I love Shabbat in Israel. No matter how crazy busy the week may be, 4-5pm on Friday brings an air of relaxation as you visibly see everything and everyone slowing down. I'm still working on my own personal way of celebrating Shabbat and it has changed each time in the past 3 weeks. Clearly I'm using my computer, so I'm not following the "traditional" observance. I'm making Shabbat sacred and separating it from the rest of the week in other ways though. Maybe someday I'll be so inclined as to share the details with you all... =)
The past month has gone by SO incredibly fast and been SO incredibly busy. My weekdays (Sun-Thurs) consist of going to Ulpan (hebrew class) and the 5 other courses I am taking. I've settled on: Environment of Israel & the Middle East, Contemporary Jewish Problems, Our History, Israeli Society through Art & Culture and the Week That Was (has not started yet, due to the fact that Neil Lazarus is out of the country). My schedule is relatively similar each day of the week, with the exception of field trip days on Tuesday. So far we have had 3 field trip days. The first Tuesday we went to Zichron Yaakov, the place where the first immigrants made Aliyah to Israel. The second Tuesday was a seminar about Bedouins where we drove around to neighboring Bedouin villages and learned about the struggles people are facing in retaining their rich cultural heritage and complying with government regulations. (See my photos for some pictures). This past week each of the 3 tracks went on different trips. My track, Peace & Social Justice (PSJ), went to 3 places where we could potentially do our internships. One was Givat Haviva, a center for Arab-Israeli coexistence north of Tel Aviv. They do good work there, but unfortunately not being Israeli/Palestinian would prevent us from being able to be involved in Encounter, the group dialogue project for high school students. They are looking for interns to work with potential partnerships with Brandeis and UPenn and do lots of grant writing. I definitely want to do something more interactive and hands-on if I can find it. Speaking of internship, I'm currently waiting to hear back from One Voice as to whether they will take an intern in January. Check out what they are all about: http://www.onevoicemovement.org/wps/portal/
In addition to weekly field trips, PSJ students also have weekly seminars on a variety of social issues. We heard from a young lawyer working for the UNHRC (UN Human Rights Commission) about the current situation with incoming refugees from Darfur and Sudan and how the Israeli government is dealing (or not dealing) with the issue. We then heard from 4 refugees from S. Sudan who are currently living in Arad, working at Dead Sea Hotels and have no idea what will happen to them tomorrow. It is a depressing situation to say the least. We also heard from a woman who works for the Hotline for Migrant Workers. We learned that until last year, slave trafficking was legal in Israel. The woman works for the women's trafficking department and taught us about sex trafficking in Israel. Most of the women trafficked to Israel come from small towns in Russia. Like everywhere else in the world, prostitution and sex trafficking is a problem in Israel that often gets ignored. I know there are people from home that are active in these issues, through SaveDafur or other human rights organizations. If anyone would like to know more about how these issues are being handled in Israel, feel free to e-mail me and I'll be happy to share more in-depth information (as much as I know).
That's about it for the "structured time" updates. Now onto what I've been doing in my free time...
In no specific order, I have attended the first of three sessions of a Leadership conference in Jerusalem, spent a weekend up North (including seeing Dina in Haifa!), been to a peace concert at Ein Haniya (on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem), hung out with Shay & Eugene (ya BRIAA ppl!), made friends in Beer Sheva, been adopted by a family in Arad, and in true american college student fashion... ordered a full pint of beer at the bar not realizing that my fellow israeli companions had all ordered 1/3 pint. (I'm giving props to PC for that move.)
Next week we have a big tiyul (hike). We are leaving on Tuesday morning, spending 3 days hiking south in the desert and sleeping outside. By Thursday evening we will arrive at Kibbutz Ketura near Eilat (the southern-most city in Israel). We will have a Shabbaton at the Kibbutz and spend some time in Eilat going to the beach (weather permitting) etc. returning to Arad late on Saturday night. AKA I won't be available via e-mail for a while, so if you're thinking of contacting me do it before Tuesday or after Saturday.
Well, now that I've spent a decent amount of this beautiful Shabbat afternoon sitting in front of my computer I'm going to go enjoy the day. Be sure to check my new photo updates, there will be many more to come now that Mom sent me my camera! (You rule Mom) I apologize if this entry leaves you yearning for more, but as always I encourage you to e-mail me for the full, juicy details of Ella's life.
Peace from the middle east.