After being locked out of my room for a few hours tonight, I didn't think I was going to blog about Israel Today Seminar until Yerucham if at all. But now after taking a shower I decided it would be worthwhile to try to jot a few things down about these interesting past few days. Some of what we did, and perhaps the idea behind the seminar as a whole, was not new to me, as I have learned and discussed a lot about Israeli society today in Hebrew classes, camp, and USY. Yet there were certain things we did that were very unique.
The seminar began Sunday and kicked off with Jeff Barak, chief editor of the Jerusalem Post, who discussed issues in Israeli society today. He talked about the economy in perspective of Israeli education, issues regarding Arabs and Haredim in their education, and that also brought up the issue of army service. He also touched on the Goldstone Report, and possibly more things but I'm blanking. In the afternoon, we went to the Menachem Begin Center, just a few minutes away from here, where we learned about the life and contributions of this fascinating leader who devoted his life to the State of Israel. One thing I remember hearing discussed during last year's election season is that we lack leaders today that have the charisma of people like Begin (though of course his career did not end well) and the lack of passion that exists today. Barak had actually addressed the lack of passion in Israeli society today, now that I come to think of it. A few hours later we had a panel discussing the IDF, which included three of our Israeli staff and two other people, and all together three members of the panel are immigrants from America. All had interesting stories about joining and their roles in the army, and the three immigrants had a role in Operation Cast Lead. A few things emphasized were how service in the army is essential in Israeli society, the way it changes people, and what it's like to be an American in the army.
For Monday's shindig we had options, and I chose hi-tech. The things we were supposed to do fell through, so we went to a science something in Jerusalem where they basically did these jaw-dropping (I say that with slight exaggeration) science demonstrations and there were cool toys (as I call them) to play with at the end. We visited the Weizmann Science Center (or something like that) where they have a garden also of different things related to science – we had a great guide, so I enjoyed the tour there. It would take too much to describe the things we saw there but we had fun. After that we headed to a Cartoon Museum to look at cartoons in Israeli society and we learned to draw cartoons as well. The political cartoons on display were fascinating. Afterwards we went to Holon to a cinemateque to see a movie called "The Lost Islands" (if I remember correctly), but it wasn't my favorite – it was a lot of Israelis screaming at each other and tragedies coming left and right. We had dinner at the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv, and I enjoyed dining and walking around with Jesse.
Tuesday's seminar also had options, and I chose politics. We toured the Supreme Court, which was interesting because the architecture had very deliberate messages related to Israeli views on justice. Unfortunately, there weren't any court cases for us to sit in on, but I still enjoyed learning about the justice system. From there we went to the Rabin Hostel to have a workshop on constitution in Israel. Though there isn't a written "Constitution" like America has, there still is a constitution in place. We discussed various issues that would need to be taken into account if Israel were to put together an actual "Constitution," and it's far from easy. Two Jews, three opinions. After that we went to the Gush Katif museum near Machane Yehuda – a resident of the area took us around and shared the story of the disengagement. Very powerful. Last but not least, we went to Yafo for a show put on by deaf-blinds called "lo al halechem l'vado" – not on bread alone. The actors all shared their life stories, and while it starts with them making bread, the point of the show is that their life is not about survival and just eating daily, but that they have true human emotions just like anyone. That may sound shallow but it's too easy to forget.
Today we had Yerucham orientation and packed. I had my last Shnitzi sandwich and Tito Bravo pizza. Tomorrow it's off to the South!