explain what I wasn't quite understanding. Basically, it is about the changes in the Jewish population and the fact that the more right-wing Ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism is most supportive of the IDF's actions against Palestine and is growing more rapidly through reproduction. Perhaps the best way to describe the spectrum of Jewish positions on the spectrum is through the culture of diaspora. Different groups react to the culture of diaspora differently. Some react in the form of Zionism. Others, as Peter Beinart puts it, are more willing to shed their Zionism values before they shed their liberal values. Even with all of this progress made in trying to understand the situation, it is still simply a work in progress.

As I have mentioned a few times before in this post, where you come from determines so much of who you are. I didn't understand until quite recently how much growing up in small towns in the south impacted my personality. Even before I went to W&L and embraced the Honor System, I was always an open, honest, and trusting person. I've never locked my door at school. I've always trusted the people I'm around. My other roommates who are from New York and New Jersey lock their rooms whenever they leave the apartment, even if the apartment door is locked. I just don't. I trust my roommates, my friends, and anyone who would be in my apartment not to go through or steal my stuff. Only living in small communities where I know just about everyone has given me this sense of trust in humanity. I don't fault my roommates at all. They are from the City and haven't had the luxury of trusting everyone around them. It's not a deficit, simply a difference. I have a renewed appreciation for small towns and good communities everywhere.

If you have made it to the end, I applaud you. As the title indicates, this has been one of the longest blog posts I ever want to write. Maybe I've learned my lesson not to wait 3 1/2 weeks before blogging. I just received a card from my Grandma. She says that I know how to express myself with words. If I ever become a pastor of a congregation, they should prepare for some pretty lengthy services. To that, I say, I got it honest from my beloved grandpa. Hope this has been an interesting read despite its length!

Until next time, Shalom.


  1. Have been eagerly waiting for your latest post. You are an astute observer of your surroundings. Glad you made it to the Lutheran service; I thought you might like it. Have you made contact with Sami? I spent last weekend with my nephew in Houston, where we did the rodeo. Almost as much fun as Purim in Tel Aviv:)
    In their kitchen was a ceramic sign which read "Shalom Y'all." It reminded me of you and the grand adventure you are having

    1. Sorry I'm just now getting back to this. The Lutheran community has been great! I've truly found a home among believers there. I have not received any contact from Sami yet. Don't worry, I plan on having a Shalom, Y'all sign in my house wherever I live from here on out. Thanks for reading!