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Simplifying the discourse on complexity in Israel Education

May 21, 2014 by

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First appeared in ejewishphilanthropy.com The opening article on this topic was written by Alex Sinclair, former Makom Director of Research, and a response came swiftly from Barry Chazan. Here is our attempt to steer a way through the issues…

 

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A foreign correspondent friend once confided to us about reporting from Israel. “Do you want to know why there are so many more foreign correspondents stationed in Israel than in most other places in the world? It’s nothing to do with antisemitism or double standards. It’s just because Israel is so incredibly fascinating and complex!”

Since Makom – the Israel Education lab of the Jewish Agency for Israel – is labelled by Alex Sinclair as practicing a form of Israel education that applies “attractive complexity”, and as such we are the “good guys” according to Barry Chazan’s pertinent critique, it will come as no surprise that we agree Israel is fascinating. We also agree with Chazan that Israel – as subject matter – did not “invent” complexity. Every subject worthy of study is likely to be complex. But not every subject of study is likely to arouse complex feelings in the learner to the extent they do when modern Israel is taught to Jews around the world.

In this sense, there are really only two sides to addressing complexity – and pretty much all of us in the field address them both, in different ways.

There is the complexity of the subject-matter itself – “Israel is endlessly complicated!” And then there is the complexity of the learners’ response to the challenges Israel presents to them. In this latter sense, complexity is sometimes used as a euphemism for “discomfort” – “My emotional and intellectual response to what I have learned about Israel is, for want of a better word, complex…”

It is this second aspect of complexity – the way in which the subject of Israel meets the learner in their particular environment – that demands special attention.

Let’s take the example of the Kotel, when looking at this second aspect of complexity. There is probably little discomfort (“emotional complexity”) for the Orthodox learner to contemplate the Kotel from his home in Paris. In contrast, the Reform learner from San Francisco may well feel a great deal of discomfort (“complexity”) when contemplating the Kotel and its prayer arrangements. Here we can see that this “complexity of emotional response” arises when something jars in the encounter between an aspect of Israel, and the learner, the teacher, and their environment.

When this is the case, there are two key issues for the Israel educator. First, we must pay careful attention to what is going on in the learners’ world.

Just as it would be dumb to insist that the young woman from San Francisco must learn about the Kotel in exactly the same way as the boy from Paris, so it would be silly to suggest that the Parisian must address Women of the Wall in his first encounter with the Kotel. (In our opinion, both would be enriched by learning of both perspectives, but the structure of the learning, the “way in” would need to be different for each.)

Second, (how soon) do we wish to resolve discomfort?

a. Some will say that discomfort is a healthy state for growth.

These educators will constantly try to lead the learner to a “higher level of confusion” (Yonatan Ariel). Hence they will challenge the San Franciscan to think about freedom of worship for those Jews who wish to pray on the Temple Mount, or to apply thinking about social justice to the fact that the Kotel Plaza exists only due to the demolition of the Palestinian Mughrabi quarter in 1967. The Parisian would be asked to juxtapose his belief in the unifying nature of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the value of Jewish unity, with the conflict and strife within the Jewish People at the Kotel.

Yet if the learner is in a constant state of confusion, how can we ensure they will not lose interest, energy, conviction? Some of us find such internal discomfort stimulating, but it can give others a headache…

b. Some will say that discomfort is the educator’s enemy, and we must avoid it at all costs.

Some suggest this because their students live in a hostile environment where they hear more than enough “negatives” about Israel. Their students need affirmations of Israel’s place in their Jewish identity that they may internalize with ease, so as to “balance the playing field” that is biased against Israel, or to offer the balm of comfort to students under attack. Others avoid discomfort for fear it will “turn off” the learner. They aim to teach only that which the learner can digest without going through any cognitive dissonance. They wish to ensure the students see their own Jewish identity reflected back to themselves in the Jewish State, and so expose them only to those aspects of Israel that chime in with the students’ value system.

