It really is amazing how you make friends wherever you go—I was in a store in the mystical city of Safed and met a woman with whom I immediately had a connection. Rivka invited me for tea, after I had bought presents for all the kids, one or two for myself (obviously not on Gonzaga's budget) and then we sat for a while and drank tea with nana (mint). We exchanged life stories and likely will become Facebook friends.
I also found myself in of all places, Livnot u'lihibanot (an orthodox outreach group whose ways and beliefs I have struggled with in the past)—they were going to be hosting a birthright group. While I feel like I am planning a different kind of Israel experience I was curious about the success of this experience among college age students. I talked to a couple of the young interns and waited for the group to come to see how they would be approached and to assess the messages, but they came late and I had a lot to do.
I wandered into the Kosov synagogue (dedicated to Jewish community of Kosov) which was basically empty but I was led to the women's section where I sat and deciphered a long explanatory brochure about why Mt Meron is important for every Jew and about the spiritual power of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Except for maybe two words, I got the whole thing. By the time I was done reading I wondered if I should hop a bus to Meron. But I moved on.
I visited the synagogue where we once prayed for our children. I gave thanks in that same space 11 years later for the gifts of my children who I miss very much.
And then I was about to turn back to the bus station when saw a sign for an artist named Kathleen Wasserman and the gate was open so I went in and made another new friend. I also made glass art and we organized a glass art making mini-class for the students. She is a Reform Jew with a PhD in education and we had more in common than she has with about anyone in Safed. So we talked for a while and I created art which was very fun. Safed is an artist colony and a haven for the Mystics, the Hasids and Chabad, and also a lot of secular Israelis. And they all get along. It's kind of an amazing place. I chanted the Nava Tehila niggun on a rooftop. My time in Israel is coming to a close.
Tomorrow I am going to tour Christian sites with Abraham Hostel to see how they run a day trip and Wednesday I will stay in Tiberias and assess it educationally. I might even bike a little.
Glass Making in Tsfat
Safed or Tzfat, as it is known in Hebrew
Saying farewell to Tel Aviv. It's the most I have ever liked Tel Aviv. It's an avenue and place for secular Judaism to flourish and yet I still managed to see plenty of Judaica for sale. I even purchased a Sefer Sefer Hahinuch, which I have been wanting for a long time for Derash preparation.
Staying at the hostel was really interesting as it put me in touch with younger travelers both Jewish and non-Jewish. I met a young guy who saw my Gonzaga T-shirt and told me he went to Jesuit high school in Washington, DC and then proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions about Jews and Judaism. He just arrived from 6 days in Jerusalem.
And then I met three kids who extended birthright trips. Some of the Jewish Gonzaga kids have thought about doing birthright before or after the Gonzaga program for next year and I actually think that could be great as they will come away a number of narratives and will be able think critically about a number of issues.
Meetings were very productive while I was in Tel Aviv and I spent the morning reviewing and reflecting on curriculum in a cafe known for activism. I think the cafe is like Tel Aviv's Stonewall. Of course Itamar from T'ruah told me about it.
As I walked back towards the hostel to catch the shuttle to Tel Aviv, I realized I was in the market district of Shul Levinsky. See pictures of nut baskets, spices and house wares. I think it will be a good activity for the students when not in class or touring.
I also found that someone had given me a counterfeit 10 shekel, which someone at the hostel swore was not counterfeit but changed it for me nevertheless.
Ran across another part of the market that is apparently the bead district of Tel Aviv, and those of you who know me, know how serendipitous this was. I controlled myself and spent less than 18 dollars on jewelry making supplies but it was a fun way to close out the Tel Aviv time.
Now I'm on the shuttle to Jerusalem where I will continue to have meetings to prep the trip, check out the Israel museum and have Shabbat.
Aaron Taylor and I are planning to go to Ramallah tomorrow. This will be my first time in the West Bank since the 1980's when we briefly visited Hebron and the caves of the patriarchs and matriarchs. I will write more when I return. In the meantime, I very much looking forward to being in Jerusalem. Shaya and Kim gave me notes for the Kotel Wall.
Levinsky Market District in Tel Aviv
Dr. Goldstein Leads Gonzaga-In-Israel Study Program
2017 will see the start of a 4 week Israel Study Abroad Program, for more information contact Dr. Elizabeth Goldstein in the Religious Studies Department