Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well.
This was the last week for our group in Tel- Aviv, the beautiful, vibrant, colorful, humid Tel- Aviv. The time in Tel- Aviv will be remembered for many things, but we hope that one main thing that will resonate with our shnattim is the people they met during their volunteering. From our point of view, the main purpose of the Tel- Aviv period is to experience first- hand Tikkun, mainly- Tikkun Atzmi (repairing oneself) and if this was a meaningful experience- Tikkun Kehila (repairing the community).
This period of Shnat was challenging on many levels- firstly- the group left Jerusalem after feeling comfortable there, but much more important for them- without the Northern part of Shnat Ma'ayan (seems like ages ago now, right?). Secondly- it takes time to find a balance when coming out of an extremely intense period to a much more relaxed and independent time of the year. This group really took this opportunity to create their own education and fun times, and did a lot- Yeshar Ko'ach to them! Thirdly, the volunteering itself challenges and even confronts people if they get into it- it is really hard doing what the shnattim did! To add to that, we can say honestly that the housing could have been better, and the heat…. Don't get us started! When we did feedback earlier this week, the one thing that stood out was that the volunteering itself was really good for our shnattim. So it is time to say goodbye to Tel- Aviv, and get some break before going to Kibbutz Lotan.
In the last couple of days we had a gibbush (bonding) overnight with the group, in order to get them readier to the Kibbutz period, and trying to help them to better support each other.
This is also a great opportunity to welcome Bec back to us, and to farewell Sarah and Rach who are returning home. We send Refu'a Shlema to Maxine, who is not well today. In addition, I would like to say a huge TODA RABA to the one and only Danit Ariel - our Shnat and Etgar Madricha, who is taking a long break to go explore the world, and will be back with us in January 2017. It has been a pleasure having you with us and we will miss you.
+ The Southern Corner
Volunteering in South Tel Aviv: A memoir
/this is a satirical piece of the dusty memoirs written in the voices of colonialist white males from American and England as they went through Africa in the 60s. It’s written like this so I can explore the colonialist nature of the Bina period and to realise how much more we actually connected to the children and the adults as real people, and how refugees are so much more than there differences from us./
The summer we spent in jaffa was the hottest summer that they said they’d seen in years. our blouses stuck to our backs and we spent much time behind the dusty spokes of our portable fans. friends from the other side of town in tel aviv looked at us in both scorn and shock when we told them we were here for all July and into August without an air conditioner. we felt accomplished after surviving our discomfort, as youths do. every morning we’d travel from Jaffa deep in to the working class suburb of hatikvah. we’d hold our breath as we walked through the meat area of shuk hatikvah, one of the few last authentic markets in tel aviv, that was full of bright colours, exotic colours and shouts of discounts. we’d walk past a line of African men sitting on the fence as they waited for work, and they’d stare at our exposed legs. upon arriving at the nursery the children would clasp even a stranger and shout ‘ima, mum!’, to which we’d respond ‘ani Lo ima, I’m not mum.’. our main task was to take the 40 children out of the small, sparse room to the park before the afternoon heat came through. we’d walk back past the meat smells holding little hands and shouting ‘eeksa!’. the men would stop shouting to say good morning to the children and start clapping so they could dance. every now and then one of them would come out from behind the rows of meat and kiss a child affectionately on the head, being careful not to put their dirty hands on them. a nephew, or a friend nephew. when we’d walk back past the fence only some men would still be there, and their eyes would be at the same level as they smiled shyly at the children and said hello.
The children would run to the park as soon as it was in sight, flinging their hats in the air like graduation caps. we would collapse ashining in sweat from yelling at the children to put their hands on the rope, from singing the ABC with them, and from carrying them on their back.
the nurseries were run by African matriarchs with hips made for child bearing, who roughly wiped snot away from the children’s upper lips and who spoke English in thick western African accents which the children picked up.
we spoke to the children with both Hebrew and English, but even their English you had to know Hebrew for ‘you do for me like this? also me!’. it was important for them to know English because who knows where they’ll end up.
the children fought in a way we did not know, constantly hitting each other they would come up to us crying saying ‘he beat me’. we got used to the merciless connotations of the word ‘beat’.
the older children bored with their peers would too often take it upon them to discipline the younger ones. on one of my first times volunteering, shocked with the constant hitting, I asked the oldest girl Victoria why she kept beating Joyce, a skinny, rodent of a girl with a scar on her forehead, ‘beating is good for her she makes balagan’. Joyce and a boy named Ronny were some nights picked up as late as 21:00, both rarely spoke and Ronny never smiled or laughed. some of the children weren’t happy and we were there to give them love, but love couldn’t be given when they were kicking other kids.
One day in the park Ronny through a stone at a large Israeli woman and her daughter. they had been provoking our children, and the type of mean people who you avoided at all costs. but when they came over and told Joe what had happened he hit Ronny 5 times with rapid succession over his buttocks. this caused an up cry from the religious mothers in the playground who were horrified. the African culture of beating was not accepted by the Israelis but they were to isolated for the culture to change. although we refused to hit the children often we had to resort to aggression for them to listen to us, as this was what they had learnt to respond to. Joe or as the children called him ‘Daddy’ was in charge of discipline. he would herd the children to the park on his bicycle and threaten to slap them in the phase. kind, warm and handsome, it was hard to tell his age behind his white grin and brown cheekbones. daddy was a character himself whom told his stories excitedly. he told us how they took him to the detention centre Holot only for a day because he was responsible for the kids and he told us about the time the immigration police took his bicycle away from him and chased him through the twisting streetsbecause he still didn’t get a visa.
