The Froth on the Latte

Shabbat Shalom! As I write this, it is Sunday morning and we have seen and experienced so much. On our first evening together, our incredible and poetic Israeli guide-- Yuval Ben Ami-- characterized the current Israeli experience  as "the froth on the latte". There's so much below the surface here and very little is exactly what meets the eye. You could really get carried away with that analogy but let me just say it's complicated and it's unlike any journey I've ever taken.

I haven't blogged since Tuesday night because it's been so emotional and intense that it has been difficult to find the energy (that says a lot for me) to quietly reflect.  I was suffering from a serious case of writer's block has well. Where to start?

Specifically, since Tuesday evening: The Diaspora Museum, tour of Rothschild boulevard in Tel Aviv including the Neve Zedek neighborhood, old Jaffa, Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam (a planned co-existence community situated mid-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) ...

...and an amazing dinner in the Palestinian village of Abu Gosh -- and that was Wednesday alone!

On Thursday, it was off to the Old City in Jerusalem for the important religious sites of all three Abrahamic religions and then off to Bethlehem (on the West Bank) for the Church of the Nativity preceded by another sumptuous repast (roasted eggplant anyone?).

Friday took us back to West Jerusalem including the Mahne Yehuda Market with several of the most extensive Halavah stands (shout out to Pauline Baron) ever seen in the history of mankind.

Then out to Tent of Nations (an educational and ecological  farm in the West Bank run by a visionary Palestinian, Daoud Nassar-- who brings people of all backgrounds together in order to maintain projects and activities on the ground and build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and Peace on a broad-spectrum basis). 

Friday dinner was the amazing Israeli fusion restaurant-- Mona with our guide, Yuval. Friday evening after dinner we visited with Hands of Peace teen alums and staff from the region for a candle-light ceremony honoring the victims of the violence this summer. Again, tears were shed to see these incredible kids and witness their dedication to peace.
On Saturday we drove through the West Bank, catching several tented Bedouin camps, past Jericho and our first camel sighting, to Masada and the Dead Sea.  Saturday dinner, after Shabbat, brought us to the fascinating Kosher Eucalyptus restaurant-- featuring Biblical flavors (we passed on the King David and Queen of Sheba tasting menus-- but enjoyed nonetheless). That brings us to Sunday when we will visit a refugee camp, have lunch with a local family in Hebron, and view the Tombs of the Patriarchs-- through both Muslim and Jewish perspectives.  Whew. No wonder we're tired!

So, back to Wednesday. Our guide's description of the Jewish diaspora brought me to tears (a common occurrence on this trip so far), setting high expectations for Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People (formerly the Diaspora Museum) on the University Campus. It was fascinating to see the exhibits profiling European Communities where Jewish communities once flourished (most of which we have visited)-- but this museum is in need of technological and curating makeover (and indeed, that is underway).
We enjoyed the walking tour of Neve Tzedek which included some additional Bauhaus structures
and an overview of the history of Tel Aviv (a vibrant metropolis risen from the desert since 1909 with an exhilarating music, art, restaurant, coffee, and theatre scene). Next, we visited the ancient Arab port of Jaffa (with beautiful views) -- a definite highlight.
Included was a tasty lunch with chicken schwarma big enough for two (didn't last long enough to photograph).

After lunch, we left Tel Aviv and journeyed to Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam. In their idyllic setting, our local guide Daoud explained their philosophy: bi-national schooling, School for Peace, pluralistic spiritual center, and inspirational. Many of our Hands of Peace facilitators have been trained here.

Then, time for dinner! We visited the "Lebanese Restaurant" in Abu Gosh (a Palestinian town) which is really a Palestinian restaurant but, sadly, Israelis and tourists are more likely to visit if it is called something else!  Such a spread!
Again, multiple mezzes-- eggplant spreads, hummus (there is a friendly competition  across the region for the best hummus!), peppers, Israeli salad with cucumbers and tomatoes, onions, it goes on and on. And then they brought skewers of meat with amazing French fries! Almost Brazilian in quantity!

Long day, lots of images, and more to come. For easier reading, I will keep these blogs relatively short with lots of photos . Look for another one soon!

Peace, shalom, salaam,

wendy and emily  

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