Yet what happens when in the first case the learner finds a grain or two of truth in Israel’s detractors’ accusations? Or when in the second case the learner (inevitably) finds that Israel is not the USA, nor is it France? What tools and experiences can we educators provide to empower the learner to deal with their complex feelings (response) when they find Israel is more complex (subject matter) than they had thought?

c. Still others will argue that the best way to resolve the discomfort of learning about an Israel whose complexity makes it difficult to digest, is activism. If the subject matter – Israel – is unattractive to us, we must work to change it!

But at what price? If learners’ response to any piece of information that troubles them is to insist on changing that information to suit their desires, when will the learners ever question themselves? Shouldn’t educators help them to question their own assumptions when examining different approaches to the good life?

 

In building this field of Israel Education it is the mission of us all to find wise and flexible answers to these questions. We would suggest that our next few tasks might include:

  1. Creating and modeling more thoughtful and sophisticated ways for celebrating and affirming Israel. Not all celebration need be superficial, and not all critique should be miserable!
  2. Developing clearer models for how informed critique can lead to activism in a thoughtful way that includes like-minded Israelis. In this way we might move from “battering” to “bettering” – to the benefit of both the learners and Israel itself.
  3. Working hard to embrace all different approaches to Israel Education, even if they would seem to go against one’s own philosophy. If a commitment to complexity in Israel education is to mean anything, it must also welcome complexity in the many forms it may take!

 

Yonatan Ariel and Robbie Gringras are, respectively, the Executive Director and Creative Director of Makom, the Israel Education Lab of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

 

Shavuot and Gleanings of Social Justice

May 20, 2014 by

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Soon the festival of Shavuot will be upon us. The Harvest Festival, in which we read the Book of Ruth. On Shavuot we gather that which we have sown, and reap that which we have labored on throughout the year. And so I chose this moment to think with you about the Book of Ruth and poverty through the photography of Adi Nes.

(Untitled) Ruth and Naomi Gleaning, 2006 – Adi Nes

Israeli artist Adi Nes created a series of staged photographs that make the connection between Biblical characters and modern-day society, two of which involve Naomi and Ruth. In this photo, called “(Untitled) Ruth and Naomi Gleaning”, Nes refers to the period of poverty facing Ruth and her mother-in-law in Yehuda, when they are forced to glean the left-overs of food from the field. These leftovers are deliberately put there by Boaz, owner of the field. This is in accordance with the socialistic law of gleaning, the forgotten and the edges, which asserts that the owner of a field must leave behind the sheaves that have been missed in the harvest, for the needy.

In the photograph there are two women, one young and one older (judging by their arms), picking up discarded onions from the ground of what might have been earlier on in the day a bustling vegetable market. Apart from a plastic bag that can be seen – this is a scene that could have taken place at any time in any place. I would suggest that in this way Nes hints that poverty exists in every society, in every period, everywhere.

According to the Book of Ruth, two things save these two women: socialistic mitzvoth made law, and Boaz taking personal responsibility. Although according to Levirate marriage customs Boaz should not be with Ruth, marries her out of a sense of obligation as a close relative of her deceased husband. Ruth’s marriage, and the birth of heirs to his more respected family, saves Naomi and Ruth from a life of poverty and itinerancy.

In contrast to the easier image from the Book of Ruth, of young Ruth gleaning in the pastoral fields, the photograph of Adi Nes presents us with two poor women, young and old, gleaning amongst the discarded refuse of a market. The contrast between these two images emphasizes the attitude to poverty today. Nes calls us to look at the differences, and to take responsibility for the poor among us – both publically and personally.

I wish for us all that this year we may plant good seeds of social change, that we might reap at next Shavuot. (Though of course that won’t be possible as next year is a Shmitta year, but we’ll talk about that next time… :-))

Jewish America through the eyes of a British Israeli

May 18, 2014 by

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First posted in ForeignDaze

The writer, Richard Miron, is a former journalist originally from London who spent over ten years in Israel, and now lives in the Washington DC area where he works as a communications consultant.

