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Wake up and smell the flowers

February 16, 2014 by

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

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.

Nava in a field of kalaniot.

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The L word and Israel

February 14, 2014 by

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 loyalty

Image by Neil Mercer

I would like to talk about the L word.

Loyalty.

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

On the bus from Tzfat…

February 9, 2014 by

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דנית

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. 

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Hillel Open and Closed: 5 comments

February 9, 2014 by

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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

Farewell desert.

February 9, 2014 by

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

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.

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Drawing the lines

February 8, 2014 by

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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

The World On A Slant

February 2, 2014 by

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

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.

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When the going gets tough, the tough get going

January 26, 2014 by

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

The Shkutai family has tents and outdoor washrooms set up for hikers that stop by. Here was our abode!

dum

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

Update: Tu Bishvat Edition

January 19, 2014 by

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

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:

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WELCOMING SHABBAT

January 12, 2014 by

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

Shalom friends and family,

I write to you on a rainy Friday afternoon from Kibbutz Ketura, a kibbutz in the southern Arava. This week, my journey through the desert began. I knew that I was not alone in my quest, for Bnei Yisrael would also be wandering the desert this week in Parshat B’Shalach. I expected to spend the week walking miles and miles of flat, barren land. I am here to report to you that I spent the week in a desert blooming with life.

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