March 2012 Journal

Each participant was asked to submit something reflecting their experiences and feelings from the trip. It could be a poem, short story, picture with a caption, drawing or painting, op-ed, diary entry, song or any other format.

Following then are some submissions from the March 2012 tour.

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Becka Ross, student at Hebrew Union College

“Personally, I have spent this year trying to develop my concrete viewpoints of Israel. Am I pro-one state or two-state solution? What are my thoughts on the Wall being divided by gender? Do I agree with religious settlers? How do I feel about the disengagement of Gaza?

After serious reflecting and process and on all these question and more, I’ve realized I am pro-dialogue. There are so many narratives to the story of Israel, both internal and external to the Jewish people living here. As I have traveled around Israel hearing many different stories and hearing the passion with which people talk about their different viewpoints, I have come to understand so much more about Israel and Israelis.

I don’t necessarily agree with everyone I have spoken with, but after talking with them I understand where they are coming from. After each meaningful conversation I have, I always walk away wishing everyone else could have heard this conversation and then perhaps that will lead to peace and a better Israel.

I have decided I am comfortable with being in flux about my views on topics within Israel, because that flux allows to me consider different perspectives that I hear. I just want to make sure I am open to hearing different narratives and continue processing my thoughts on it all.”

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Samantha Kanofsky; Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv & BINA: Social Justice and Pluralistic Judaism in Israel

I Support Settlers?

Walking into a Bomb Shelter in Nitzan, home of the evacuated settlers from Gush Katif

No, I haven’t been brainwashed, and no I don’t support the settlements. But on the Perspectives trip I’ve just returned from, I have seen the humanity behind some of the political positions that previously seemed untenable and even abhorrent, here in Israel, Palestine, and everything in between. While I still find the settlements a blockage to peace with the Palestinians and a two-state solution, I have a newfound empathy for Jews who make their homes across the Green Line.

Perspectives-Israel is a new, grassroots initiative, offering a two day study tour around Israel and the Occupied Territories for rabbinical students, Jewish educators and lay leaders that enables a new conversation by focusing on the issues and especially the people whose lives are entwined with the conflict. Terminology was not supposed to be important to our discerning ears, though it certainly got thrown around quite a bit within people’s narratives. We visited the separation/security/apartheid/separation fence/wall/barrier. We met with settlers/people/pioneers/evacuees/mothers/home-makers. Language is power, and it does matter, but each person must have the right to use the language that best expresses the truth in his or her story.

How can you “oppose” a group of people when one of them has invited you to their home (at your request, not theirs), served you tea and cookies, and looked you in the eye as their emotions flood out through their stories of pride and pain at the expense of politics. Jews you can see your own soul reflected in, just with a different manifestation of fear and a desire for a better life.

So many creatures in this world don’t receive enough love, or kindness. This theme among others, struck me over and over as I heard stories recounted of violence and terror and loss during the Intifada and today, which parallel the experiences I’ve heard from Palestinians. Stories of people traumatized by the sporadic yet tangibly constant barrage of rockets and missiles causing panic over the past ten years from the Gaza strip. Unquellable emotions over the injustice of being removed from your home for “nothing,” in your eyes. And too often with the creeping sentiment that nobody really cares about your suffering, just wants to use it for political power and then sweep you and your feelings under the rug.

I never thought I could have empathy for a settler. That I would understand some of their reasons for living in the West Bank. That I would learn that the government went so far as telling them point blank that they had  duty to move to Palestinian territories, though in recent years where they don’t need to say it– they spell it out with the roads and services provided to Jewish communities across the green line every year while turning the other way and preaching a need for a “two state solution.”

Whatever that may mean. I heard convincing arguments, by the way, for a solution of one-state for two-people on the trip– check out Yehuda HaKohen, a brilliant and mystically-motivated guy who studies and works at Machon Meir. I didn’t think I could believe that security trumps freedom of movement in ANY situation, let alone one that has placed a cement wall between two of the most beautiful peoples and lands I have ever encountered.

I still hold my values of justice and self-determination for Palestinians, and oppose the illegal and unethical expansion of settlements into the West Bank. But when you hear personal stories, and visit the places you previously were quick to sever off your diplomatic map of who gets what– (let them take it, we shouldn’t be there anyways and those who are there are just crazy religious right wingers), it becomes more and more difficult to sacrifice because it’s no longer landscape– it’s people.

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Jackie Frankel, Pardes year Program (originally posted in the Pardes blog These and Those)

I wrote this upon exploring the Israeli narrative with Perspectives Israel:

I made aliyah 2.5 years ago. Someday (G-d willing) I will be a mom – a mom to sabras. It will be my turn to directly shape the next generation of Israel.

What will I say when they ask about the Separation Barrier? What will I say when they ask about a 1 or 2 state solution? What will I say when they ask me to recall my thoughts on the disengagement to Gaza and what happened to the former residents of Gush Katif? What will I say when they ask me how I felt about the Kasam rockets that fell on Sderot? What will I say when they try to understand why we need a fortified room built into our home and to know where a nearby bomb shelter is? What will I say about the people of Gaza and the West Bank and the concrete slabs separating us? What will I say about traveling in Gush Etzion?

Will my children be safe? Will my children have a stronger connection to their Judaism because I chose to make aliyah when I was 25? Will the violence of my nation’s country jade me? Will there always be a Jewish and democratic state? Will there continue to be mistrust and hate and war? Will I always have hope for a better future? For peace? Will I be as strong and hopeful as the voices I heard on my Perspectives Israel trip in March 2012?

How will I raise my children to understand nuance? How will I raise my children to keep opening their hearts in the face of adversity? To be strong? To have faith? How will I be a contributing member of society and help shape Israel – the one and only Jewish state, that I happen to love – for a better future?

All of these thoughts whirl in my mind as I walk home from Havdalah at shul starting my next week after a Perspectives Israel trip and a lovely Shabbat with my love in his childhood neighborhood of Gilo -overlooking Bethlehem. Contradictions, hopes, fears, and harsh realities hit me as I grapple with my recent experiences. Experiences that I hope will only be another important step along my journey of becoming an educated, impactful citizen of Israel.

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