Monday, December 29, 2008

Pictures from Bethlehem!

Praying at the cross engraved into the pillars at the Church of the Nativity

Candles at the Church

This is a partial group picture at the Farm. It was an interesting smattering of people.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas in Bethlehem was fantastic. Christmas Eve, there were loads of people in Manger Square, and there was entertainment, mostly in Spanish. There were Christmas Carols, and lots of calls to end the occupation. Christmas Day, I got to actually go into the Church of the Nativity, which was awesome. We hung around downtown for a while, then headed back to the farm for mulled wine and warmth and new friends, and then Christmas dinner of lamb and potatoes and veggies and deliciousness. I slept outside, because this inn was full. It was so authentic. I had such a good holiday. For the rest of the weekend, I went to Jerusalem. I went to Kol Ha'Neshema, the "reform" synagogue in Israel for Friday night services. I was disappointed. I was hoping it would be like services at home, but it wasn't. I miss CBSRZ. Saturday, I went down to the Western Wall to pray on my own for a while, because I didn't think going back to Kol HaNeshema would make me feel good, and I didn't have the proper attire to attempt any of the orthodox synagogues around. Saturday night in Jerusalem was, as usual, exciting. I love seeing the people come out at night after it being so quiet all Shabbat. It's like watching the city wake up, literally.
Now I'm back on the Kibbutz, safe and sound. Ghadeer is still back in Ramallah. She's waiting to see if the violence calms down before she attempts to cross the checkpoint. Tensions are high. I'm waiting to see what happens.
I'll post pictures of myself from this weekend that other people took, but in the meantime, you can see all the pictures I took by clicking here: Lizz's Album!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I think we just had a dust storm? I heard shouting, so I looked out the window, and the trees looked about to blow down and everything was dark. Not like, dark dark. But cloudy. In about two minutes, everything calmed down and the dust settled and it was clear again. It's still blustery out, but not like it was. It was wild.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Here's some pictures for you to enjoy:

We had a party!I got to sit on Santa's lap! He said I'm getting that pony this year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I just came back from another PELS session. Today we watched videos from different perspectives about the conflict, particularly the SEPARATION WALL. My favorite part of the whole session was in the second film we watched, made by the Israeli government to inform the international public about why the WALL was necessary, when the narrator stated, "It's not a wall; it's a fence." Yes. Most fences I've seen are 26 feet high, over a hundred miles long, and made of concrete.
You want to argue about the legitimacy of the wall's construction? That's fine, we can talk about suicide bombers, checkpoints, death tolls on both sides, and the need for security. We can discuss politely whether this wall really protects Israel, or whether it separates the Palestinians and confiscates a hundred extra meters of their land. We can talk about the word apartheid, whether it really just means "separation" or whether it means "South Africa/Racism/Oppressive Laws/Poverty/Death." These are all debatable topics. It's obvious where I currently stand, but we can have a discourse about it. Maybe you'll change my mind. But please, at least call it what it is. This is a wall. Some parts of it may actually be chain link, but this is no fence. If you start out with one lie, how can I listen to the rest of what you have to say?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In case anyone felt the strong desire to get me a Chanukah present, even though I'm not there for Chanukah

This t-shirt pretty much sums up my life.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Desertification Conference: More Proof that the Arava Institute is really more about building character than learning about the environment

