Yikes it's been over a week since I've updated you all. I blame it on finals/being busy. I gave a d'var torah (speech thing about the torah portion) today so I was stressed out getting that ready. It went really well...when I get the video I will post it on here and talk more about it...
I'm actually a little overwhelmed because I did a bunch of interesting stuff this past week that I want to tell you about.
Gah where to start. Last Monday we had this "interfaith" day where instead of classes we went around and spoke to different people of different faiths. First we went to an Armenian church and spoke with three people who have various positions around Jerusalem. There is a lot of christian tourism, and Christian holy sites here so it makes sense that there are people here trying to run and improve that stuff. We spoke to people who also help run Christian schools, and who are just here to help give care to people, etc. I'm really not giving this subject any justice, I apologize. While two of the three Christians we met were not Armenian, one of them was, and it was interesting to hear him speak about the Armenians in Israel. There is a whole population of Armenians that has been here for like 1500 years, and I feel like that is something that is forgotten. It's not that they want to take over Israel, they just want to live here in peace, and do there thing. All three of the people on the panel say they often feel stuck in between the arab-israeli conflict because they don't want to take sides and that puts them in a tough place.
After the talk we went into this beautiful armenian church for their service. It was a lot of chanting, it was pretty cool. There were even certain times the chanting sounded like the melody we use for the weekday kaddish (a prayer). I really like to see different forms of worship, I was a religion major and this stuff fascinates me.
After that we had the "muslim" panel composed of three different muslims. One was a sufi shiek (does that exist, I think that is the proper title), who was super well spoken. Sufi, as I was explained, is kind of like kabbalah or mysticism but in the Islam world.
I'm glad we had this day. I think interfaith work is soooo important, especially as future leaders. We can help bring people together and help teach people through getting outside our religion. I know I had more thoughts about this day, but I will leave it here for now.
Then on Wednesday, Israel seminar day, we went to me'ah she'arim. This is the haredi (ultra ultra orthodox) neighborhood. I don't even know where to start with this. So many emotions. So the first part of the day I was in a small group that went to this organization called kemach which means flour in Hebrew. Kemach is an organization that gives support and funding to haredi Jews looking to get a better education so they can get a job. To give an VERY generalized description, in the haredi community the best thing you can possibly do with your time is study "sifrei kodesh" the holy books (basically the Talmud). So they study all the time instead of getting jobs and they are supported by stipends that the government gives them. It's a pretty messed up system and since the haredim have so many kids there is a lot of poverty because they don't have jobs and are relying entirely on the government and donations. Currently more of the women work than the men, because the women aren't supposed to study they are supposed to take care of the children, so yeah sometimes they are able to find work to help support the family.
So now as the haredi community gets bigger and the money is running out more and more haredi men are starting to look for jobs. The problem is that they don't have any resources or the proper training. They weren't taught much in the way of secular studies so they need to be taught the materials so they can get good scores on entrance exams and be accepted into university or a professional training school. So this is what kemach helps with. They guy who spoke to us was great. He was haredi, so I was expecting him to be an a-hole (I and friends have had many unpleasant encounters with haredi jews so this expectation wasn't totally unfounded), but he totally wasn't. He was really nice and was very honest and answered all our questions. He was great, I left feeling a little more positive towards the haredi community. It was nice to meet someone who was so nice and wasn't making judgments about us. We spoke to each other like humans.
So after that really positive experience we went to this girls school for haredim but also had another school in the same building that served russian immigrants and we spoke to this rabbi who was the head of the school. After the positive experience I had just had this reminded me why I feel the way I do about haredim. Ugh it frustrates me so much, and it is so hard to see a fellow Jew who I just kinda want to punch in the face (but never never ever would because that is not nice). So one thing we spoke about was this letter/declaration signed by a bunch of rabbis forbidding Israeli Jews from renting to arabs. Horrible. Here is a news story if you want to read more about it http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/top-rabbis-move-to-forbid-renting-homes-to-arabs-say-racism-originated-in-the-torah-1.329327 Anyways a lot of people have since spoken up against this, and I believe that this ruling was not an appropriate or Jewish thing to do (to say you can't rent to arabs). While you can find a basis in the Torah for this land being our land or whatever we are also told to always be kind to the stranger living in your midst because "we were once strangers in the land of Egypt." WTFFFFF people. Anyways we asked him about this and he said that it was ok and that it wasn't racist because the word for racism came about in the 20th century blah blah bullshit bullshit. His whole talk was infuriating.
It was interesting to be in me'ah she'arim. It felt like a whole other world, and it's only like a 15/20 minute walk away from where I live. We all had to get dressed up in appropriately modest clothing. It was crazy. I def want to go back and go into some of the shops/just explore. The weird thing about getting dressed up modestly was that I now appeared to be orthodox (the way a person dresses here can tell you a lot about their religious practice), so it was weird to be perceived as someone who I am not. I felt like I was lying.
What else...Friday before shabbat I took a trip with some classmates and one of my fave professors to Qumran. This is where some of the dead sea scrolls were found (wikipedia if you want to know more). It was pretty sweet to see this place where these sectarian/separatist Jews(?) had done their thing. We also went on a fun climb thing nearby where the caves were that the texts were found in. That was bad English, sorry.
Shabbat was nice, as usual. I really love shabbat, ohhh man. Also I do think it's been really helpful for me and my sanity to have that time set aside to exist in a way that I don't during the week.
Yesterday (sunday) I taught again. It went pretty well. I taught the classic of tanur achnai. Ohh man is that a good story. Ask me about it sometime and I'll tell you. We had some great discussions. These kids are awesome. I also tried to speak in a british accent for the last couple of minutes of class (because they are all british). I dunno, it was silly. I think being a little silly has its place in a classroom, especially in a class that is relatively casual in nature. Not that I know anything about pedagogy, but I think it is important to be serious and also to be human and to connect to your students because I think they will listen better that way. I dunno I guess we will see.
And that brings us to today. I am anxiously waiting for the video of my speech, I want to see what I looked like. ahhhh. I will post it here as soon as I get it, so look forward to seeing me speak instead of hearing my voice (or not my voice) in your head as I write and you read this blog.
Back to work dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.
I leave you with a fun song because you can be anything http://ganzobean.bandcamp.com/track/be-anything-instrumental