 

Recently a friend’s father died. ‘Suzanne’ as I will call her, decided that she would sit shiva for one night at her home. Many friends attended – not having been able to accompany Suzanne to the funeral which was held in her father’s hometown a few hours away. Nothing strange about that you might think – except that Suzanne is a Quaker, as was her father.

Suzanne’s husband ‘Jeff’ is Jewish, and as such they have, over the years, taken their kids to a local Reform synagogue. Their family life is a fusion of faiths with Christmas Tree and Chanuka lights at winter-time. But it was Suzanne – not her husband – who became involved in the synagogue through her children’s attendance at its Hebrew school, to the point where she was running the parent teacher association.

Coming to the States from Israel, and before that the UK, this kind of seamless religious integration between Judaism and other faiths, was completely foreign. But I am now coming to understand the peculiarities and positives about Jewish life in the US.

When Lysette and I first arrived in the Washington area from Tel Aviv, we felt nervous about re-entering life in the ‘Diaspora’. In Israel, we identified in our family life as hilonim (‘secularites’), meaning in practice, we kept Kosher at home, did Kiddush on Friday night, went on hikes or socialized on Shabbat, and virtually never ventured to our local orthodox synagogue (there was no other brand of Judaism around). But our kids spoke Hebrew fluently, learning about the meaning and traditions of Jewish life in their supposedly secular kindergarten and school. In our own way we also celebrated the festivals including, putting up our Sukkah in autumn (like most of our secular neighbours), lighting the Chanukah candles in winter, holding a seder night at Passover. The Holy Days were the national holidays, making synagogue feel unnecessary in this all pervasive (and positive) Jewish and Israeli atmosphere.

I recall one occasion when close family came to visit us from England.

‘Do you like going to shul’, my cousin’s husband asked my daughter, Livvy, then aged six.

Her face reflected back puzzlement by way of response.

‘Bet Knesset’ I said, using the Hebrew rather than Yiddish word for synagogue.

‘But we don’t believe in Elohim (God)’ Livvy retorted.

I don’t recall articulating my atheism, but it had obviously been picked up from the way we led our lives and the difference between us and the dati’im (religious), who Livvy observed attending synagogue.

When we got to the States, we realized that this situation wasn’t going to hold if we were to invest our children with a strong and positive Jewish identity.

On our first Yom Kippur in Washington, a short while after arriving, we drove to a local synagogue about which we had heard good things. In Israel, the Day of Atonement consisted of Livvy and Edie cycling around the streets, which were for this one day in the year, completely free of cars. Instead the roads were packed with the bikes, pedal scooters, and skateboards of those who weren’t in synagogue, but who wanted to take advantage of the lack of traffic and pollution. In Washington, en-route to the synagogue for our first family Diaspora Yom Kippur, Edie glanced at the car alongside ours which had bikes stacked on a rack in the rear and declared, “look, they must be Jewish too”. For her, and for all our family, being Jewish had come to mean doing the same as the people around us.

Thus began our journey in the US through the differing strands of Judaism in our vicinity; including Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform and more. We ultimately settled on a relaxed Liberal Conservative synagogue, with the girls attending, in addition to regular school, an Israeli-style pluralistic Hebrew school.

Jewish life here on the East coast of the US is very different from how I remember it growing up in London. As a child you instinctively dropped your voice in public when uttering the word ‘Jewish’, and the general tenor was that this was something to keep low-profile and private; British on the outside, but Jewish within.

In the US, being Jewish is part of the vernacular, a variation upon a theme, like I imagine Catholicism to be in the UK. I feel constantly surprised by how much Jewish culture has become part of American life. Yiddish phrases effortlessly pop out of the mouths of non-Jewish celebrities on TV, the papers are filled with matza related recipes around Passover, while at the same time of year President Obama holds a Seder at the White House.