Today, the Arava Institute took a field trip to Sde Boker, where one of the colleges for Ben-Gurion University is (and where Arava masters' students spend their second year), for a conference on desertification. Is the desert expanding? What are the environmental implications? What can we do about it? What is Israel currently doing about it? You get the idea. After getting there at 8 AM, and finishing the lectures at 7 PM, I still can't really answer those questions. Everything was confused, disorganized. There was no communication between conference organizers and Arava staff, so we got pulled out of lectures for other lectures that weren't really happening, we miss lectures due to insufficient planning for room capacity (one lecture was supposed to be required for all 40 of us, but was held in a room that only seated about 40. So by the time all of us had been herded in the right direction to find this room - in a different building than we were originally told - there wasn't room for most of us. We were late to our second-choice lectures as a result of this). Then we were recruited to help serve lunch, which is nice that we could help, but also frustrating that we're paying students and we spent more time setting up, serving, and cleaning lunch than we did at any lectures. But! after all the stupid miscommunication and disorganization and nutty-professorism, we had a lovely dinner, and performance by a Black Hebrew musical group. They were amazing, and then we all got up and danced and danced! It was a fabulous break from a regular Monday on Kibbutz Ketura.
And now for some pictures!
Look! Proof we're doing nothing! This is while we were waiting for our professor, who showed up an hour later than the time our schedule said we were supposed to meet with him. We could have been learning at this time. But at least we were in the desert. That's kind of like hearing lectures on desertification.
Oh, also, I forgot to mention we were sort of tricked into holding a political rally. It was a lot of fun, but so not what we thought. We were told we were taking part in a protest against the raising of bus prices. But then, we were the only ones there, and all we did was hold up these signs for Israel's Green Party and make a lot of noise.
This is at dinner! It was crowded.
I actually really liked this blurred jazz man picture. It's like an album cover. For that Black Hebrew Jazz Man. You know the one.
I left my camera in the hands of someone not as fun as me (who didn't want to dance), but he really didn't take any pictures of me. This is the best I got, but I'm blocked by that other girl and I look sort of doofy.
But here's a better picture of the group as a whole. You can tell I'm there, too, though you can't see my face. I'm that light blue shoulder that's even with everyone else's lower chest.
Time for bed. Love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Going over to Susan's house

I went to visit Rabbi Susan Silverman today to talk about saving the world. I've been feeling really frustrated with the Institute the past few days (particularly after last week's PELS session), and I wanted to ask her if she's been where I am now. She was really helpful. First she told me, when she was about to graduate (before she even knew she wanted to be a rabbi), she went to Howard Zinn (her mentor), and asked him how to save the world. He replied, "One person at a time." Like the story about the old man throwing starfish back into the ocean. But when she thought about saving the world one person at a time, all she could think was, "THAT SLOW?!" But then she reminded me that being here now is hard work and we're not going to solve the 60 (or 5000) year old conflict in this semester, but we are planting seeds. She put into perspective that our lives are short, so its often impossible to see the scope of how each of us is changing the world, because we just want to see the big picture. She also suggested I re-examine my life, in terms of only having large goals. That I need a dual focus: one for ending genocide, but also one to keep me grounded, like the rabbi thing (focusing on Jewish values and Spirituality, and knowing I'll be able to help individuals, even if I am unsuccessful with the Impossible Dream). And in between both of those, to stop and have tea and cookies with her or go for walks or take a nap or talk to Katharine or whatever else I need to do to clear my mind. Because being a stressball isn't helping anyone. Its in the Torah.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I'm always exhausted here and I don't really know why.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pictures not taken with my camera!

A surrealist picture of Haifa at night.The Baha'i Gardens
Anna, Sarit, and me at the Gardens
Trying to teach everyone "Let There be Peace on Earth"
Group picture at Thanksgiving!

Even More Pictures!

Al-Quds University, in East Jerusalem, where the Peace Conference was held.
The Separation Wall.

The evicted Palestinian family and their tents.The view from in front of their former house.
Jewish Settler walking around like he owns the place.
Zionism in a Palestinian Neighborhood.

More pictures!

Sunrise over Beit Jalla (East Jerusalem)Me and my roommate at the Dance Party in the Beit Jalla hotel the first night in Jerusalem.
The Ramat Hovav Industry symbol is a dung beetle. I'm not really sure why they chose it, but I feel its appropriate.
Me, Liat (one of the PA's) and Eliot, enjoying some down time.
The Medicinal Herb Garden at the recognized Bedouin village. What a difference from the silver water!

The moment you've all been waiting for - Pictures!

