Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Missing Jerusalem Post

Written on 2.14.08 (21:30)

So I've been i Jerusalem for about 24 hours now. I haven't really seen or done much except to learn more about HUC.

Last night HUC held a fundraiser to raise money for an interesting and worthy cause. Every year the IMPJ hosts a bike ride through Israel to raise money and awareness for Progressive Judaism in Israel. This year the ride is from Tel-Aviv to Eilat or roughtly 4 days. Each rider must raise at least $800 to ride. HUC is sending 10 riders and hosted a casino night to reaise part of their funding. I didn't win anything or even bid on any of the silent auction items. (Though 3 boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese for ₪150 sounded awfully tasty.) I spent the night schmoozing with my would be classmates. Its interesting to think of how close I came to missing this Israel experience and trading it for a straight to HUC one. I honestly can't imagine that scenarion having been half as interesting. My Israel Adventure has offered me the experience of a lifetime.

On a different note, I began my HUC process today. I met with all of the administration and began to set my plans in motion. I'm looking forward to acing the Hebrew test!

So phyllis and Mom are still not here, Snow in Chicago didn't slow them down, something in London did. (I hear it was British Airwayws itself!) So hopefully they'll land at David Ben-Gurion Airport around midnight tonight. I'll spend one more night in the HUC president's apartment. A gorgeous place, but I'd rather have Phyl and Mom here now. I'll call there phones around 00:30 and hope for the best!

Friday, February 8, 2008

American Politics

Shabbat Shalom Everyone (שבת שלם לקולם)! Hope you all had as good a week as I did. It was mostly uneventful, but our volunteer coordinator made a slight clerical error today. This resulted in a day off for me today! So as a highlight to my week I get a two day weekend...a rarity and pleasure around here.

That's not really what I want to talk about today...I want to discuss my new views on American politics as viewing them from abroad. To the rest of the world our democracy is the epitome of freedom of choice. However, after looking at this year's presidential primaries I highly disagree. The choices with each election seem to get narrower and narrower. Do I chose the pro-life tax cut and spenders or the pro-choice tax cut and spenders. On foreign policy the choices seem more diverse, but I'm fairly sure that they'll eventually narrow as well. I only have one question: Where is conservatism and where is liberalism?

Now its not a secret that I'm a supporter of Barak Obama. Why you ask? I'm a supporter because he seems to be the only one willing to say that his principals are more important than the election. I admire that, it may bite him in the ass later, but that's later and he'll still have his principals and a senate seat from which to continue his fight. Clinton seems to me to be a panderer and power hungry. I don't believe you can be an effective democratic leader if you aren't willing to stand for what you believe in. But that's just my two cents.

The candidates in this election all seem to be running to the middle. It seems logical from an electoral math standpoint. Win the middle swing votes and you can take the presidency. However, the more to the middle they run the more the base of each party seems to be left behind. The more promises I hear, the more promises are broken. Its very disheartening as a young person looking for change in the system. There doesn't seem to be anything but business as usual.

In 1896 William Jennings Bryan made an impassioned speech at the Democratic National convention in Chicago. He had been campaigning to gain the nomination, but had ultimately lost. However, his speech moved the delegates and ultimately he won the nomination.

"Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

True liberalism embodied in a speech and an even more truly democratic process. The delegates were allowed to vote their hearts and that is what politics is about. What do you believe in your heart is the right course.

Hypothetically if Obama loses the primaries and enters the convention as the loser, what can he do? In the days of old he could have used his amazing oratory skills to swing the convention in his favor. Today his only choice seems to be a short concession speech and tossing his support to the winner. Despite the fact that his delegates probably think Clinton is the wrong choice, they will still be forced to vote for her. How is that democratic?

