February 19, 2014 by Makom
Shalom shalom friends and family!
I write to you from ztubah. So what is ztubah?
In order to really explain what it is, one would have to carry home a large stack of history books in order to cover all the time periods that have left a mark on this hill. Luckily, wiki can gather it all on one page.
So here we go. Ztubah is a hill located west of Jerusalem that was a Canaanite settlement in the time of David as recorded in Melachim. There are olive presses, agriculture terraces, wells and water systems here from the time of the first temple. Dug into the hill are ancient caves that were used by Jews living at the end of the second temple in order to hide from scary Romans during the Bar Kochbah revolt. It then became a settlement in the time of the Mishna known as Guy Tzuvim. The crusaders took over the hill and built a fortress which remains untill this day. Stone houses and wells are scattered around the hill which were abandoned by Arabs during the independence war.
And finally, in 1948 the Palmach conquered the hill and a kibbutz was established called Tzuba. The kibbutz grows apples, blows glass and has a chocolate factory. That is called geulah (redemption) my friends. Jews returning to their site and making chocolate.
So, I am sleeping on a hill full of stories and lives and years and changes. Every place that I rest, my foot embodies heritage of thousands of years.
Along my trek, I walked through the valley where David beat Goliath, I by mistake ate a plant that Reuben gave to Rachel for fertility, I jumped in a spring that was an ancient mikveh and I slept in an ancient cave that was once used as a hideout from Romans.
I am walking, eating, swimming, and sleeping the Tanach.
I think back to one of my favourite authors from the time of the early pioneers to Israel, A D Gordon, who said it well,
“We come to our Homeland in order to be planted in our natural soil from which we have been uprooted, to strike our roots deep into its life-giving substances, and to stretch out our branches in the sustaining and creating air and sunlight of the Homeland”.
I have been planted into my indigenous home where my history took place and I am continuing it. Bellow me are caves where they hid, beside me grow the fruits they ate, above me is the Gd that watched over them. In front of me is the city that they traveled to for two thousand years.
Everyday, I walk closer and closer to the city and now I am finally breathing the Jerusalem “mountain air clear like wine and the smell of pine…Jerusalem of gold”, as Naomi Shemer sang.
Tomorrow is the big climb to Jerusalem. I think about those who have done it before me. Abraham with Isaac; An Israelite and his family on Pessach walking up for the holiday sacrifice; A Jew from Ethiopia who has just been brought to Israel and has dreamt about seeing his city for his whole life; A tourist who comes to put a note in the wall.
And now me.
This week on the radio, they played the gospel soul song “By the rivers of babylon, there we sat down
Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered zion”
It’s been stuck in my head ever since. Poor weeping Boney M. She’s sitting down and missing out.
See you tomorrow Zion!
Sent from my iPhone
February 16, 2014 by Makom
I don’t usually watch TV but I’m blaring it in order to drown out the sound of Nava throwing up. No she’s not pregnant and no we did not party last night and most importantly, we did not eat another unidentified plant which made her sick. Nava’s vegan tummy is too sensitive for our Moroccan hosts. Nava is sitting with me now feeling wheezy, regretting the super spicy (not actually) shakshuka that she ate in order not to offend our hosts. We arrived lunch time on Friday. Mazal, our hostess, opened the door and before asking us our names or where we were from, she said “sit” while pulling out the chairs to the kitchen table. Mazel is a true Moroccan who shows affection through feeding people.
February 14, 2014 by Robbie Gringras
Image by Neil Mercer
I would like to talk about the L word.
It is a word that went out of fashion many moons ago for many people, but it still lives in our relationships. To Full Post
February 9, 2014 by Makom
On the bus from Tzfat to Jerusalem there are mainly ultra-orthodox Haredi men and crying babies with side-curls. About a third of the population are Breslev girls in long skirts (anyone from outside Israel would probably just think they’re hippies), and then there are the outsiders who on any other bus in Israel would probably be the majority – soldiers.
There are about 2 or 3 of those weirdos in olive green. Today, I was one of them.
