Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not your average homework assignment...

The land of Israel is beautiful, breathtaking, and bountiful – and the first sight beyond the glass doors. Presumably, as we make our exodus like so many that were unable to before us – from death to deliverance – we are to feel relieved as we rejoice in our redemption.

In our collective identity and universal memory that we share in this entity we call – Am Yisrael – we are always looking behind us to make sure we’ve left footsteps in which others can follow. We are always looking ahead to see what paths have been laid for us. Sometimes, it seems we forget to make sure the footsteps we’ve left for others to follow are actually worth pursuing.

It seems easy for us to declare daily “Remember the Holocaust” and then to deny asylum to others seeking refuge from genocide.

We refuse to acknowledge the cries from others seeking autonomy and we condemn their attacks on our people, easily forgetting that only sixty years ago, we also blew ourselves up on the road to independence.

We create a special verb dedicated to walking down a particular street and sit in cafes drinking coffee and talking about how cosmopolitan we are. This sophistication we can only will for longingly, but never, even in our dreams, truly achieve.

And as our Naots, unmade for American feet on the hilly Jerusalem street, give us painful blisters, we pray that the bus driver will agree to drop us off close to home. Maybe so we do not feel the weight of leaving our own footprints. Or maybe our feet just hurt.

Or maybe we wonder - does anyone here even care if we leave a trace?

***
This was written for a required reflection about the Israel seminar we attend every week - exploring issues of Israeli identity, history, and culture. After traveling on a non-HUC trip for future clergy to Bethlehem in the West Bank last week, spending the night in the home of a Palestinian family and crossing through the check-point, this is all I could come up with. Probably not exactly what my professors expected...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blisters

"Have you been here before?" He asked.

"To where? Israel, the old city, the Arab shuk?" I inquired.

"Have you been to the Arab shuk before?"

"Why did I do something wrong?"

"No," he responded. "You are very nice. But you shouldn't tell people in the shuk where you live."

"I don't understand. Did I say something wrong?"

"If you tell people where you live, they will like you less because you are Jewish."

I looked down at my skirt and modest dress and asked, "Can't you tell by the way I am dressed in the Old City, that I'm Jewish?"

"Well yes, but still don't tell people where you live here."

"Why?"

"Because usually people like you are not very nice to us. So we don't like Americans, because they are usually Jewish. South Africans, too. When I tell them this purse is 150 shekels, they laugh at me and offer me 20 shekels instead. Its not polite. It offends me. - Is it okay if I smoke?"

"Sure," it's bad for your health - I thought to myself, "I was nice to you though, right?"

"Yes, yes, very nice."

"I'm sorry that people may offend you. But we're not all like that. There are many nice Jewish people. We're not all as you describe. All Jewish people are not like that."

I expected to leave with a pair of sandals, not with the weight of defending my People. And I'll probably get blisters.