Shalom from Israel (Days 2 & 3)

Tuesday 2/3

Shalom From IsraelSo after some much needed sleep in a guest house on Kibbutz Kramim, I was ready and eager to begin today.  Yesterday was so amazing and I really couldn’t wait to start.
Let me say something about Israeli breakfast:  YUM!  No stupid pancakes or waffles- instead gorgeous fresh salads and local cheese (yes, more cheese) and strong Turkish coffee and this decadent chocolate cereal that LOOKS like shredded wheat, but tastes like a crunchy Nutella cereal!

We then went on a tour of the Kibbutz.  It is one of the few kibbutz that successfully marry both religious and secular communities together.  Even in the preschool- while some kids went to do their morning prayers, others were working on gross motor skills- then they all joined together again for morning snack.  It was wonderfully inspiring to see.

Israel cliffWe then headed to the heart of the desert to visit the grave of David Ben Gurion and to tour the Desert Research Center that he helped establish.  All this was unbelievably inspiring-  David Ben Gurion was THE original Zionist and Israeli pioneer.  He was the first Prime Minister of Israel, the one who sent Golda Meir to America to fund raise to help establish the Jewish State of Israel, and a slew of other amazing accomplishments, but on his grave, where you try to drill down your life’s worth in a few words, he had the date he moved to Israel- he felt that this was his single most worthwhile accomplishment in life….  a true visionary and yet equally a reflective soul.

He chose to be buried in the desert, overlooking the land where Moses came through…  the view is incredible.  My pictures don’t do it justice.  You must come and see it for yourself- you won’t be disappointed.  The tour at the research center was equally enlightening.  We saw and heard about cutting edge research coming out of the institute including research about algae that they are growing to be used for medical and food sources.  This same institute is who developed the patent for the natural red dye now used to dye salmon pink.  We saw solar energy research and water conservation research in laboratory stage- almost want to come home and become an environmental research scientist.

Israel water hikeThen we headed for a delicious outdoor lunch at a woman’s home.  More cheese- but tons of other delicious items with a gorgeous setting.  Ronit was a fabulous host as we fueled up for the second part of our day…

We drove a short distance to Ein Avdat.  Here we embarked on a breathtaking hike where we got a geology lesson from the amazing Avrham.  WHEN you come to Israel, you have GOT to hire him as your guide.  Not only is he the most friendly New Yorker I’ve ever met, but his passion for this country, with all it’s nuances and complications, shines through with every word he speaks.  This experience would not be the same without him.  The cliffs complete with caves and a natural spring trickling OUT of the middle of the cliff made for an awe inspiring afternoon in the desert.

We then headed to a development town called Yerucham and visited their JCC.  We got to participate in their Tu b’shvat Carnival- something I hope to replicate in Asheville next year!  It was awesome – and I learned the Hebrew word for awesome today:  mad’him.  And just in case that wasn’t enough, we then got to participate in a Tu b’shvat Seder with their staff and the staff of the JCC Miami via Skype!  We learned all about the friendships that have been forged between these two communities- I know I keep saying inspirational, but I don’t have a better word!  I plan to learn more about how we might begin a similar relationship between Asheville and an Israeli community- one Kehila from two!

Tu B'shevat sederThen {I know, can you believe all this in one day?}, our last stop of the day was to another woman’s home in Yerucham where she served us a scrumptious Tunisian influenced meal and shared with us her very personal story- one that resonated with me very much.  The experience of being invited into these homes and getting to see, smell, touch and taste Israel in this very hamishway ….  simply the perfect way to end this very memorable day.

Lilah Tov



Wednesday 2/4

Shalom from Israel!!  Today was day 3 and proved to be a very intense day.  The bulk of the day was dedicated to helping us gain a better understanding about Israel’s relationship to the physical land- from the perspective of both the Israelis and the  Palestinians.  It was a day full of historical back story from our guide’s perspective, a day of questions, struggles, emotions, insight- and to be honest, for me, a little clarity.  The goal of today was to help us gain some Israeli perspective and then use that perspective to help us as we develop programming about the conflict in our communities.  A big goal.  I really couldn’t begin to download it all in this blog as to be honest, I am still trying to process it all.  I will however give you an overview of what we did and saw.

The day started off by us saying Shalom to Kibbutz Kramim.  Avrham began our Israeli perspective lesson as we drove to the Gaza border.  We there got out of the bus- right at the border wall and met with a local artist who began a community dialogue through an art project ON the wall.  She was an inspiring woman who lives maybe 100 yards from the wall, had a collection of missle shells from around the neighborhood, lives next door to a home that we saw being re-built from the war this summer because it was destroyed from a missle and yet her project is one based on her belief that one day there will be peace.  She was inspiring, yet I still felt like ‘how could she be so naive?’,  but then who am I to dismiss the power of positive thinking and true belief?  It was an emotional morning- her home is beautiful, the neighborhood has a waiting list to move into- yet I kid you not, it is FEET from Gaza.  How do you feel safe raising a family there?  and even with all this newly found perspective, who am I to judge?

We then headed to Sderot and visited their JCC and met with an amazing guy Robbie Greengrass from Makom, a department of the Jewish Agency for Israel.  There is way too much to say here, so I will recap with this: the conflict is complex, dynamic and sometimes disturbing, yet we need to remember that there is so much more to Israel than the conflict.  There are likely 17 different opinions and there is truth in each of them and as a Jewish people, we need to learn to respect the complexity and the disturbing, find the common goals and work together to move forward.  I don’t believe that I have the answers on exactly how to do all this, but I do believe that it can be done and I look forward to the conversation with you when I return.

We ended the day in Jerusalem, where I write to you from now.  We enjoyed a quick visit to the Biblical Zoo where the house all animals mentioned in the Bible, native Israeli animals and endangered animals.  Checked in to our hotel, had dinner with heated conversation continuing throughout the evening. I am officially exhausted.  Until tomorrow.
Lilah Tov,