I was brought up to believe that being Jewish wasn’t easy and was meant to be far from effortless – a bit like digesting gefilte fish. The local synagogue I attended as a child was traditional and cold, both in temperature and practice, with the officials (all men) attired in suits and shiny top hats. In Israel, the Orthodox was the synagogue we didn’t go to. But America is a country built upon the notions of freedom, choice, and convenience. And that has come to mean endless selection in all aspects of life; from breakfast cereals to the kind of Judaism you feel like practicing. The end result is seductive and inviting.

This has meant – in the American context – taking Judaism out of its particularistic closet, and making it seemingly more universal and accessible within society as a whole. It has become (mostly) synonymous with liberal values, acceptance, and openness. The synagogues are warm, comfortable, places with welcoming people on hand to guide you through the range of services – religious and social – on offer. This is all very strange to me, schooled in the private nervousness of Anglo Jewry and the public assertiveness of Israel secularism. But then this is the New World, which while foreign, also offers something novel, curious and maybe ultimately – homely.

The corruption files of HaDag Nahash

May 15, 2014 by

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It may be fair to say that while most Israelis were surprised at the conviction of Ehud Olmert, and even at Olmert’s involvement in illegal activities, few Israelis were surprised to learn of corruption in the higher echelons of the State. After all, Ehud Olmert is far from the first minister of government to be sent to prison for corruption-related charges.

Here are HaDag Nachash’s top three songs of political corruption…

“Only Here I feel at home, although I’m angry about the corruption” (in the days when Makom was called NACIE…)

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“I’ve had it up to here with political parties…” The FishSnakers’ take on Meir Ariel’s timeless lyrics.

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Raging against the machine… it’s time to wake up… (click on captions for subtitles we provided)

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What should we do with the conviction of Ehud Olmert?

May 15, 2014 by

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אולמרטShay Charka

Is our first instinct to stress the positives?

It does indeed take a strong and independent justice system to convict Presidents, Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers and the like. If we do take this approach, emphasizing the conviction and less the crime itself, it might be worthwhile examining our aims. Are we trying to defend Israel against its detractors? Are we trying to simply cheer our students up? Or even to cheer up ourselves?

And if we were to play down the conviction and focus on the corruption. How Olmert’s wrong-doings may well be the tip of the iceberg, and so on – what are our aims here? Do we wish to push our learners to action? To protest? To despair?

There will be many who will argue that the conviction of a politician in Israel is not a subject for Israel or Jewish education. In some senses they would be right, in so far as the headlines of the current discourse explore straightforward issues of justice systems, the rule of law, and so on. Beyond pointing out that Israel has a justice system, the “lesson” is limited. But at the same time, it’s in the news, guys… Do we really think no one’s going to ask, or notice?

We might take as our entry point the gags and the cartoons popping up all over. “The formation of the new political party, The Hard Labor Party with real conviction” – “The potential for an entire shadow government cabinet in prison”. From what pain, anger, or detachment do these gags emerge?

Or what if we chose to examine the language being used? Might we then reach a deeper opportunity for questions of Identity?

Look around the articles and the Facebook posts. Who talks of being “ashamed”? It’s worth unpacking what kind of connection someone has to a place or a person if they are ashamed of them. If I am ashamed of someone or something, it suggests they hold a significant place in the way I understand myself. If I were disconnected, or disinterested, I might use the word “sad” or “stupid” or even “outrageous”, but would never feel “shame”.

Do our learners feel ashamed of Israel? That might be a good sign. They are connected.

But by the same token, we should not forget that the twin of shame is pride. They emerge from the same place of identification.

When do our students feel pride in Israel? It’s a human need for us to experience both – sometimes even at the same time.

Exploration of this duality of shame and pride in Israel may allow us to extract some educational juice out of this complicated and challenging headline.

