:::wiping off the cobwebs and dust:::
:::opening windows to let in fresh air:::
Ahh, that's better.
There's nothing like an impending first-time trip to Israel coming up in just one week to get me blogging again.
On December 22, Jacob (18 year old son) and I will be joining a group from Congregation Beth Simcha Torah (my synagogue), including our esteemed Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, for a 10 day trip to Israel. We'll be in Tel Aviv, the Negev and Jerusalem. This is a social justice oriented trip, so we'll be meeting activists from the human rights, LGBT rights, Palestinian rights and Bedouin movements and communities in addition to seeing important sites and, of course, shopping.
I have attended two evening classes led by the rabbi for this group so we could all learn a bit more about our trip and the contexts in which we will be finding ourselves. We have each been asked to become "experts" on two areas or issues related to Israel. I am working to learn more about Bedouins and about Russian Jewish emigration in the 1970s, two topics that interest me.
This social justice focus is the only kind of trip I would want to make to Israel. I want a balanced view of the country. The rabbi says that there are no easy answers and that anyone who says all that needs to happen is one thing or another really doesn't understand or know the situation. She wants us to immerse ourselves in the complexities and to challenge whatever positions we hold going into the trip.
This is important to me. I want to wrestle with this like Jacob wrestled with the angel. I want to be challenged by people I know who support divestment and boycotts so I can better understand why and I can balance that understanding with the opposing view. I want talk to the marginalized, to the unrepresented, to the oppressed and to come away with an even stronger commitment to them than I have now. I want to love and criticize Israel, the way I do the US. I want to believe the country has a better self, that it can be "touched by the better angels of our nature" in the words of Abraham Lincoln.
I believe that to call oneself a member of the "chosen people" implies an obligation, not a privilege. And it is an obligation to all humanity, not just to one's self and one's tribe.
These are the beliefs and values that I pack into my bag along with the shoes and shirts and other items on the list we received.
I will write about all of this and how it is impacted as we move through the trip. One of my trip-mates, an older man, told me that he was happy to hear that my son was coming because he wanted to see how an 18 year old experienced Israel for the first time. I do too, and I will write about that.