This is the water source that runs through one of the unrecognized villages. Notice the delicious silvery color of the water from the industry chemicals upstream.This picture isn't so good, as it was taken from the bus, but it should the greenness and the pool at the Single Family Farm. In the desert?
This is over the Mactesh Crater, where we took our hike the first day. They're building a hotel right on the cliff.
This is my defacto big brother. Without Eddie or Russell around here in Israel, Aaron has kindly stepped into the role of doing brotherly things. He's gives me noogies, shoots olive pits out of his nose, slaps my face with challah, helps me with my science homework, holds my arm to stabilize my steps down the scary declines on big hikes. This is at the bottom of such a decline.
From the highest point of our hike.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's been such a long week

I don't know where to even begin telling you all about the last week. I guess I will just start at the beginning and go through the week. This is going to be a very long post.
Our class trip started Sunday with a hike in Mizpe Ramon, around a crater. It was a pretty good hike, but it had some of those narrow, steep, declines that I hate. Don't worry, there will be pictures.
After the hike, we had some lectures, which were pretty interesting, but I have to question who thought we'd be able to sit through two hours of lecturing after getting up before 5 and then hiking for two and a half hours. It was tough. But I especially appreciated the Environmental Yeshiva presentation, which was in Hebrew. I wouldn't have been able to understand the whole lecture without Uri's translations, but I was glad to be exposed to Hebrew for an extended period of time (you'd think it wouldn't be so hard in Israel, but everyone just wants to talk to us in English), and I was able to understand a fair amount of what he was saying.
After lunch, we had a visit a a Single Family Farm. What this is, is large areas of land in the Negev are being given to Jewish Israelis to develop and lay claim to "unused" land, most of which is actually largely Bedouin lands. Furthermore, the lands are used for agriculture. This farm we went to had thousands of olive trees. The desert is not really made for agriculture. These plants do not grow naturally there. They require a lot of irrigation, and water is already a huge issue here. The woman who spoke to us, the owner of the farm, did not want us there but in the end allowed us to come for a short while, probably because promoting tourism is part of the deal in getting this land from the government. She said some really inflammatory things about Arabs, particularly Bedouins. But I'm not sure how much she meant any of what she said, including her personal Zionism. It was all just a lot of rhetoric. I think she really just wanted the land and the reclusion that the single family farm provides. She was very concerned about the surface of things, that much was apparent.
Monday and Tuesday was mostly dedicated to Bedouin villages and environmental racism. There are seven "Townships" - Bedouin villages that have been recognized and are treated like regular Israeli towns (for the most part). The recognized village we went had a medicinal herb garden and a really inspirational woman who ran it. She made her own holistic medicine and cosmetics line out of the tradition Bedouin herbs she grows. She has her own small business, but she has big dreams for it. She's a pretty traditional Bedouin woman, but she's strong. She decided that marriage wasn't a top priority, this business was. I wonder is this level of modern gender equality would have been so possible at an unrecognized village or in a traditional semi-nomadic Bedouin community. In addition to this township, there are dozens more villages that are unrecognized, though some are in the process of gaining recognition, but they are all in pretty bad shape. The villages are poor, many have no running water or electricity. We visited one village that is unreognized and thus its residents have no claim over their own land. So the Israeli government decided it could build an electrical power plant there right over it, and there's also an industrial park nearby. So people are dying of cancer, which is being linked to the various industry pollutants, but of course the industries are denying that they could possibly be responsible, and meanwhile this village sitting under a power plant isn't actually connected to power lines. It was all so frustrating! After all the Bedouin-visiting, and some more lectures from the industrial park representative and the regional council (neither of which I found to be very informative), we were done with the Negev and off to East Jerusalem, where we had a wild dance party in our hotel.
Wednesday was the Peace Conference at Al-Quds University. The first panel was a lot of hot air and I was bored and frustrated and fidgety. My personal notes during this part, "What counts as success for this conference [the wish for a "successful conference was brought up a lot]? To find a solution here, now? To start a political and social revolution of two states, which will inevitably affect the entire world, here in this college lecture hall? Sure the important players are here, but there are maybe 300 people here, and we're talking about the futures of approximately 10 million people. I've travelled across the world for a hands-on education, and yet, sitting in this room in East Jerusalem, I feel further away from Peace than ever. But then, I suppose, 'if you will it, it is no dream' [Theodor Herzl]. We will peace. A two state solution. Coexistence. The crisis will be over if we believe we can end it."