Where is the Liberalism and where is the Conservatism? Where the democracy that I learned about as a school child. Where are the Lincolns, Bryans, Kennedys, and the Carters? I'm not sure where the political process is headed, but I'm not sure I like it very much. I yearn for the days of impassioned speeches, true debates, and two distinct parties.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Nice Relaxing Weekend ened by a Tragedy

This last weekend I took Friday off and headed north. I took two buses and finally I reached Ein Hasofet. If you don't remember Ein Hashofet and need a visual reminder check out my pictures and look at the albums from October and December. You can also check out the posts from that time to refresh your memory of the Kibbutz where I spent 2 months volunteering. It was a great time and an interesting look into Israeli culture.

Anyway I went back to visit all the friends I left who were on the Ulpan. A few of the volunteers were still there, but most of them too had moved on. A day makes it a little difficult to make new friends, but I did meet many new people. The volunteer ranks have grown a little, but the Ulpan is largely the same.

Thursday night Daryl met me in Yokneam and we had an excellent dinner. We bought a few beers and reminisced about good times and caught up on each others lives. We then headed to the Super Sal [Supermarket] and bought some snacks and beer for later. That night after a quick haircut we hung out and had some beers and I generally had a great time catching up with all my old friends.

Brief side note...most of the weekend was spent speaking only in Hebrew as the Ein Hashofet Ulpan is 4 months into the 5 month process. Even the כתה א (Class Aleph) students are able to hold down decent conversations. It was nice.

Daryl and I woke up late on Friday morning and went back to Yokneam. The original plan was to go to Haifa, but we ended up getting a late start and the buses wouldn't work for us. Anyway, we ate lunch and did a little shopping...I bought a new hat. My old one was too big for my newly cut hair.

Friday night we went to he Ein Hashofet pub. We played pool, drank, ate, and danced. It was a great night. While there I met up with some kibbutznik friends who I had made while volunteering. Long story short one of them invited me on his Shabbat day trip.

Waking up at 9:30 am to go on the trip was a little difficult. We only got back from the pub at around 3 or 4 am. Tired and without coffee, Daryl, Begonyia [from Spain], Matan [My kibbutznik friend], and I all headed for a brunch. Little did I know what was in store for me.

We headed to a small Arab village south of the Kibbutz. We pulled up at a tiny little restaurant in the middle of an Israeli Arab village. The restaurant was an amazing experience. We were shuffled to the best table in the restaurant an food immediately appeared. (Matan had ordered with out me even knowing.) Humus, salads, chips (french fries to us), falafel, stacks of pita, and plates of Arabic jasmin rice, meat, beans, and tahina. When a plate looked empty it was refilled very quickly. The owner (I can only assume the man working was the owner) was pretty regularly checking up on us and all the other customers. A mix of Hebrew and Arabic was in the air mixing with the wonderful scents of food. Arab families were sitting next to Israelis and children were playing outside. It was delicious food, and a wonder of an experience.

After the amazing food and a quick shot of spiced Arabic coffee we headed to Tel-Meggido. This is an archeological site near Ein Hashofet. The like goes to the Wikepedia entry for it. Quite an amazing piece of history overlooking a modern road that was built on an ancient one. I took lots of pictures and had an amazing time. History is everywhere here and its almost always right next to something very modern. Tel-Meggido is right next to Kibbutz Meggido. Its amazing to see how interwoven history is with the modern state. Check out the pictures.

After I got home life seemed to return to normal. Unfortunately tragedy struck this morning and it was quite close to home. Dimona is a city in the Negev. Its mostly famous as the bathroom stopping point on the bus to Eliat. However, its a fairly large settlement just south of Be'er Sheva. While smaller than Mequon, this country is much smaller and 36,000 people is a fairly large place. This morning tragedy struck in Dimona as the first suicide bomb in over a year hit. Details are still a bit sketchy, but at least one woman died and 11 were wounded. Check out the Ha'aretz article to know more.

The scene from lunch on Saturday is playing over and over in my mind. Most people here just want to live their lives, but there is so much hate. I desperately want history to not repeat itself this time. I want there to be peace, but I know its difficult when young men and women are willing to blow themselves up to try and make their point.