by Lisa Klein
Seven high school teachers representing four schools are experiencing a whirlwind eight days in Israel. This is a joint project of JUF's Israel Education Center and the Archdiocese of Chicago that has been generously funded through private donations.
When the teachers return to their schools they will integrate what they are learning into their curricula which ranges from art to history with the help of our Israel Educator. Yesterday took us through 2,000 years of history and our Jewish ties to the land. A visit to the Microsoft Accelerator showed Israel today at the forefront of technology and visits throughout the Galilee showed our ancient roots.
The trip goes way too quickly but we hope to spread before them the canvas that is Israel as well as an understanding of Jewish Peoplehood. The goal is that they will pass on this knowledge of our historical connections to the land of Israel and Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state to the hundreds of students who pass through their classes.
Drew Harweger, a World History teacher at St. Rita of Cascia High School said of the trip: "Modern Israel is a complex narrative the headlines paint with only a single brush. The beauty of this land doesn't necessarily lie in the ancient history, but in whom the storied past means something to today, the people. Israelis are an eclectic yet largely unified people whose story, which is absolutely resilient yet defiantly dogmatic in each their own right, deserves a multitude of brushes to paint their story."
We'd like to share from one of the teacher's blogs, Sean Sweany from Mount Carmel High School who is updating his students about his experience in Israel. You can follow the link below to track the teachers trip through Sean's perspective and read the most recent entry here:
Busy day in Tel Aviv
We had our first full day in Tel Aviv today and wow, what a packed day. After a quick run along the Mediterranean coast and nice healthy breakfast I was ready to see Tel Aviv.
We started at Tel Aviv University, where we met with Professor Uzi Rabi of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, who talked with us about the Middle East situation. He eloquently and concisely summed up his thoughts in several themes: political culture, state vs. religion, artificially created states (Israel, Iraq, Syria, etc.), superpowers and their role in the Middle East, and finally, Israel itself.
The situation is so much more complicated than the American media ever portray it to be. Professor Rabi had some interesting points:
Israel and its complicated story is only one small piece of the entire tale. It is religion that gives people their identity, not arbitrarily created countries like Iraq, Syria or even Israel. Given this, a new map (literal? figurative?) is needed to really know who is who. Nothing will ever be solved by two leaders sitting down to 'hammer things out.' Really, there needs to be an educational resolution so that people in this region come to 'respect the other.' And that 'agreement' is a better, more feasible word than 'peace.'
It was a fascinating conversation that has created many more questions than it answered. I gained a new appreciation of how intricate the situation here really is and how difficult it is for leaders to address.
After meeting Prof. Rabi, we visited the Yitzhak Rabin Museum, which details the life and assassination of the Prime Minister along with the history of the state of Israel. This was yet another exposure to the short yet busy history of this country, a theme which has not been lost on any of us.
After lunch we toured the Peres Peace Center, a non-profit, NGO created by former Israeli President Shimon Peres dedicated towards promoting interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. One way they do this is to create sports leagues where Palestinian and Israeli children play soccer with one another, learning to develop relationships. The Center also coordinates medical care in Israel for Palestinians who either do not have access to or cannot afford treatment in Palestine. This was inspiring, to see that in spite of the anger, hatred and violence between these two parties, good relations can be had between them with the right attitude and dedication.
We also had a brief visit to an art museum for one of the most famous Israeli artists, Reuven Ruben, who had some pretty wild stuff.
After dinner in the nearby town of Jaffa, we celebrated the beginning of Hanukkah with Rachel Korazim, an educator who led us in a discussion of poems and stories that challenge perceptions of cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Israel as a whole. The interpretation of literature, rhetoric and history here was fascinating to me, as someone who geeks out doing this in a Latin or English class.
After this we lit the first candle of the Menorah to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the Temple as described in Maccabees. We also had some awesome jelly donuts, as is the tradition.
I am pretty exhausted, but it was a great day. Ready for another Caravan Tough workout tomorrow morning (maybe a mythological swim...more on this to come...) and then we are off towards the Sea of Galilee.