Friday, October 12, 2018
What an eye opening day we had in preparation for Shabbat. This morning's focus was diverse narratives and we heard a few different stories as we continue to sort through the journey of our Israel Experience. We spent some time hearing about diverse personal narratives. At our first stop we spent time with some members of a program called ‘Shorashim’ (Roots) (https://www.friendsofroots.net/) next to the Gush Etzion Junction.
Roots is a partnership of Israelis and Palestinians who have a mutual respect and recognition for each other. At this meeting we heard from both an Israeli, Rabbi Shaul Judelman, and a Palestinian, Noor A'wad. Not only did we hear their individual stories, but we also heard their combined dream and vision of the future for both Israel and Palestine. From this meeting we were able to hear first-hand accounts of the current conflict and possible solutions and outcomes. We were then given the opportunity to ask questions to learn more about their goal toward lasting peace. The next stop was at the home of a Modern Orthodox family in Efrat. We heard from Liel, a Jewish woman who was born in California, whose family made Aliyah when she was six, who grew up in Efrat during the second Intifada, who attended Lesley College in Cambridge Massachusetts and worked at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Our group was mesmerized with this young woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood in both the United States and in Israel. We walked away from this meeting with more questions, more in-depth conversations with one another and a better understanding of the perspectives of those living in this region of Israel. Having spent the morning in serious conversations, our leaders decided it was time to have a sensory overload. We were dropped off at the Machaneh Yehuda Market, free to enjoy the wafting smells of fresh challah and a variety of spices as everyone went shopping to prepare for Shabbat. It is now time for us to prepare for Shabbat and a visit to the Kotel. Shabbat Shalom!
Saturday, October 13, 2018
There is nothing like Shabbat in Jerusalem. We began Shabbat by lighting candles in the old city and then we walked down to the Kotel - the Western Wall. This is the last wall remaining from the retaining wall that was around the second temple. The energy was awesome - packed with people from all walks of life. There were sounds of singing and praying. We saw people dancing, some quiet in prayer and people overcome with emotion. We each had the opportunity to have our personal time at the wall. We were able to walk up to this ancient wall, to touch it and to talk to G-d in the way that worked for each of us. We took the opportunity to place notes that were sent with us into the wall -they were delivered safely! On the women’s side we started to hear some beautiful melodic voices singing. We turned around to see a group of high school girls who started singing and dancing in a circle. The circle began to grow and grow with more and more women joining in. Soon there was a gigantic circle with women from all over singing and dancing together. We joined in and really felt the joy and magic of Shabbat in Jerusalem.
After our experience at the Kotel, we walked for about 45 minutes to get to our destination for Shabbat dinner. We were invited into the home of a couple, Chen and Alon, where we were treated to a traditional Shabbat dinner. We sang, said the blessings and then ate a delicious home cooked Shabbat meal. We even found out that Chen had been on a show called “Bake Off” where she had come in second place on this Israeli baking reality show. The couple also shared a bit with us about their life as Chen is an observant Jew and Alon, a secular Jew, and how this works for their family. With full stomachs and full hearts, we walked back to the hotel for menucha - rest. After several full days of learning, this rest was very welcome. On Saturday, Shabbat, we met in a nearby park for Shabbat lunch which included food that each of us had purchased from the shook the day before. We had time to talk, learn and reflect about our experiences in Jerusalem. The reflection is always an important piece to pull it all together. We were given the rest of the day to experience Shabbat in Jerusalem - some went to back to the Kotel, some to the old city and others to the train station each enjoying their experience. We ended Shabbat with Havdalah outside our hotel. We sang, said the blessings and said goodbye to Shabbat as welcomed the new week. There is nothing like Shabbat in Jerusalem!
