Saturday, December 27, 2014

Heading North

Cohort 5 Israel Winter Seminar
By Izzy Gleckman

Our last day of touring began with a 7:45 am wake up call. After a traditional Israeli breakfast provided by the hotel, we headed to our first program of the day. Led by the staff, the Guest and Host program made us look deeper into the responsibilities and obligations of a host vs. those of a guest. We were given a passage which detailed the interaction of Rabbi Yannai and his house guest who he invited after spotting him on the street. This story started a conversation about the appropriate means of hosting and the expectations of being or hosting a stranger in your house. Then, when asked whether we think of ourselves as either a guest or host of Judaism, the response was split nearly 50%. I, for one, consider myself a guest of Judaism- not because I can't lead conversations or initiate religious activities, but because I feel as though Judaism itself is the host and all jews are its guest. This analyst ion and discussion really made me consider my place in Judaism.
       After a quick break, we began our next seminar called "The Parent Circle". The idea behind this program was to have a Palestinian and Israeli, both of which have lost a loved one due to circumstances involving the "other side", and talk through past occurrences and realize that most civilians just want the same thing. Peace. Emotionally challenging and mentally stimulating, both presenters told the storied of their late family members- the daughter of an Israeli and the husband of a Palestinian. After they shared their stories we were able to ask them questions regarding the past events, the current atmosphere, and the future of Israel. The theme that kept on being mentioned was the importance of communication with the "others". When they left, we had the opportunity to reflect as a smaller group and further discuss what needs to happen in the future in order to attain peace. The contrast between the ideas of the Americans and the ideas of the Israelis was very evident. As an American, it is easy to dream of a perfect situation- they would both just talk through it and get all of the civilians to tell the governments that the war is not contributing to a progressive society. Some of the Israelis, however saw things differently, from the fist hand perspective. A few agreed that conversation is the only way they can move on, but some realized that conversation hasn't worked in the past so a new method needs to be tested. Running an hour over the expected time of departure, conversations were arising and thoughts were racing. Even while we were on the bus to lunch, everyone was still discussing and reflecting on our earlier program.
          We had a "pizur lunch" (pick our own lunch) time on Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv, a bustling, commercial hub. After a two hour drive, we arrived at Yemin Orde, a school for immigrant students whose parents either live in or out of Israel. This school provides them an opportunity to thrive and learn in the most accepting atmosphere possible. Three of our Boston-Haifa peers attend this school and we had a chance to understand their lives and hear their stories of moving to Israel.
          We left the school- after taking many pictures of the incredible sunset- and set out for Haifa, where we met up with all of the host families. We had a nice opening program where we all met our new families! We did an activity led by some of the Haifa Fellows where we answered different questions and had discussions about our seminar so far and about our own lives with the families. We met the Haifa supervisor, Ilana Trock.
         Overall, it was an amazing day filled with insight and new experiences.

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