we saw the immigration police on two occasions. one day ayanda saw them ask the men on the fence for the visas and then chase one and throw him in the van. there was no one there to say hello that morning. another time we had an eastern African lunch of a sour spongey flat bread in a dim restaurant with floral plastic tablecloths and they arrived. we found ourselves panicky as we waited for them to pull out crumpled folded up paper from their back pockets. the immigration police had flashed me a kind smile before she proceeded to order around the people in the restaurant.
it was clearly rare for white people to venture into this restaurant and the men in their stared at us, eavesdropping on our conversation and laughing as we prodded the bread like it was an animal. but I was unphased as I had walked through the neighbourhood at 8 pm the Friday before. on the weekend the neighbourhood came alive and the clock stopped as it became African Time. with cramped apartments and no back yard the community filled the street with card games, beers and cigarettes. I had never felt so out of place as I had walked through the Main Street a. I’ve been in rural China before, but there I was dismissed as a tourist and here they thought I was an Israeli. although we give love to the kids, with no connection to the adults the communities still remain isolated.
/I want to write more about things but it’s too late/
Weekly update from Deutschland by Bec S.
So, here I am, writing from the last day here on Netzer Germany camp. What an amazing and exhausting two weeks its been (the longest Machane (camp) that I was ever on!). I have gained a lot from the German Netzer-niks I’ve met whilst being a madricha here – this really has been one of the best learning experiences for me so far on Shnat.
I led the eldest group (aged 16&17) with my fellow shnatties Sharon and Aleksa. There was never not banter with our lovely chanichim, especially on the three day camping trip that the eldest group goes on every machane. The trip was ‘SHNAT’ themed, meaning that many conversations were had about what Shnat Netzer is, what the program is like, and why it is important for the movement. As well as this, we also went on a trip to a chocolate factory and went wake boarding! It was truly a pleasure to watch their kvutsah (group) grow and bond over the duration of the trip. It reminded me of the growth of my kvutsah on shnat (which gave me emotions).
I was also welcomed with open arms into the crazy, weird, and wonderful Madrichim tzevet on machane. Together with this group of 25 lovely Netzer-niks we organised and ran many activites including Tikkun Olam and Israel themed days, two Shabbats, fun evening programs for the whole camp, and took all the chanichim on day-trips to the nearby city of Würzburg, the local swimming pool, and an interactive science museum.
It was so special for me to see and experience how another snif (branch) of Netzer functions, and despite the small differences between Netzer Germany and Netzer Australia, camp is always be such a good and warm environment for me to be in. I feel so lucky and fulfilled that I was given the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience from Netzer Australia and from shnat and that I was able to also gain so much from Netzer Germany. I really really think that visiting and sharing ideas with different Netzer sniffim around the world is one of the best things one can do for Netzer as a worldwide movement. I literally cannot wait for the day that I will see my new German friends again!
+ Israel Update
Generation to Generation
This past weekend, 35 young adults from across the country convened in Haifa for the first annual “Tlamim” – Young Adults at the IMPJ leadership retreat. The group met as part of the IMPJ’s efforts to strengthen its young adult community; a group of young Israelis, meant to lead Reform Judaism and the Reform Movement in Israel in the near future. Over the course of two days, these young women and men, beginning at mid-20’s and all the way to those who are already into their early 30’s, discussed, prayed and thought together.
Through a combination of serious discussions on what it means to be young Israeli progressive leaders, what kind of responsibilities do they have as a Reform community towards Israeli society, and what is the place of texts, prayer, music and social action in these efforts, the participants engaged in a highly meaningful and productive process.
The participants of the “Tlamim” retreat did not only talk in theoretical terms, they also explored these questions through experience; so was the case, as they all gathered on Friday night for a Kabbalat Shabbat service entirely put together and led by the leaders of the retreat. Through the combination of traditional prayers, music and Israeli literature, all participants took part in the service in a most meaningful way.
The retreat also included team-building activities, such as morning teamwork-based exercise and a “Maiumana” class, led by one of the participants. The retreat concluded with lots of Ruach – spirit, and a great desire to take “Tlamim” to great places, in bringing pluralistic Judaism to more young Israelis all across Israel.
In the psalm to David, which we find in the Book of Psalms, a leader is described as one who “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night revealeth knowledge” (Psalms 19; 3). A well-known paraphrase on this verse in Hebrew tells that יַבִּיעַ אֹמֶר דּוֹר לְדוֹר – “generation to generation uttereth speech.” A new generation of Reform leaders is raising; over the weekend, they undoubtedly uttered speech and revealed knowledge – now, they will go out and spread it over Israeli society.
By Gideon Aronoff, Ken Bob, Josh Weinberg and John RosoveAugust 3, 2016 3:02pm
Israeli left-wing activists holding placards and their national flag during a Peace Now march calling on Israelis to end the occupation of Palestinian lands, in Tel Aviv, Dec. 19, 2015. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (JTA) As progressive American Zionists, we take seriously the critique of Israel and Zionism by professors Hasia Diner and Marjorie N. Feld, contained in their Aug. 1 Haaretz article, “We’re American Jewish Historians. This is why we’ve left Zionism behind.”
However, unlike them, we affirm progressive Zionist values. And those values mandate activism in order to ensure that Israel is both a democracy and the national home of the Jewish people.
The difference between us and professors Diner and Feld is that we continue to believe in the Zionist enterprise and the viability of the state of Israel, despite troubling trends: the rightward turn of the Israeli government; the corrupting influence of the nearly 50-year Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people in the West Bank; the growing messianic nationalism of the settler movement; the ultra-Orthodox influence on the Israeli government and its control over Jewish religious life; the second-class status of Palestinian Israeli citizens. We have a duty as Diaspora Zionists to critique Israeli policies whenever we believe that the State of Israel violates Jewish and democratic values as articulated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
For us, