The Ramallah day was a lot to digest and then Aaron and I were meeting with Aziz from Mejdi about the Gonzaga trip Friday morning so we worked into the night on Thursday planning the ideal trip, which we have, of course, adjusted now several times. But it was amazing to work with Aaron, to see his life in Muslim quarter of the old city, and to talk about life and politics and the many Spokane connections that we share. We took a physical spread sheet and excel and sat in T'mol Shilshom until almost 11 pm and then the next morning after the meeting with Aziz at the American Colony Hotel—we reviewed the itinerary in Mahaneh Yehuda (I insisted we go to the open market because I really wanted to get there to buy my favorites before Shabbat). So by the time I left Aaron late Friday afternoon, we had a working plan for the Gonzaga trip. I have a bunch of things to add and probably will continue to add until I leave Thursday night but soon we will submit it to Mejdi and see what they can do with it. Then Gonzaga and I will have to make the hard budget decisions.
By the time Shabbat was over I had met three more amazing people who can contribute to the Judaism portion of the study abroad experience and I wondered how we would fit it into the already full itinerary.
Nava Tehila Friday night, not surprisingly, moved me to tears. It was quite strange having prayer leaders I only knew through YouTube. We were not allowed to record during the service but I am attaching my rendering of a great niggun (wordless tune) they did. Look out Moscow, Idaho Jewish Community of the Palouse it's coming to you soon.
Shabbat day connected me with new friends and old and I did a lot of walking in the heat. By the end of Shabbat I really remembered Jerusalem—it's paths and connectors and streets and alleys. Whatever I had thought I might do Saturday night, I couldn't move.
The day of rest turned into even more amazing plans for Gonzaga. Pardes has a social justice program as well as a conflict resolution program and my old friend, Marcie Lenk teaches academic Christian groups through Machon Hartmann Institute, uses texts and discusses power in the state from a Zionist and Orthodox perspective but also academic. I can't wait to hear my colleague, Shannon Dunn have this discussion with her. It's like too exciting for my brain.
And my new friend, Naomi Marmon-Grumet, who runs the Eden Project, has drastically changed the experiences Orthodox women have with regard to purity laws and mikveh. She also agreed to speak to my students on gender and Judaism. And she is married to an old teacher from my days at Frisch. Hello, Rabbi Grumet! So that was Shabbat.
Sunday I left my bags and took the bus which I now have down pretty well to the Israel museum. I needed 2 days and I had three hours. I took so many pictures for the purpose of course planning that my phone refused to take any more. Ancient archeology to modern art, gigantic life-size synagogue models from all over the world that you can walk inside, modern art depicting Palestinian reactions to 1948 and 1967, the Dead Sea Scrolls (I means the actual Dead Sea Scrolls), videos of Israelis' celebrating Independence Day. And don't even get me started on the Hebrew Bible. I could give a semester long course just from one wing. I could barely pull myself out of there but I had to get to Tiberias before nightfall.
While convenient to lots of things, the only problem with my hotel room is that Jerusalem seems to want to stay out a lot later than I do. Still, I feel semi-rested as I get ready to meet native Spokanite, Aaron Press Taylor who will be my guide as I travel to Ramallah for the first time. I would say this is my first entry into a Palestinian city except for the fact that in 1994 on Christmas Eve, several fellow Pardes students thought it would be a good idea to walk to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and get our passports stamped with the special Christmas Eve stamp. Although I venture forth in life, I carry a lot of hesitancy with me. However, though I was nervous I decided to go anyway. I was newly dating Tamar and she had plans to go to a concert so this was not a joint venture.
I forged forward into the dark night along derech Beit lechem and passed by the Kever Rachel or Rachel's road side burial, an iconic site. Now apparently it is pretty closed off from easy access, but I remember thinking "I'm just trotting by a major biblical event." We reached Bethlehem and there were banners everywhere of Arafat but it that was the only thing that felt "Palestinian" to me.
We lined up at the post office at midnight and got the stamp and we walked back. We didn't talk to anyone nor did we sightsee. We came and went. Now more than 20 years later, so much has happened and nothing has happened in the way of progress.
We can call it disputed or we can call it occupation but there is a serious problem and I feel that Israel can build light rails inside of barrier walls but we will never be free until we are all free. So kids can eat ice cream on ben yehuda street and pretend the world outside doesn't exist but I can't pretend. I have to go to Ramallah today to acknowledge the reality of this world that is accordingly to my GPS, 8.5 miles from my hotel.
Jerusalem near the hotel
Elizabeth just composed a new tefilat ha derech while waiting for Aaron.
ברוך אתה ה שומע תפילה (blessed are you hearing this prayer.).
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
Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein with Tel Aviv friends: Rabbi Efrat Rotem and her fiancé Ophira
I think Abraham hostel may be great for the students: big clean rooms and big hanging out spaces. Can walk to trendy restaurants, the Levinsky market and centrally located. Today I will check out first hand how "central" I find it.
Last night, after a long almost 2 days of travel and one train I took the wrong way, I had the privilege of having dinner with friend and colleague Rabbi Efrat Rotem and her fiancé Ophira. They are getting married in July. They will have a big ceremony here and then will legally marry in the US where Ophira is working on her PhD in Anthropology (University of Illinois, Champagne/Urbana) and when they're back in Israel, the country will recognize them as married but only when they bring lack their legal certificate from the US. Although I will no longer be in Tel Aviv on Friday, Tel Aviv celebrates Pride this weekend. This year we can hope for legal marriage for the LGBT community in Israel. Efrat is the rabbi of a small progressive synagogue that is associated with Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv. Her congregation attracts many "secular" Jews and this coming weekend she will officiate at a Bar Mitzvah. Alas I will be singing my heart out in Jerusalem and will miss it. You can't do everything. Dinner with friends was a wonderful welcome to Israel.
I had a wonderful sleep and am leaving soon for the Diaspora Museum and a meeting with a potential educator for our 2017 trip. I'll keep you posted....
Abraham Hostel, near Rabin Square, Getting Ready for 2017 Gonzaga Students
Tel Aviv Mediterranean Sea Coast
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