A Little bit of Heaven, Hardship, and Hope:
Seeing Israel and Palestine with New Eyes
We are back from our ten-day congregational deep dive into the many narratives of Israel and Palestine. Our two guides, Gal (an Israeli Jew in his thirties from a kibbutz north of Tel Aviv) and Ramzi (a Palestinian Christian in his forties from Beth Sahour, a neighborhood of Bethlehem) were as much a part of our learning as the places they showed us. Their model of asking questions and sharing their different perspectives (sometimes very congruent and sometimes divergent) demonstrated complexity, curiosity, and civility. As we said goodbye, it was clear that each one of us had been transformed by the experience.
Below are a few of my personal impressions, highlighting how our tour lived up to its title. (Here is a detailed itinerary, though some aspects were changed at the last minute.)
A little bit of Heaven:
Picking beets in a muddy field for Project Leket, an organization that brings fresh produce to food pantries throughout Israel.
Enjoying Druze hospitality, eating a lavish meal while listening and dancing to the musicians playing the oud and drum.
Seeing signs of Purim fun throughout Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (costume shops, treats and decorative containers for making mishloach manot -- Purim gift baskets, posters for Purim dances and events, and hamantashen.
Joining progressive Jewish congregations for joyous and inspiring Friday night services in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
A little bit of Hardship:
Learning about the ongoing decades-long struggles of residents of Arab villages, Palestinian citizens of Israel, to have their villages recognized by the government and to receive basic services like electricity, running water, roads, and education.
Walking through the checkpoint from Jerusalem to Bethlehem with teeming multitudes of Palestinian men returning home from work at the end of the day.
Experiencing the anger and the pain of Palestinian refugees in Bethlehem whose main goal is to return to their homes in Israel’s cities and villages (whether those homes still exist or not).
Viewing the separation barrier up close, both from the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, and the stark difference between the two.
Visiting Jewish holy sites that have become either fortifications or fundamentalist shrines, and somehow do not convey a sense of holiness.
A little bit of Hope:
Meeting inspiring visionary young women like Sheereen and Genevieve who are leading efforts to empower others, including Arab farmers in the Galilee, Arab women, and at-risk youth in impoverished villages.
Seeing graffiti, banners and signs all over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, protesting the government’s intention to deport asylum seekers.
Visiting places where people meet to learn about the other and to build bridges, like the Tent of Nations, Muslala Artists’ Collective and Women Wage Peace.
Witnessing steadfast resilience and courageous perseverance in the fact of heartbreak and hardship.
In coming weeks, we hope to share more stories and photos from the members of the group.
If you’re interested in participating in a facilitated conversation about Israel at HBT, mark Saturday, April 14 (6 to 9:30 pm) on your calendar for Resetting the Table. More information to come.