Where in the world are Wendy and Wayne??? We love to travel and explore other cultures and foods and the beauty of the Earth. And we love to share all these adventures with you!! The slideshow below shows some of the places we've visited. The individual posts have all the details.
Shabbat Shalom! We're back in the States and by the time you see
this, we invariably will have slept in our own beds. But this trip was so rich,
so intense, and so multi-faceted, we would not do it justice if we did not
close out with some perspectives.
Let us start by reviewing that this was not an ordinary itinerary
for Israel, Palestine, and/or the Holy Land. Conceptually, we did not visit one
country, but two. Not only did we see places and hear speakers not usually
included in such trips, we also engaged in dialogues most evenings--
facilitated by Rev. Dr. Chuck Mize from the Glenview Community Church (co-sponsor of the trip with Hands of Peace). Chuck did a masterful and
extraordinarily respectful job of helping a diverse group process some pretty
heavy stuff.Indeed, some of what I've
already shared in the blog is what I shared in our dialogue sessions.
So, with that, it's important you hear from both of us.
Emily first: "I honestly didn't know what to anticipate or expect
as I prepared for this trip. Knowing my mom had been planning the
itinerary for over a year allowed me to trust her lead. However, I'm not sure I
could have been fully prepared for what I experienced. On our first day
we were told it would be very complicated -- and it was. We were given a
privileged glimpse into the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, trying to make
sense of the complicated realities of life in this historical land. We
were told that this is a land without history because history is being made in
this place every day. My heart was continually burdened by the lack of
peace and the ongoing injustices -- made even more ironic by God's promises of
peace and abundance that frame the story of the land. Seeing the sights
was a unique experience. I walked away more encouraged in my Judaism;
indeed, given the tumultuous history of the Jewish people, it is a miracle and
evidence of God's promises that a widespread community of Jews still exist.
I also felt privileged to walk in some of Jesus' footsteps -- sure the dirt
roads of that time have been paved over, but these were places where Jesus
physically lived. Overall, I came away with some tender seeds of hope,
and those planted by the sweet, genuine relationships between Palestinians and
Israelis -- not any grand political statements, but a commitment to love,
honor, respect, and see the other person as equally human, equally deserving of
justice, peace, and a place to belong. I didn't have faith in politics
before this trip and I certainly don't now. But, I do have confidence
that this story is not yet finished and the ending will be peace."
Now, Wendy's thoughts: "Let me preface those by saying I am not
anti-Semitic nor am I a self-hating Jew. I am proud to be Jewish-- by faith,
tradition, history, and ethnicity. And nothing or no one can or will ever take
that away from me.Further, I am a 61
year old woman who just visited Israel for the first time-- with a strong
interest in all things multi-cultural, a social justice lens toward the world,
and an openness to people with a different world or life view from mine.Additionally, when I am not traveling in
Israel, I serve on the North American Board of the Union for Reform Judaism
(chairing a community initiative in the Chicago area), I serve as the current
Chair for Hands of Peace, and I sing with Kol Zimrah-- the Jewish Community
Singers of Chicago. I do not recite these roles because I'm applying for a
job-- but, rather, because they inform the way I experienced this journey. (My
myriad of other passions do not really play into my reflections here except, of
course, my passion for a good meal and great shopping!)
More seriously, like the situation in Israel that we experienced,
my relationship with Israel is complicated-- and quite emotional. As blogged
earlier, my reaction at the Wall was affirming and life changing. My discomfort
at Yad Vashem was expected. My fear in the refugee camp and in Hebron was
genuine. My disdain and horror for how the Palestinians are being treated is
real. When Husam told us his family had been in Palestine for over 800 years,
that made it even more real. To synthesize those emotions, by the end of the
trip, I tearfully expressed to my fellow travelers that I needed more. I wanted
more exposure to the wonderful, vibrant, creative, warm, progressive Israel
that I know is there but didn't have a chance to fully experience. I wanted and
needed more balance.At every Shabbat
service, we sing beautiful songs for Shalom / peace. How can there possibly be
such a disconnect?I leave Israel
having seen things I didn't want to see and having experienced emotions I
didn't expect to experience-- but desperately clamoring for much, much more.
Despite needing more, I am proud to say that now that I've
finally visited there, I love Israel-- more than I imagined possible. I loved
sleeping in a room with a mezuzah outside the door. I loved hearing our ancient
language used conversationally. I loved the zest for life. I loved seeing
people who looked like me. I loved knowing this is my place.
Having seen the Hands of Peace kids from the Mideast so willing
to take risks and lay it all on the line in engaging in a better future, I
leave with a heart that is saddened, unfulfilled-- yet full of hope.And I leave very ready to come back.
I also leave Israel feeling so blessed that I could travel with
one of the most extraordinary women I know-- my daughter, Emily. We created
memories that will be in my heart forever."
Thank you for accompanying both of us on this journey.
Enjoying ice cream in Ramallah
Sailing the Sea of Gallilee
Overlooking the Mount of Olives
In the Druze Village
Emily with our tour guides (l-r)
Husam, Mustafa, and Yuval
Peace, shalom, salaam, and much
love until we travel again,
As I write this, it is early Friday morning and we are flying
over the Labrador Sea toward Newfoundland on our way to Newark (where we'll
connect for home). In the event our perspectives and imaginations hadn't been
stretched and twisted up until this point in the trip, that stretching and
twisting took on new shapes as we began to wind down for our departure.
A few words back to our speaker on Tuesday morning. As I wrote,
she was a councilwoman in the Jerusalem city government. Yes, she represents
one of the far left parties and they are definitely in the minority-- but her
words gave me hope. She articulated the three major challenges facing Jerusalem
(as a microcosm of Israel): 1) rich/ poor, 2) Palestinians/ Israelis, 3)across religious groups. If you think of
Israel as a very detailed, intricate tapestry with many threads and patterns
converging and diverging, that's it. Extraordinarily complex. For instance,
many of the ultra-Orthodox (Israeli) Jews are very poor. They don't send their
children to the public schools (and this is sanctioned by the State), so they
don't build marketable skills, and as a result, they cannot or will not work
and, as a result, receive financial support by the State-- with an allowance that
increases per child. These individuals have no interest, whatsoever, in sharing
(or exploring the possibilities of co-existence) with the Palestinians
(indeed, our speaker described this group as racist). So, the cycle continues.
When our speaker was asked whatshe thought President Obama and the U.S. should do, she responded that we
should dish out some very tough love (my words) to Netanyahu. Not to get
political here (but I will), but we need very strong leaders (with immense
amounts of intestinal fortitude) to address the conflict and it just isn't
On Tuesday afternoon, some of us headed back to the Old City for
some retail therapy-- where we entered through the Damascus Gate.
Those are spices stacked into a pyramid!
We were successful on that point-- but here
we were exposed to the rough and tumble elements of Jerusalem. One member of
our group was jostled to the ground and his cell phone was stolen. Another
member was hit by one of the large, unwieldy, fast-moving rolling carts . She
needed stitches in her leg. So the perspectives' broadening continued.
On Wednesday morning, we headed north toward Haifa with planned
stops at the Sea ofGalilee,
Capernaum, and Safed / Tzfat. First, we took a
boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. (Emily stayed behind to try her hand at "walking on the water".)
For many of our group, this was the most moving
experience of the trip as this was where Jesus actually walked. Our ride was
lovely and became part of the dual narrative when Yuval exuberantly initiated
an Israeli dance-- several of us joined in. The skipper played the Star
Spangled Banner at the outset and raised the American flag. While the flag
ofIsrael was also flying on the mast,
there was no Hatikvahplayed-- perhaps
out of political correctness and respect to Husam? This was one of those
painful "dual narrative" moments (more on that later).
Our next stop was Capernaum, where Jesus lived and healed
Peter's mother. The old synagogue (circa 4th century AD) was remarkably well preserved.
Next, we journeyed to Safed / Tzfat, a Palestinian city
taken over by the Israelis in 1948 that has become a center of
Jewish mysticism (through Kabbalism), an art colony, and a retreat
forthe 1960's hippies' spirit.
all three of these influences converge when we visited David Friedman's art
studio. David made Aliyah over 30 years ago from Denver and acknowledged
that the music of the Grateful Dead (plus the drug culture) influenced his
art. His works are stunning and reflect many Kabbalistic elements, which he
beautifully and spiritually spelled out. Many in our group were moved to
purchase his artwork (your writer among them).
After the time at David's studio, we visited a stunning Ashkenazi
...and then proceeded down a beautiful alley full of amazing
galleries and the best opportunities of the trip for significant and meaningful
Alas, we didn't have time for anything but high level browsing.
Note to self: must return to this must not miss spot. (If readers are concerned
I did not get in my usual shopping quotient, no fear as the Yad Vashem gift
shop offered many fine opportunities to fill my extra bag-- and fill it I did.)
We ended the long day in Haifa at Maxim
restaurant-- a Palestinian restaurant that was the siteof a suicidebombing incident about 12 years ago. (The restaurant is "in the
family" as one of our staff members is related to the owners ).Of course,as elsewhere on the trip, the Palestinian food and hospitality were
outstanding. More importantly, though, we were joined at dinner by 60 Hands
ofPeace kids and their parents; it was
electric and inspirational to hear their stories of hope and understanding.....
...while nearby was a reminder of today's reality:
We were fortunate to be
seated alongside Judy and Amit (she is an American who made Aliyah20+ years ago and now writes forHa'aretz-- the left-leaning Israeli
newspaper that many American Jews enjoy-- and he isa university professor who was on Rabin's
team at the time of the assassination). Their son was in our San Diego Israeli
Jewish delegation this past summer.It
was fascinating to hear their perspectives (they now live in Tel Aviv and love
it there-- they used to live in Jerusalem but left because it was so intense--
this reminded me just a bit of the dichotomy we experienced between Shanghai
and Beijing several years back). Most heart-wrenching though was to hear their
story from this past summer. They have four children. Their oldest is in an
elite infantry unit of the IDF so of course was on the ground for the
Gaza operation this past summer.They
heard from him most evenings. Their next child, a daughter, is taking a gap year
before entering the army. Their third child was in San Diego this summer
attending our program during the Gaza operation. And their fourth child was at
home. As Judy told the story of the family's angst, my heart burst for
her. So difficult.
We checked into our hotel in Haifa to
get some rest before our last day of touring. We started Thursday morning with
a visit to the glorious Baha'i shrine and gardens. This was quite a fitting
"last day" stop to our trip as the Baha'i faith speaks to all faiths
and reinforces unity, diversity, and peace. While the narrative was interesting
and somewhat compelling, several of us were surprised to hear how very
conservative the doctrines are. That aside, the views were
Last stop-- a Druze village
where we heard from a non-devout gentleman and a devout woman. (You may be
aware that George Clooney's bride, Amal Alamuddin, has a PalestinianDruze background-- though she is not devout--
as intermarriage is definitelynot
permitted). Developed partly from Shia Islam, this ancient faith believes
in reincarnation and very little reverence forthe dead.
We were told that many Israeli Druze families supportIsrael (there are also communities in Syria and Lebanon).Druze families go so far as to send their children to the army. Husam informed us (as it has been his role to do), however, that the Israeli Druze support for Israel is not unilateral.
In a journey punctuated by memorable dining (and when has that not been the case?), our lunch at the Druze village was an absolute standout. The platters kept coming and included (but were not limited to): hummus, home made flatbread with Zatar -- a zesty Mideast spice made from dried herbs including oregano and sumac, home-made flatbread with tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, rice, mini stuffed cabbage leaves, mini stuffed grape leaves, kebabs in Tahini, chicken, and amazing cookies .
All of this was accompanied by a
tangy and sweet Tamarind tea.We bid our
good- byes and headed back to Tel Aviv for our late-night flight home.
