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
Taking the train from the airport into Tel Aviv. Going to meet Rabbi Efrat Rotem for dinner. Hope I get a little time to recover from trip before that. Otherwise trip was smooth. Had the same flight as Neili from Spokane —she is going to visit relatives in Israel.
On the flight I studied Torah with a chabadnik --sharing our different interpretations of impurity and gender on Lev 12. Fascinating as he was telling me that The chabad interpretation is peshat (the plainest meaning of the verse) using rashi's science from the 12th century. Yet it is interesting to read "a woman who conceives" as "a woman will surely spawn a male" and conversely that a man will surely spawn a female. What goes into the tube comes out last.... Are we even reading the same Torah?? How can we talk about commonality when we can't agree on the simplest understanding of the biblical text? But we can laugh and talk about davening and cell plans and kosher food. Satlow's Polythetic model.
The other guy next to him is American, went to yeshiva on Staten Island and is 5-6 years younger than me. He just moved to Efrat from Baltimore. I am wondering why he moved to Efrat. I asked him if he knew Meir Schweiger from Pardes. He did not. He said Trump is crazy but Obama was bad for Israel. The other guy said Thomas Friedman hates Israel (I was reading from Thomas Friedman's book From Beirut to Jerusalem). I'm wondering why we are spending our energy populating Efrat. It seems crazy to me for a new immigrant to Israel to intentionally move into the West Bank. Some say Efrat is different because it is so close to Jerusalem and it has been around for so long. It's not going to be decided today. And realistically Efrat is never going to the Palestinians.
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