The second two panels were more engaging. People had some ideas of how we can actually start the peace process, now that both sides have agreed that peace is the ideal. A lot of dependence was place on politicians, including Barack Obama (who has a lot on his plate for his own country) and Tzipi Livni (who hasn't even been elected yet). Other than that, though, it was good. I almost even have hope.
Wednesday night, we had "Thanksgiving" dinner at Tareq's house (a professor at the institute). It was the first time in 9 years I had turkey on thanksgiving, and it only took me to go across the world to do it. It wasn't kosher, but it was halal(the Muslim version of Kosher; the rules are pretty similar) and free-range, and was cooked in the village oven. So I thought that was pretty awesome. And instead of pumpkin pie, desert was fresh made baklawa. Which I love. I tried to teach my classmates "Let There be Peace on Earth," but we only made it through the chorus and it just wasn't the same. I missed home a lot.
Thursday was the last day of our trip and it was pretty easy going. We gardened with a small community in Jerusalem, and we met with the newly elected vice mayor of Jerusalem. She's a sweet woman. A little too naive for politics, I thought, but maybe that's a fresh start. So that was the end of our trip. Officially.
Many of us went directly to a protest in East Jerusalem once we were let loose. There was a Palestinian family that was forcefully evicted from their home so that Jewish settlers can live there. So the family is currently living in a tent in a privately owned vacant lot in at the bottom of the hill their neighborhood sits on. Now, it was a lot warmer in Jerusalem than I was expecting it to be, at least in the day time. But I would not want to be living outside up there this time of year. We went to get the facts and show our support for the family, but then we decided to go check out the neighborhood up the hill. The Palestinian home is now a synagogue. It's infuriating. I was trying to decide what parshat the Orthodox Jews in there could have been studying that would have made it even more ironic. The best I could come up with is maybe when Jacob stole his brother's birthright. Maybe when Hagar and baby Ishmael was cast out of Abraham's home. I don't know. All I know, is that according to my interpretation of the Torah, stealing is wrong, and so is standing idly by the pain of your neighbor. So I'm really at a loss for how they could possibly justify studying Talmud in a building they really have no rightful claim to, while people shiver in the cold (the patriarch of this Palestinian family actually had just died, about a week ago, from a massive attack in his sleep. His health had started to deteriorate dramatically after the eviction, and he was in and out of the hospital a few times before he died). The Israeli security guard felt threatened by the small group of college peaceniks, and threatened to call the police, so we left. I didn't get a chance to really cause trouble, as I wanted to, by walking into the synagogue and announcing to the traditional religious men that I wanted to study with them. Hannah pointed out I wouldn't be received well because I'm a woman. I pointed out they'd probably throw rocks at me because I'm a woman wearing a kippah.
After all the drama and intense emotions of world saving all week, I went to Haifa for Thursday and Tzefat for Friday and Saturday. Both were really nice. Thursday, I met up with a friend I had met in Tel Aviv and the two of us tagged along with two girls from my program to a family friend's house. Evie and Uri were really welcoming to Ittaj and I, even though they were not expecting us, and honestly we weren't expecting anything from them. I asked Anna to ask her "aunt" if she could suggest a hostel or something, and she just invited us along instead. It was really sweet. The four of us went to the Baha'i Gardens and wandered about the city a bit on Friday. Then Anna and Sarit went back to Evie and Uri's house, and Ittaj and I went on to Tzefat. Tzefat is like Kabbalist city. Its very religious, but more spiritual than Jerusalem. I'd really like to go back when more things are open and explore more. But it was a beautiful Shabbat. We got there too late for Friday night services, but we went to a Chabad house for dinner, and the rabbi let me sit on the men's side because it was just me and Ittaj, and my Hebrew is still not so good to have a conversation with strange old religious ladies. It was pretty neat. I think playing Haredi dress up helped. Instead of my kippah, I wore Michael Flynn's denim cap that Mary Lou gave me a few years back. With my hair tucked into the hat, along with a long skirt and long shirt and boots, I look like a Hasidic little wife. There are no pictures, because I was also playing Shomer Shabbos and not taking any photos on Shabbat, but I'm sure I'll play Haredi dress up again and get picture to send you.
All in all it was a great week. But now I'm exhausted and behind in my homework.