After a Perspectives tour participant are asked to submit something reflecting their experiences and feelings. 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 five of the submissions from the March 2010 Perspectives trip.
Esti Schloss, student at Pardes and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Drawing from Sderot’s Police Center
Feivel Strauss, Rabbinical Student at the Hartman Institute
Dvar Torah, Parshat Ki Tisa
Perspectives give people eyes. Rarely do I take the time to understand how another person reaches a conclusion. While sitting on top of Mount Scopus, I was able to literally look around to see why Israeli supporters of the Peace Now movement believe the settlements are blocking the way to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Peace Now consider themselves Zionists who worry that the fate of Israel is precarious if Israelis do not immediately dismantle settlements to secure two separate states.
Peace Now is about the ‘now’, the desperate need to make peace before it is too late. Many times in history, inaction and naïve optimism has led to tragedy. Even in this week’s Torah Portion, Ki Tisa, we see the people unwilling to wait any longer. Moshe has gone up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. Moshe is delayed in coming down. The Hebrew used is בושש, which carries the connotation that Moshe has died. The people assume that Moshe’s tardiness must be tragic. The people hastily believe they have lost their leader and cannot and wait any longer so they begin to worship the Golden Calf. Could it be that their mistake was simply not having enough patience?
Yet, how do we know when we must act right away and when to wait it out a bit longer? I do not know if there is always a smarter choice, a preferred side to err on. I do sense that few people grasp the good intentions of both approaches. The story of the Golden Calf reminds us that at times we do need to be a bit more patient, but history can only be used as a means to filter our present situation. So as I listen to the voice of Peace Now, I appreciate their perspective, one that I previously belittled and must now grapple with as I sit here waiting patiently.
Sarah Weller, Pardes student
For a split second
I thought to myself
This is the end
But it was nothing
I was safe
I reached in and lifted my heart out of my stomach
Living that split second
Over and over again
All the days of your life
With no escape
Praying that it will end
But it goes on
Caylee Talpert, Rothberg International School, Hebrew University
Too much love, too little land, too many opinions; two state solution?
Living in Israel for the past year and a half, politics is something that has become part of my daily life, especially in Jerusalem when there is always some sort of riot or protest going on; not having a political opinion is simply not an option. Therefore the opportunity to take part in Perspectives, a tour that promised to give a broad range of diverse Jewish perspectives of the conflict was something that I could not refuse. I generally spend a lot of time speaking about the issues, the same ideas and arguments bouncing back and forth, but rarely do I get an opportunity to hear things as the saying goes “from the horse’s mouth.”
On this two day program we met Israelis from across the spectrum; from Leftist Peace groups (Ir Amim, Peace Now) to Right wing settlers in Nokdim, a Hesder student of Yeshivat Or Etzion’s and Gush Katif evacuees now living in a caravan park in Nitzan. We also visited Sderot and saw for ourselves the impact of the rocket attacks, while also hearing another side of the Sderot story by meeting with the Leftist group “Other voice”.
As this list makes clear we were exposed to a good sample of the various views that make up Israeli society. Yet the most striking thing for me was a common theme that ran through all the speakers, regardless of their diametrically opposed views; a deep and tangible sense of a genuine love for the land of Israel, albeit with varying emphasises and a fair amount of criticism in between.
However that passion and love was clearly a driving force that I think was felt by all. When Etai from Peace Now spoke to us about how his activism derives from “his love for Israel” there was no question in my mind as to the sincerity of his words; or in his conviction in the importance of the two state solution as the only way of maintaining a Jewish and Democratic State. Yet at the same time when Rachel, a former resident of Gush Katif, spoke of her love for her former home, the pains of the disengagement and her determination to now build a new settlement in the Negev, it was quite clear that she too was coming from an equally compelling and sincere a position.
For me this was an invaluable experience, although I consider myself slightly to the left of centre politically, I would never before have associated myself with Peace Now which I thought was part of the “crazy left” and edging towards post-Zionism. Yet at the same time being in Nitzan, seeing the way people are still living in caravans and seeing pictures of the thriving communities that were destroyed during the disengagement really had a deep impact on me. You look at photos of their beautiful homes on the beach, the vegetable fields and the magnificent synagogues of this once thriving community of 1800 families and you can’t help but feel their pain. Regardless of your political views these people lost their homes and communities and the heaviness of such an experience should not be downplayed. The real tragedy of the situation was further impacted the next day when we visited Sderot, and the leader of the Leftist Peace group, “other voice” conceded that the situation for Palestinians in Gaza is far worse than before the disengagement.
So in conclusion, did I find a solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem? Of course not, but what I think I gained was a little more understanding that put me in a better place to empathise with all concerned and see the conflict through their eyes. I have a better appreciation for why people feel the way they do and while I don’t think I changed my political views I certainly I hope that this will enhance the lenses through which I now view the conflict.
Shoshi Rosenbaum, Hartman student