As for our departure, security andcheck in at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion's airport
are really something else. We prepped our group that they should not volunteer
that we had spent considerable amounts of time on the West Bank. It was "
Kosher" for us to be there-- but a detailed description might be problematic for Israeli
Security, so we were strongly advised to stick to a straightforward and
simplistic script. As tour leader , I was singled out by security for fairly
extensive questioning.Good thing my
mental and physical exhaustion did not affect my brain cells as I was able to
answer the following questions with some semblance of agility: Why were you
here?Who was your leader? Did you have
meetings? Why? What cities did you visit? Who was your guide (here, we had
been explicitly coached not to identify Husam as a guide)? Why did you come
early? Did any of your group separate from the rest? Why? Etc., etc. Then, I had to
walk alongside our group with my new BFF Security guy to verify our group
members (I was pretty pleased I did not have to recite names as by this point,
I was wiped!),but that wasn't all. After
my bags went through the initial screening, I was pulled aside so the friendly
Security folks could do a deeper dive into my baggage for something
suspect.(Luckily, my laundry was
elsewhere). Low and behold (gift spoiler alert!!!), they discovered that the Dead
Sea salt gifts had set off some kind of alert on the X-ray machine.
Fortunately, this discovery did not at all affect my ability to keep these
gifts and continue through the security labyrinth.
From the stirring moments at the Galilee and Capernaum to the mystical visit to Tzfat to the inspiring kids and parents and the Baha'i and Druze experiences, our last two days absolutely exposed us to yet additional narratives for this rich and emotional trip.
The last blog for this journey will
contain our reflections. Stay tuned.
We had been given the heads up that Sunday could be a difficult
day. And it was.
We started off heading to the West Bank once more. This time our
destination was the UN-operatedDheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. I expected to see a Syrian-type camp (like we have seen at home on the news). That was not
the case. This camp was basically a Palestinian neighborhood with narrow
streets, minimal (if any) municipal services (as in street cleaning), lots
of PLO-supported graffiti (including some memorializing young martyrs killed
in the conflict) and close-quartered apartments. We stayed fairly close to the
major road outside so we were not exposed to the abject poverty that lay deeper
within the camp.Of course I am and was
saddened by the conditions in the camp. Of course, I decried the human rights
violations apparent throughout the West Bank and in the camp, whether that be
the constant police presence, the lack of municipal services, the absence of
basic civility and/or civil rights, the inaccessibility and imposed travel
sanctions for thosewho live here, and more.
But, once again, I had an unexpected response-- this time that response was one
of absolute fear.Did the young men
roaming around the streets know there were Jews (me among them) in our group?
And how did they feel about being inspected (almost like caged creatures in a zoo)?
I now can fully understand how rage can foment so easily and manifest as
violence in this environment and in other areas just like it throughoutthe West Bank and in Gaza. I am, by no means,
sanctioning that violence. But that fear was my immediate reaction and it stuck
with me throughout the rest of the day. We were perfectly safe, but I was on
Our next stop was to travel more deeply into the West Bank to
Hebron -- an ancient and holy city reveredby Christians, Muslims, and Jews as the site where the Tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are located. It is a very conservative city
from religious practice and extreme views perspectives. While 250,000
Palestinians live here, they are joined by approximately 600 extremist Jewish
settlers (who live here because of the Tombs).
20% of the city is
controlled by Israel.There has been
two-way violence here.The atmosphere
was absolutely oppressive and my level of fear from our morning visit to the
camp did not subside. The first scary moment was when we drove through the
checkpoint leading up to the Settlement.There was a possibility that Husam wouldn't be permitted in-- so we held
our collective breaths as the checkpoint police scrutinized the bus. Then, at
lunch, our host declared that he "didn't hate all Jews"...He was trying to make a point about the
gravity of their living conditions -- bit it wasn't lost on me.
A visceral sense offear
struck again in the mosque. As context, the tombs share a wall between a
synagogue and a mosque. Jews are not permitted in the mosque and Muslims are
not permitted in the synagogue. In the spirit of enabling all of us to have a
complete experience, our guides informed us they would tell a white lie so that
our entire group could enter the mosque. Some of the women were asked to don
rather frightful KKK-type robes. Others wore their shawls wrapped as head
scarves. I arranged my shawl so it matched the others (in a manner that was
perfectly acceptable at mosques in Istanbul). All of a sudden, the gentleman
handing out the robes singled me out to wear one.Was I being busted as Jewish? Needless to
say, that interchange gave me the creeps.
