Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Coexistance Day and Upper Galilee Day

Sunday, July 26 - Monday, July 27
Authored by Rina Dale

On Sunday, which was Tisha be'av on the Jewish calendar, the theme of the day was coexistence. We started off in the morning with a discussion about what coexistence truly means: is it possible in Israel? In America? What can we apply it to? As one of the people leading the discussion, it was very interesting to see the contrast between what the Israelis and Americans had to say.
After our discussion, we met with two people from the Parent Circle, an organization that brings Muslim and Jewish families together who lost loved ones in the conflict. The two people we spoke to, a secular Jewish man and a Muslim woman, told the heartbreaking stories of losing their family members, and shared what the conflict was like in their eyes. During the discussion, I remembered something Liana (we miss you!) told all the Americans: to observe the Israelis' reactions to what the two people said. Part of me was shocked by the anger some of them felt towards what was being said by both of the people. After the two of them left, we had a big group discussion. The Americans could hardly get two words in. It was so interesting to see that just two hours before they were all saying that Haifa is the place with the most coexistence, and then were going on about how they felt hurt about what was said. As much as everyone wanted to continue the conversation for the rest of the day, we had to change gears and move on. 

We then had a model UN type activity run by Sonia and Itamar where we were split into groups which represented different religious affiliations: Haredim, Russian Israelis, Druze, etc. The goal was to create a school system in which all of the groups were satisfied. After a long and frustrating discussion, an agreement was finally formed where everyone got what they wanted. 

After eating a quick lunch, we went to the Arabic neighborhood of Hadar, and issued a challenge to the fellows: take a picture which captures the essence of coexistence. Everyone returned with different pictures, illustrating coexistence's many forms.
We then drove up north to visit Sindyanna, an olive oil factory which employs Arab women, and has Muslim and Jewish women working side by side. We learned the factory's mission and how they use the aspects of community and partnership to bring women together and make delicious olive oil products. Before we left we made sure to buy some olive oil and wonderfully smooth soap! 

Later on, Raz led an interesting discussion about Tisha be'av: the story behind it, why it's important, and so on. We talked about morality, and the importance of rationality and emotion. Soon after, we met with some people who work at cjp who spoke to us about being involved with Judaism and Israel, especially with the Boston-Haifa community. Then it was time to break the fast! We ate great food and talked about the day. It was a great ending to an educational and powerful day!

We spent Monday, July 27th, farther north in Israel. We drove to a stunning view of the kineret and the Syrian border, where we met with Hadas, a member of diller international staff. She told us about the origins of the land we were sitting on: how it was constantly being fought over until peace finally arrived. There has been no conflict over it since Israel gained control of the Golan Heights. We wrapped up the discussion with taking pictures, and eating fresh mango from their mango farm. We then drove to a dairy farm, who's smell was pungent to say the least. With dozens of cows surrounding us, we learned all about the history of the farm, their farming methods, and the produce they make and sell. Lucky for us, we then got to milk the cows, and give the newborn calfs water! For some people it was their first times doing both of these things, and I could see how much they were enjoying themselves. 

We then drove to a small pond where we swam around in the water (it was much colder than we expected) and ate ice cream in the sun. After leaving the pond, the staff ran a program for us called Guest and Host. We split up into two groups and talked about what being a guest or a host really means. We read some text, and discussed the topic through a Jewish lens. It was a program about self learning and where we think we each stand on the guest-host spectrum in relation to Judaism. Are we a guest or host in the religion? We ended the day early with delicious pizza and headed home after a relaxing and enjoyable day up north.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Friday: The day of Social Justice through Shabbat

July 24-25th Written by Shachar Berkowitz-Regosin
We started off the day with a short bus ride to a residence for people with special needs. Some of us were nervous as we arrived but as soon as we met the residence we immediately began conversing through dancing, painting, and a lot of laughing. Despite the nerves some of us had, the connections made between us, the fellows, and the residents were inspiring, meaningful, and filled with joy for all of us. We took a break from all the fun to eat some lunch and after, a Arab-American woman from Haifa with a feminist organization called "woman to woman" (isha leisha) came to discuss the organization with us. We talked about how different types of  bullying can impact kids and young adults and heard the story of how she got involved with the organization. Many of us were amazed by her strength and we were very thankful that she came to talk to us.

As we finished our programming early on Friday for Shabbat, I got ready to join my host family for a Friday night dinner in honor of my Israeli's grandmother's birthday. Everyone gathered together and I was quickly accepted into her family. As I ate delicious food and talked to many of her family members, I learned a lot about Israeli culture and family. I was fully immersed in a family so different than than my own family who were half way around the world eating a Friday night dinner of their own, yet I felt so at home.

The next day, after some much needed sleep, I prepared to spend the day with my host family learning and experiencing even more of Haifa. We first walked around Acco, the old city of Haifa, and went to the shuk there. The shuk was filled with amazing spices, beautiful jewelry, and delicious Arabic food. After a short boat ride around Acco we ate a lunch of handmade, warm, hummus and pita. After our delicious meal we moved on to snorkeling, our last activity for the day. With a couple of other fellows we took a boat to go snorkeling in the beautiful, crystal clear water near Haifa. We saw all different kinds of fish and jellyfish and went walking on an island in the ocean. It was a wonderful way to spend Shabbat!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Gettting To Know Haifa & IDF Day!

Wednesday July 22nd and Thursday July 23rd
Written by Erica Morrisey

After the jam-packed days of Kennes at the Sde'Boker kibbutz with all of the North American and South African fellows, everyone was ready to relax during Community week. For a week, each fellow stays with a host family somewhere in Haifa at night, and tours with the group during the day. Community Week is completely planned and executed by all of the Boston and Haifa Fellows! We have 4 Fellows overseeing the week, and they sort of act as what the staff would normally do. We have meetings to plan and to learn from the experience.
The theme of the first day of Community Week was Getting to Know Haifa Day. Fellows began the day at Bat Galim beach for a maagal boker in small groups discussing the changes in the opinions of fellows on various Israeli/American stereotypes between JCM in March, and the Israel Summer Seminar. For some groups, this transitioned into the affects of racism in America and Israel, all of which was very interesting as racism is present in Israel, but in different ways. Israel doesn't have the same histories of racism as America, so comments are occasionally made that seem racist to the Americans, but hilarious to Israelis. The different backgrounds mean that the comments have different meanings for both groups. This program was to gauge the differences between the cultures of Haifa and Boston.
Groups were next given different brightly colored facepaints, ribbons, and whistles for a scavenger hunt that would take place later in the day. In the meantime, fellows were herded onto a cable car that went to Stela Maris. The view overlooking the ports of Haifa made home feel a little closer, seeing as Boston and Haifa are both shipping hubs. The group braved the heat and hiked over to the Baha'i Gardens. Due to it being a Wednesday, visitors were only allowed to get to the first terrace. Despite the restrictions, the fellows were able to enjoy the beauty of the views and fountains as Sam Epstein delivered an overview of Baha'i culture. The saying that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong was proven during Get to Know Haifa Day, as the heat became too much and a tour of the German colonies had to be cancelled. Instead, the fellows took a trip to the air conditioned mall (yes!!). After lunch and shopping at the mall, fellows took a bus to the Sammy Ofer Stadium for a tour. On the tour, fellows were taught how Israeli sports and politics are so closely entwined, mostly because each soccer team is associated with a different political group, making cheering on a team a political statement. The night ended with highly competitive bowling, and delicious hummus, pita, schnitzel, and plums.
Day two of Community Week was Israeli Defense Forces Day. The day began with a history of wars involving the IDF, and an explaination of how they continue to affect Israel today. Shortly after, fellows heard from Yisrael Ne'eman, a Middle East studies professor of Liana's from her time studying at the University of Haifa. He had an engaging tactic of writing down a list of the topics that the audience wanted, and then going over every single one at some point during his lecture. He was fascinating and taught the fellows new information about political parties, gaza, and more.
After lunch, fellows were bussed to Beit Halochem, a gym in Haifa that was specifically for former soldiers that were injured. Fellows toured the facilities and then had a chance to play basketball in wheelchairs. Playing with two wheels and a waist strap instead of two legs really changed the structure of the game. Now instead of running, one had to dribble the ball, and pump the wheels at the same time. It allowed the Boston-Haifa fellows to not only count their blessings, but to understand first hand the struggles of an amputee or paralyzed veteran.
Fellows were welcomed to Haifa by Ilana Trock, the Haifa Diller supervisor and Education Director for the Haifa Municipality; she gave us all a nice welcome gift! We sadly said goodbye to the volunteers at the gym, and headed to Techni, a training school for air force engineers. Here, fellows gained an overview of the air force engineers, as well as the expectations of a student that knows in middle school, what they want to do in life and the army. Soon after, fellows asked a panel of solders all of their questions about working in the army, completing one's service, and continuing with life. Two of the soldiers had visited Boston on the CJP Hatikvah Officers Mission, and the third was Ofir, a Haifa JC's brother. Last, all of the fellows had the chance to experience Gadna, army training in Kiryat Ata involving running laps, pushups, crawling, and carrying an "injured" comrade across a field on a cot. The day was ended with a later curfew graciously granted by staff, and a birthday dinner for Noam at Caffe Rothschild.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jewish Communities Kennes!

July 21st Written by Daniel Goldstein The Diller Jewish Communities Kennes was from Sunday the 19th to Tuesday the 21st. We arrived at Sde Boker in the Negev nervous but excited. We were less eager to meet the other Dillers because we didn't want our group to get separated! As it turned out, absence made the heart grow fonder and we all fell in love with each other even more. We became each others rocks to calm down with if we got overwhelmed by the 250 new people we were surrounded by. I don't know if any of you reading this have been to Sde Boker or know about it, but it's an incredible place. It was where the first prime minister of Israel David Ben Gurion (DBG for short) retired in an attempt to stir a nationwide move to the Negev (unsuccessfully I might add). What makes this place truly incredible though isn't its history, but its location. Sde Boker sits directly on Mitzpe Ramon, the largest crater in Israel. It is truly the most awe striking sight I, and most everyone on our trip, had seen in my life. What Kennes was, in a nutshell (sorry Isy and Channah amiright), was a lot of get-to-know-you stuff with the other cohorts the first day, a lot of interesting programing the second, and a field trip the third. Let's just focus on days two and three for the sake of time. Day two had two main topics that the programming focused on: DBG and the history of jews in general. Both of these topics were split up into two parts. The first part of the DBG topic we split up into groups called color groups (we stayed with them all of Kennes for these kinds of activities) and debated the four most controversial points that DBG and his fellow zionists had to discuss before they could declare a Jewish state independent. These four points were: 1) Name 2) Boarders 3) Usage of the word G-d in the declaration 4) National Language After we chose what to do with these we decided whether or not to declare our state independent. The second part of DBG, we met in groups based on what issues we were most passionate about in the world today and talked about impact projects. For the history of us topic we had a lecture for the first part (which turned into a nap for an unsettling percent of the fellows), and for the second part we tried to figure out the story of the first Jew in North America and acted out what we thought (the answer was pretty anticlimactic not gunna lie. It was some Dutch guy who was sent to NYC to see if it was a nice place for the Dutch Jews in 1658 or something like that). Day three was a kicker too. It was a bit more chill, while hectic at the same time. We woke up at 4:30 AM to get to Masada while the sun was weak. We spent a little time there (from like 8 to like 11) before going to lunch at a hostel and heading to the Dead Sea. We had fun floating but for a lot of us it really hurt! And was very warm. At 3 PM we left the Dead Sea and headed to HAIFA FOR COMMUNITY WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Shabbat: a Jewish Innovation

