Broadening our Perspectives - Part II

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.
At Masada

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,

wendy and emily

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