After visiting the tombs,
we walked down the main street which
was once a thriving marketplace. Now it's a ghost town with boarded up stores
and separate walking lanes for thesettlers and the Palestinians.When we were getting ready to walk through the remaining markets in the
PLO part of town, Yuval could not join us and we were advised not to greet the
Israeli police with so much as a Shalom-- as Jews are not allowed to be owners where we
were going.So, my edginess continued.
As we walked through the open air market, our eyes were directed upwards where
netting protected the folks in the markets from being pelted with eggs, garbage,
or worse by the settlers . The settlers feel strongly that this town is meant
for them and any terrorizing they do to the Palestinians here is not
prosecuted. Again, I was fearful for my own safety and very gratified to
finally get on the bus.
Our day came to a close with the opportunity to actually walk
through a checkpoint from the West Bank back to Jerusalem. Our guidesanticipated that we would have no
difficulties whatsoever-- but the barbed wire and signage felt like we were
waiting in line at a concentration camp.
A good dinner was called for so several of us headed out to
Chakra-- Israeli farm-to-table small plates and beyond in West Jerusalem. We
decided to share everything, which worked wonderfully for these comfort foods--
smoked eggplant, chopped liver (the ultimate comfort food), lemon garlic
cauliflower, greens and garlic, pasta, shrimp, focaccia, and several amazing
desserts-- including vanilla ice cream with Tahini, honey, and crushed almonds.It was great to wind down from such an
intense day with good food and good friends.
However, we weren't about to get a break from intense sights. So, on
Monday morning, we went to Yad Vashem (Israel's official memorial to the
victimsof the holocaust).
As to be expected, Yad Vashem was powerful and extraordinarily
well designed and curated. The memorial begins with a history of the arc of
anti-Semitism followed by very detailed portrayals of the rise of Naziism in
each country throughout Europe and North Africa leading up to the
implementation of the Final Solution.I expected to get weepy here and I did-- but I was particularly struck
by one of our new travel friends (not Jewish) who literally broke down into sobs only two
dioramas into the exhibit. She asked us to forgive her for the horrors Hitler
had wrought. It was very moving and very sad.
Several other moments really struck me-- remnants of burned
an exhibit of a cantor's transcription of Yom Kippur prayers written on scraps of parchment
that he had received in exchange for bread rations (so that he could lead a service in his concentration camp barracks), Torah scroll fragments used
as insoles, and a photo and profile of a young man named Jiri Bader (1930-1944)
-- my mother's maiden name-- maybe a relative?The children's memorial was also very poignant; a creative and powerful
way to remember those precious victims.
We closed out the day with a brief visit to S'derot, an Israeli
town of 24,000 less than a mile from Gaza, where we heard from the deputy mayor and a Hands of
Peace alum. There are many bomb shelters here and it is an everyday routine to run
to a shelter with a 15 second warning. The leaders of this relatively small
town are doing everything they can to turn it into a
cultural hub. We passed a kibbutz and then droveto a Gaza overlook. Everything about this conflict is heart-wrenching.
In the spirit of balancing out this blog with something uplifting
(literally), we started out on Tuesday with a ride to Mt. Olive for beautiful
views of Jerusalem....
...and a camel ride-- truly uplifting as I had to climb on a
seated camel who steadily lifted me way up! This was quite a different
experience from the camel ride in the parking lot of the Oberoi Hotel in
Udaipur, India. That one, with Wayne holding on for dear life, was
very much more refined!
The rest of Tuesday included a "Politics in Jerusalem" lecture by a
New jersey-born Harvard graduate city councilwoman, a visit to Ramallah where
we had an excellent lunch with their famous ice cream and heard from a Palestinian
non-violence advocate who aspires after Martin Luther Kingand Mahatma Gandhi, and a powerfully moving
talk from two representatives of Parents' Circle -- a group of 600
Israeli and Palestinian parents who have lost children to the conflict. The
gentlemen we heard from had each lost daughters-- one was 14 and one was 10. This group of families works toward peace, reconciliation, and tolerance.
We leave Jerusalem Wednesday morning for Haifa and stops in