What do you think?

My Yom Haatzmaut – Yonatan Ariel

May 5, 2014 by

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In these days, there is a striking difference between being in Israel and not being in Israel. I feel it amongst my friends and colleagues. Those Jewish educators, rabbis and activists who live around the world – passionately committed to Israel as they are – often find it difficult to reshape their routines and regular social practices. Unlike their kindred spirits in Israel who overwhelmingly refrain from frivolous or disconnected emails or Facebook posts on Yom HaZikkaron, when you live overseas the norm is naturally different. And when it comes to Yom HaAtzmaut, the current dissatisfaction with Israel’s policies mutes the celebration.

To develop major and minor customs and traditions filled with significance is an anthropological need for the Jewish People in our generation. As the late Rav Yehuda Amital said to combat soldiers in the 1973 Yom Kippur War:

“It says in Psalms (145:18): “God is near to all those who call Him – to all who call Him in truth.” Anyone who truly calls, whether religious or not. Neither I, as a Rosh Yeshiva, nor my students and friends,     your comrades-in-arms, represent God any more than you do. Whose prayer comes nearer to God – the prayer of someone like me who was trained in it from childhood, or your prayer, which you discovered in the heat of battle? Only God knows…a sincere prayer that originates in the depths and flows forth from there, even if the words are stammered, is heard at the highest heights. King David wrote in one of his psalms (130:2), “God! Listen in to my voice; may Your ears be attentive to the sound of my supplication.” A great Hasidic master once pointed out that it does not say “listen to my voice (shema koli),” rather “listen in to my voice (shema be-koli)” – listen to what is hidden within the notes of my voice, what I could not articulate in words.”

Due to the raw ache of the day, we need to work harder at listening in to the voices between the lines of Israeli pain.

And then we experience the aggressive disjuncture to Independence Day. To my mind Jews should celebrate Israel on Yom HaAtzmaut in the same spirit as we celebrate the Torah on Simchat Torah. Once a year, we sing, dance, kiss, eat and drink to the significance of the Torah – “for it is our life and the length of our days”. And then we spend hours upon hours, days upon days, in our study circles and in our Batei Midrash debating relentlessly the plausible, disturbing and potential interpretations of each and every word, and how we navigate around them.

Likewise we should spend hours and days earnestly attending to Israel’s issues, topics and flaws. It is a moral imperative to better Israel and to figure out ways to enable Israel to reach higher. And we should take time each year give ourselves the oxygen of hope – to pause and spend Yom HaAtzmaut in song and dance celebrating the remarkable efforts of all of those who have brought Israel to this season, with the awe and wonder of what it means “to be a free people in our land”.

We need a Chag Atzmaut (Independence Festival) – that prompts and captures the full range of emotions that is Israel in our lives.

Chag Sameach! The Order of Freedom

April 10, 2014 by

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wine

How do we celebrate our freedoms?

How can organization liberate?

If you were to design a Freedom Festival for yourself, how would it look?

Our tradition is pretty clear about the connection between Freedom and Anarchy. Lest we get carried away, our key ritual to commemorate the escape from Egyptian slavery is called The Night of Order – Seder Night.

As we approach Pesach this year, it would seem that the forces of freedom and chaos threaten and entice us from all directions.

Some rejoice and others mourn the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, as an attempt to establish a different form of order in the Middle East seems to have gone ‘pouf’…

North American educational establishments grapple with the demand for freedom of discourse about Israel, engaging energetically with different interpretations of unity and uniformity.

France and Hungary watch with concern as new-old forms of control and order raise their heads once more with the electoral successes of Le Pen and Jobbik.

And most importantly – who will spill the first glass of wine on that ever-white table-cloth?

These questions and many more follow us into the holiday period with depth and light, freedom and order.

Hag Sameach.

18 reasons to be excited in London

April 9, 2014 by

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I’m very excited about London, these days.