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Today we went back to our roots and explored another area of Israel. As we drove down to Masada with the Dead Sea on our left, we learned about the lowest place on earth and the receding sea level which has become a concern in recent years. We spoke about our personal values and the values of our community throughout the day. Our first stop this morning was at Masada, rich with natural beauty and deep meaning, this high plateau tells the story of a group of people who upheld their values to the end. When we arrived to Masada and took a ride up the cable car, we took in the beautiful scenery around us, the Desert Mountains and the clear sky. We arrived to the top of Masada to explore and learn all about King Herod and his castle and hear more about how the Jews lived during that time in history. After our tour, we traveled back down to take a short stroll in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and learned about the history of this amazing national park and the relationship between those who settled the land and currently live on Kibbutz Ein Gedi and the respect they show for the history and nature surrounding them. We were amazed as we watched the water rush down the waterfall as we strolled through this amazing oasis in the desert which allowed the Jews to settle in that area so many years ago. After our walk we headed over to the Dead Sea for some floating in the salt water and treated our skin to the Dead Sea mud. After a full day of exploring land and history we traveled back up to Jerusalem for a delicious dinner and an evening of inspiration with Tamir Goodman, the “Jewish Michael Jordan”. Tamir shared his story with us about how he stuck to his values as his basketball career took off and always refused to play on Shabbat. He used his Jewish identity to help educate the public about Judaism and never swayed from his beliefs. We wrapped up the evening with reflection and discussion about how to bring our learning today back to our community in Dallas.
Monday, October 15, 2018
Today we dug deep. Keeping in mind the theme of the day, Memory and Re-Membering, as we drove towards Yad Vashem our hearts were beating faster as we anticipated the depth of what we were to see, hear, and feel. We learned that Yad Vashem is more than just a museum and memorial for the Holocaust. It is an experience that allows us to connect to a period of time that we did not live through first hand. Despite having studied the history and heard the stories, many of us were unprepared for the breadth and depth of the flooding of emotions that you have no choice but to feel completely.
Our guide's message of "Never Again" was repeated throughout our time together, moving us to find inspiring ways to bring this most important message back to our communities, thereby ensuring future generations stay connected with this horrific, yet very important event in our history.
Our next stop was the nearby Har Hertzl, also called Har Hazikaron, the Mountain of Memory. We were able to visit the graves of the brave, fallen soldiers, as well as some of the historical leaders of Israel. We ended this tour in a serene setting atop the mountain, the final resting place of Theodore Hertzl. Our reflection of the weight of the prior few hours began with a few moments of silence, and was touchingly interrupted by the sound of children's laughter, who happened to be on a field trip learning about some of the heroes integral to the establishment of the Jewish State.
Our afternoon ended with the activity of Dialogue in the Dark, at the Israel Children's Museum. During this unforgettable sensory experience, we were able to understand first hand the world of those that are blind, or visually impaired. Without the sense of sight, we were forced to navigate real life settings in total darkness. These included a walk in nature, a boat ride, shopping in an Israeli Market (Shook), and enjoying a music concert. The final portion entailed purchasing a beverage or snack in darkness, and getting to know more about our guides who themselves live without the benefit of the sense of sight.
The theme of the day taught us that tragedy, obstacles, and challenges are interwoven in the fabric of both our communal and individual history. That being said, by supporting each other and providing strength, together we can rise from the depth of despair to overcome adversity and thrive in the paths we determine for ourselves.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
We spent our first morning in Tel Aviv at the home of world renowned educator Rachel Korazim. There we explored children's literature in Israel and how these authors have spoken to children about the most difficult of topics. The discussion led us to think about how we teach our children both at home and in the school. What values, what lessons can our children learn from difficult subjects and issues facing us today?
In another bookend to our experiences yesterday, while visiting Nachlat Binyamin Arts and Crafts fair, we happened to stop at a paraphrased quote by Theodor Herzl. Herzl who is known as the father of modern political Zionism and the namesake of the memorial we visited yesterday, Har Herzl. His quote read, "Where there is a dream, there is a way."
We have seen examples of this throughout our journey across Israel including our last workshop of the day at HaGal Sheli ("My Wave"). This is a unique program aiming to engage troubled teens by teaching them how to surf and using a balance on the surfboard as a metaphor for finding balance in their lives. Two former students, turned instructors led the Schultz Fellows through trying to find our balance. What we learned was that it did not matter how many times we fell, we succeeded because we continued trying and didn’t give up.