Saturday, July 18th, 2015 Written by Leaders of the Day- Aleeza Schoenberg & Eitan Galper Yesterday was our first shabbat together as a group in Israel. After a great start to the shabbat on Friday night, everyone was eager to continue their shabbat journey in Jerusalem. We started off by discussing the theme of the day, Shabbat: A Jewish Innovation, in our ma'agal boker (morning circle). Fellows talked about the different ways that they innovate shabbat and Jewish customs to make it more meaningful to them. We also discussed famous quotes about innovation and how they can relate to shabbat and Judaism. Next, we walked to the Israel Museum. Assaf, our tour guide, told us that it is considered one of the top five museums in the world! We saw the replica model of what Jerusalem looked like at the time of King Harod and the temple as well as the Dead Sea scrolls. Assaf also showed us the "nano-bible", an entire bible printed on a tiny piece of silicon that looked like a speck of dust. It was really cool to see this piece of Israeli innovation and it went very nicely with the theme of the trip. After we walked around the Israel Museum and looked at many of the fascinating exhibits, we walked a long way to the Old City where Assaf gave us a tour of many of the sites and talked to us about the history. We had an interesting discussion about Jews living in the Muslim quarter of the Old City and the tensions that this issue brings to the already tense relationship between Muslims and Jews. We then had Seudah Shlishit (third meal) with other Diller groups in the Old City. It was great to meet the people who we will be spending a lot of time with over the next couple of weeks. After we left the other Diller groups, we hung out in a park until it was time for Havdallah that Aviva did a great job leading. We wrapped up the day by eating dinner on Ben Yehudah street and exploring the many shops. Some of the shops even had special discounts for Diller members! It was a very fun and exciting day and I'm so glad that I had the oppurtunity to be a leader of the day on this shabbat.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Friday in Jerusalem- Innovation Versus Preservation Part II!

Written by Leaders of the Day, Aviva Rosen and Yuval Marcus On Friday, we had a blast! We started to learn more about Israeli entrepreneurship by meeting the creator of NU shirts. David Kramer talked about his process in starting a company and his motivation behind it, which was based on wanted to supprt important causes related to Israel. We personally enjoyed creating our own t-shirt to support a cause that we feel passionate about- the two causes we chose were awareness of prison issues in the USA as well as rape of women in the US military. We hope to potentially create campaigns to sell our t-shirts in Boston! Next, we began to explore Israel through preservation. We went to the City of David and went through the water tunnels, learning about the amazing irrigation system that was created. We learned about Israel's culture by seeing both the ancient and progressive sides of Israel. After the water tunnels, we visited the Jewish Quarter. We were interested to see how the modern people and culture integrated in an ancient city. As Shabbat came closer, together as a cohort we prepared for Shabbat and started to have personal reflection on it. When we visited the Kotel, we were shocked by the amount of Jews praying and experiencing Shabbat. We personally felt a deep connection to Judaism and God. The Kotel really reminded us of the connection all Jews have to each other. In addition, at the Kotel we were able to create new friends from all the other Diller cohorts. Seeing many cohorts at the Kotel, we realized that although we come from different places, we still have a deep connection. To finish the night, we experienced a traditional, Orthodox Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Great Synagogue, amongst Jews from all over the world!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Days in Jerusalem