February 9, 2014 by Robbie Gringras
Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
It would seem that the gusts of wind currently swirling through the Hillel environment are throwing up a similar assumption and a similar question. The assumption is that Hillel is someone’s home which visitors are welcome to enrich but not to change. And there is a hanging question as to what might knock us off our feet?
A fascinating and healthy discourse has emerged over National Hillel’s guidelines for Israel programming on campus. We at Makom have been following the discourse with great interest. As key advisors to the Hillel-Jewish Agency Israel Engaged Campus initiative, as seasoned practitioners of complex dialogue on Israel throughout the Jewish community, and as consultants to Jewish organizations around the world on exactly the same issue of guidelines and red lines – we’ve noticed a few anomalies and a few opportunities. To Full Post
February 9, 2014 by Makom
Dearest friends and family,
I write to you during my favorite time of day. The sun is setting slowly on my back as she ceases to provide the world with energy for the day. My body begins to slowly calm as it tires and my mind settles to rest.
I’m sitting on a cliff looking down at the results of a natural disaster. This rainbow colored sandbox that I played in today is called “the small crater”. The crater was formed as a result of earthquakes, water pressure, flash floods and any other type of natural mayhem. The crater was once a giant mountain that through time caved in. Now, we can look inside the open mountain top and see the layers of the earth. The walls of the crater are striped with sand of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink; each layer representing a different time-period. I am thankful for all the rocks that rumbled and the mountains that exploded and the ground that overturned and the water that bossed everyone around as they all worked together in a team effort to reveal to us the hidden colors of the earth.
February 8, 2014 by Keith Kahn-Harris
Recent controversies within the American Jewish community over what kinds of Israel-related activity should be allowed within Hillel Houses, raise issues that are much bigger than just student life on campus. Debates about Open Hillel and Swathmore College, touch on questions of communal boundaries and in particular of what ‘red lines’ Jewish institutions should draw in excluding some kinds of Jews.
Israel, once a unifying factor in Jewish communities, has become a source of communal discord
In my forthcoming book Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community (David Paul Books), I discuss how Israel, once a unifying factor in Jewish communities, has become a source of communal discord. I argue that a plurality of Jewish positions on Israel have emerged in recent years and that supporters of these positions often come into conflict with Jews who hold other views. In response, I make the case that it is essential that Jewish communities begin to come to terms with the divisions within them. To Full Post
February 2, 2014 by Makom
Mitzpeh Ramon was great, a real gem in the desert. Mitzpeh Ramon is considered the “biggest hole” in Israel since it is the farthest town from any city; Beer Sheva is an hour and a half away by car This distance creates a really unique, quiet environment which we found very relaxing and comfortable. Nachum and Gila, our gracious hosts from Mitzpeh Ramon suggested that we leave our huge bags at their house on Friday morning , head out for a day hike, hitchhike to Dimona (where we planned to spend Shabbat with my siblings), and to return on Saturday night to Mitzpeh Ramon to pick up out bags and continue our trek. Once Nachum mentioned that the hike we had planned for Friday could be done in sandals without our packs, the decision was made. We left our bags and met up with a new travel buddy we met at a trippy dance party the night before, Nicky, and headed out for a wonderful hike.
January 26, 2014 by Makom
The Shkutai family has tents and outdoor washrooms set up for hikers that stop by. Here was our abode!
Shabbat was perfect. As the sun went down, we milked the last goat on the Shkutai family farm on Moshav Tzofar in the Southern Negev. The parents, Eliyahu and Gilia found religion recently and live very spiritual lives guided by Chasidism and Kabbalah. It was interesting to see the open atmosphere in the family, where the parents are religious and the children are not. To welcome the Shabbat queen, Nava and I led a very upbeat Carlebach service. To Full Post
January 19, 2014 by Nava and Yoella
Hey folks! Reporting to you under the stars of Nahal Barack in the Arava desert, soaking up the energy from the full moon; our stomachs satisfied by our most recent gourmet delight, grilled sandwiches and hot roasted granola. We’ve been trying to be creative with all the dried fruit that we’ve accumulated from every Tu’Bishvat event we found ourselves at. How are the prunes treating you? I think we deserve a medal for managing to celebrate the birthday of the trees in four different ways: