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
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.
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