Starting on 27th April there’s going to be a massive Israel festival leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut on the night of May 5th.

It’s the JW3 inaugural Chag Ha’atzmaut, that we at Makom consulted on.

I think it’s just a fantastic program, and I’m going to spend the next 9 days explaining why.

 

 

 

As its title suggests, the festival deals with the Party and the Political – fun stuff and serious stuff, panels and lectures, performances and screenings. The festival has everything – live music and live parody; Brits discussing Israel and Israelis discussing Israel; films and art and theatre; amazing dance workshops and kids’ events.

What gets me most buzzed is that JW3 has made such a bold statement: That Israel is important to them – important enough to relate to Israel’s dynamic complexity as an honest adventure that has room for celebration and for deep questioning.

First up tomorrow: Hallelujah! With Live Performance by Kobi Oz, and the film Precious Life.

Finally Dan!

April 9, 2014 by

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“Nava and Yoella’s Great Hike – “Shvil Israel”

We write to you hairy, muscular, and exhausted from our end destination of Kibbutz Dan (pronounced “done” not “dayn”). Last night, we were sitting around a campfire on a farm outside of Ramot Naftali enjoying some fire-roasted veggies and chestnuts (not as simple as the Christmas jingle — our chestnuts came out black ash) when Nava had the idea, “Why don’t we just finish the trail tomorrow instead of taking two days?” This meant instead of having a relaxing end to the trip, we would be cramming it all into a 36 kilometer day. “Sure,” Yoella answered. And that was that.

We awoke at the break of dawn (even earlier since apparently the roosters who were bunking with us like to set there alarm way, way before sunrise.) After 12 hours of hiking, we made it. Limping and smelly, but we made it.

We expected it to be a challenge to get back to hiking after Purim since Purim in Israel is a huge affair. We celebrated the whole weekend and Shushan Purim making the whole ordeal a four day event; it took our bodies a little getting used to getting back to the trail

כקק

Nava danced as a clown in the Tzur Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Yoella stole from the rich and gave to the poor with her Peter Panny disguise.

 

After getting back on the trail, we tackled Mount Tavor, swam our way across the Kinneret (the Sea of Gallilee), climbed up to Tiberias, and carried our load in four days from Tiberias all the way past Kiryat Shmona to the finish line at KIBBUTZ DAN!

Being so close to the end gave us crazy motivation to complete the hike. On Monday this week, we were hiking from Tiberias to Kderim but because of school groups ahead of us and friendly tourists along the way, we did not make it as far as we planned. We were stuck in Nachal Amud so we climbed up a hill from the rocky, narrow riverbed and set up camp.

We shut our eyes to the sound of jackals howling (can be confused with the sound of high school girls squealing over JB). This left us with the issue of getting food and water, usually something that we take care of the night before the hike. We were woken up by a local riding his horse. He asked us why we were sleeping in his fields and we apologized and said we were on the way out. We asked him for directions and he told us about a “shortcut” and gave us a bottle of water covered in horse-hair. So we took his instructions and found ourselves walking through shoulder high weeds for half an hour until we met back up with the trail. Still unclear whether he tricked us to punish us for sleeping on his land or whether he really was trying to help.

We got out of there soaking wet from morning dew and scrapped up with bugs crawling over us. We've never been so happy to see a trail marker!

Once making it out to the main road, we were too stubborn and motivated to stop by a store to load up on food and water, so we marched on hoping for miracles along the way. We had very little food, but at least our tehini bottle was full. Nava must have created a very high connection with the heavens since behold, we came across the miracle we were looking for. Not one, not two, but ten juicy (borderline rotten) grapefruits were left abandoned for us along the trail. That day we had grapefruit tehini sandwiches, it was great.

We don’t normally we eat off the ground; we usually eat like queens. You may be familiar with the term, don’t go into a grocery store hungry; yeah, well we do that everyday. Since starting the trail, we have become more and more generous with treating ourselves as we go along. We used to finish a tehini every two weeks and now we finish a bottle in two days.