"Where It All Began" and "Innnovation Vs. Preservation" Written by Nick and Josh The flight was a bumpy and rough one, and no one slept too well - but high spirits abounded as we began our Israel Summer Seminar. We landed at around 3, and after going through customs, awaited the arrival of Rose, who came in from Paris. With the cohort now complete, we headed off into the Holy Land, accompanied by Assaf, our tour guide, Ido, our medic and security person, and Amit, our bus driver. Daniel and Hadas were our Leaders of the Day! Our first stop was the Jerusalem Outlook - we drove from Ben Gurion Airport into the Judean hills, marveling at the amazing scenery outside of the bus windows. Upon approaching the site, we donned eye masks, in order to add to the significance of the view we were about to experience. The view was impressive - a breathtaking window into biblical times: our tour guide, Assaf, reminded us that this view was particulary pertinent to the Tanach. He described the scene, noting, "This is the only place where you can point at the Torah, look up, and say, 'This happened here!'". Dan and Hadas led a brief but meaningful blessing over the occasion, along with a discussion regarding the group's feelings upon finally arriving in Israel. The next morning began our time as Leaders of the Day (Nick and Josh)!. Everyone groggily rose at 7:00 to make it down to breakfast at the hotel which was surprisingly good. There was an omelette bar and a bread cart with rolls of every shape imaginable. We set out on the bus to the Sataf hike, which was a relatively short and easy hike with a great view. We stopped for a ten minute break to draw the view in our notebooks. Although not everyone was too deeply engaged in the drawing aspect, as some people, including me, were not genetically gifted with drawing, everyone definitely enjoyed the chance to sit down and relax and take a deep breath. At least for me, this was the moment that it really dawned on me that we were in Israel. The hike was beautiful. Going along with our seminar theme of Start-Up Nation, Assaf connected the agrigulcutral revolution to innovation. After such a fun and physically engaging activity, we moved toward a more somber and spiritual place - Mt. Herzl, the national cemetery of Israel. There, Assaf led us through the design of the mountain - an architecture fraught with meaning. At the top we visited the grave of Theodore Herzl himself, and talked a little bit about how Herzl was, in many ways, the greatest Jewish innovator of his millennium - his innovation being the conception of the idea of a Jewish State. Also discussed was the purpose of such a site as Mt. Herzl - which we came to understand was for the collective memory of the state - but a small debate arose. Can, and should Israel bury state leaders who have committed crimes on such a sacred site? It was decided that we cannot have a selective collective memory, but rather one that encompasses the entire history of the State. We moved down the mountain to visit the resting places of Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir, two of many influential leaders buried in that area of the cemetery. We then walked down the mountain to visit the graves of fallen IDF soldiers - most notably Americans who had come to Israel to join the IDF as Lone Soldiers without family in Israel. We then heard from Chaim, an ex-Lone Soldier, on the meaning of being an American fighting for Israel, 6000 miles away from your family. That concluded our Mt. Herzl tour, and we returned to our bus. Next we went to the Shuk, which is a famous Israeli marketplace. Prior to getting off the bus, all of the Fellows were given another fellow for a fun little gift exchange. We all had to spend 10 shekels or less on a gift. We were also put in groups to go get lunch, as it was really easy to get lost in the Shuk. Assaf told us on the bus what his favorite places to eat were and he probably said every restaurant that was at the entire marketplace. He also said that we were in the midst of the best falafel in Israel, which is a very bold claim, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true. The falafel restaurant was right next to where we parked the bus and the friendly man working there gave a free sample to everyone. I have to say they were better than the frozen Trader Joe's falafel that my mom makes. After we ate, we all wandered around to the stores attempting and failing to bargain with the storekeepers. There were beds of whole fish and piles of beans and spices and everything looked fresh and delicious. After wandering through shops that sold strange items and attempting to speak hebrew with people who talked very fast, we all made our way back to the bus. We drove back to the hotel and gave our gifts to our surprise gifts on the bus. The gifts ranged from candy to boxers to flyswatters to back scratchers and everything in between. We drove back to the hotel to meet with a journalist who worked in many different important jewish newspapers. Working at a Jewish paper, much of his recent work was centered around the conflict, and he talked to us about how it is difficult to find a balance between stories that make money and stories that paint the conflict in a picture that is beneficial to society and will not incite more violence. We did an activity in which we were split into groups and given a story and we had to pitch them to our journalist who played the part of the newspaper editor. He told us that some of our stories were doomed from the start, as they were not "sexy" enough for the news, which really upset some of the groups. He told us about how the media can be unfair, as editors often select stories that will strike an emotion in the audience, no matter whether or not the story paints the full picture of what is going on in the area. He told us that the Israel we are seeing right now is very different from the Israel we see in the media. After the presentation we sang "yom huledet sameach" to Aleeza and ate cake, and then hung out and played cards until dinner. We ended with a movement-filled Maagal Lila led by the JCs!