Saturday, May 19, 2012

End of Year Wrap-Up!

Well folks, it's been quite a journey since we first moved "Straight to Yerushalayim." Thanks for following our adventure. (Sorry for the three month posting-hiatus this spring.) For our final post, we'd like to share this toast we offered our classmates at the last Shabbat together. Enjoy! (Words are below the video.)

With love,
Leah and Daniel

It's time for reflection
And deep introspection
On our class's connection
We've made here at school.

We started rehashing.
Ideas starting flashing.
We wrote this while crashing
the King David pool.

We arrived in July,
Expectations were high
When we landed, I cried.
I admit, I'll confess.

After one week of ulpan—
Our books on the shulchan—
We realized the school
Conned us into this mess.

But with trips to the wall
Shabbas sounding her call
We were destined to fall
With an image ideal.

And what's not in your guidebook
Will give you a side look
No starry wide-eyed look.
This city is real.

Headlines we're digesting
Are so interesting
Ha Am is Doreshing
Tzeddek Chevrati

The news that took shape here—
Did you not buy the paper
On the day of escape
For one Gilad Shalit?

We went over the green line
In order to refine
Or perhaps even define
What "pro-Israel means"

You can't quite explain it
Though we've heard a refrain that
It's more complicated
Than everything seems.

The polarization
Of our Jewish nation
So much fragmentation
It does us no good.

Mechitzas divide us
But what unifies us
Can help us to rise up
And that's peoplehood.

On Shabbat it's no problem—
Barechuni l'shalom—
A minyan to daven
Is just down the street

A day that's been blessed
To give money a rest
But you walk into Resto
It's all HUC.

If you want a waffle
Babette's isn't awful
You're talking falafel?
We're talking top tier.

If you're looking to nom
On the best hummus stam
Ben Sira's the bomb.
Hey, you can't say that here.

Our time at the College
Is building our knowledge.
We all feel enthralled with
Our liminal space.

And although the classes
Have beaten our asses
The truth is the staff is
The heart of this place.

Dave and Jeremy's framing
And Helen's emailing
Nancy deals with complaining
They make this place flow

And we garner respect
From the students at Schechter
Our program director
Wrote "Pharaoh, Pharaoh."

We've finished our classes
Paid Arnona taxes
And all made our last
Shabbas shop at the shuk.

Our time here is waning
But don't start complaining
The memories worth framing
Are on the Gimbel's Facebook

So if you'll please raise a glass
To one hell of a class
And we'll toast to our last
Shabbas meal as a group

From Eilat to Haifa
This year's seen some strife
But l'chaim, to life!
To our year in Yerush!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A New Zionism

This post is by Daniel

In June 2010, Peter Beinart published an influential article in the NY Review of Books called "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." His central claim was that the old method of Israel advocacy—"No matter where I stand, I stand with Israel"—has failed to inspire a young generation of American Jews. Liberal Jewish college students, he argued, are unwilling to check their democratic values at Israel's door. Thus, they've grown increasingly distanced from a picture of Israel that can do no wrong, contrasted with media headlines and world opinion that indicate otherwise. Beinart argued that in order to engage young American Jews, the establishment must craft a new Zionism, one that isn't afraid to tackle Israel's very real problems head on. The suggestion sparked a fierce debate in the Jewish world about what exactly it means to be pro-Israel.

This debate raises many challenging questions: When Israel is threatened, to what extent does this threat implicitly extend to world Jewry? When Israel makes foreign or domestic policy, to what extent is it incumbent upon world Jewry to give their unwavering support? When world Jewry critique Israeli policy, to what extent is Israel obliged to listen? And when Jews are critical of Israel, what are the implications for non-Jews' perception of Israel?

This year in Israel, I've frequently found myself walking the line between loving and critiquing. On the one hand, I am moved to tears that for the first time in Jewish history since antiquity, our people—and I among them—have had the opportunity to live in the Jewish state. Being in Israel this year has often felt like having front row seats to some great Jewish event. I have the newspaper from the day Gilad Shalit was released. I made pilgrimage to the Kotel on Pesach. I stood at attention as the whole country fell silent for an entire minute on Yom HaShoah, the low whir of the memorial siren the only sound in the city, like some sad, ancient shofar. This is the Israel I've loved. This is the Israel that has deepened and textured my Jewish identity in ways I never dreamed possible.

And on the other hand, I am moved to tears by the missed opportunities, the poor decisions, the injustices I've seen this young country commit. An eight-year-old girl in Beit Shemesh was spit on and called a whore for being dressed "immodestly." There are streets in Hevron that are segregated between Jews and Arabs. The bilingual Jewish-Arab school that my fiancée works at was graffitied with the words "Death to Arabs." This is like no Israel I could have ever imagined.

I agree with the deputy editor of the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick, that "the fate of the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world is indivisible." It is for exactly this reason that Israel gives me so much pride. It is also exactly for this reason that I feel compelled, even required to critique Israel when I sense it is going astray. In this way, Israel and world Jewry are like family: some times we have to give each other a little tough love.

Moment Magazine recently published a symposium of more than 20 leading Jewish thinkers, scholars, and influentials on what it means to be pro-Israel today. The article closed with the following wisdom from Amos Oz: "Just as there is more than one way to be Jewish, there is more than one way to love Israel." No one way is right. No one way is wrong. But they are all important.