Beer and ice cream is a form of payment for Yoella’s psychological services for Nava. After hours of listening to Nava’s repetitive jabber about Jewish idenity and life plans, Yoella is paid with half a liter of Goldstar (the best beer in Israel). This week, Yoella got double pay because Nava exceeded the allotted period of time with boy drama. A few weeks ago, we met two boys hiking and Yoella immediately determined that one of them was destined to be Nava’s b’sheret. All is going as planned and wedding invitations will be posted soon. Nava agreed that if they get married, their children will be named after their favorite stops along the trail. She also agreed that since Yoella pushed this whole thing to evolve that SHE GETS TO BE THE FLOWER GIRL IN THE WEDDING (Yoella wanted this to be recorded just in case Nava goes back on her word).

Spending three months doing the same strenuous, physical hike is not simple (as many that have joined us have realized for themselves). We have had to be very creative to think of ways to occupy our minds so that it would not turn into mush mush most of our prized possessions along the Shvil. So here are a few examples that we suggest you try at home, with strangers on a bus, or head out for The Israel Hiking Trail yourself and see how thought-consuming these games really can be!

1. The Story Game: A word is chosen (ie. button, pink, pajamas) and the chosen participant must share the first personal story that happened to them involving the word. It does not have to be as clear of a connection as you would expect, but the word must be used at least once throughout the story.

2. Think The Same Thing: This is a two-player game. Count to three and both players say a random thing that comes to their mind (ie. coasters, landing on the moon, etc.) Then the players take both the said words and interpret what they have in common. Repeat counting to three and then say the connection between both words (ie. protection, oxygen). Continue counting and saying the new word until both players arrive at the same connection.

3. Beatles Marathon:  Each player belts every Beatles song that they ever knew. When passing a fellow hiker in the other direction, ask them for help to list any other songs you may have missed. Once completed, look up online a list of all the songs you missed and then player 1 makes player 2 guess all the titles. Proceed then to belt these songs as well.

After walking 1,000 kilometers, finishing at least 30 containers of tehini, losing multiple hats, and making tons of new friends all over Israel, we are finally done. Our last hour was definitely the hardest of the entire trail. Feeling so close, but still so far is an excruciating feeling. We went through all of our body parts labeling what hurts and how much. We passed the time by calling some of our favorite new friends along the hike to let them know we were finishing, shout out to Daniel, Eli, Lison, and Shelly!

So thank you for being a part of our journey, it was a pleasure to entertain you. We hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences, now go out and make your own!

photo 2Yoella and Nava

The Pew-rim Report – assimilation in Shushan

March 11, 2014 by

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The results of the in-depth research into Jewish norms in Shushan recently released by the Pew Foundation (The Pew-rim Report) reveal worrying signs of growing assimilation, affecting the future of the Jewish People in Persia’s empire.

It would seem that while levels of “Pride in being Jewish” are at an all-time high, leading even to refusals to bow down to government officials, intermarriage is by no means frowned upon. Indeed the role model of a certain Esther, whose Uncle encouraged her (noch!) to marry the non-Jewish King, has been inspiring beautiful young Jewesses around the empire to follow in her footsteps.

What is more, since the Pew-rim Report (sometimes nick-named the Scroll of Esther, so prominent a role does said maiden take in their research) makes no mention of the children of King and his Jewish wife, we are led to assume they were not brought up as Jews.

European commentators insist the more worrying aspects of the report are in its indicators of rising anti-semitism (referred to as “Hamanism” in the report), while American interpreters are split as to the seriousness of the Esther example. Some cry “Gevalt!”, while others reach for a beer.

We at Makom can only comment that such a painful study of assimilation and anti-semitism is clearly of no educational value, and the Jewish People will no doubt aim to forget it was ever published…

 

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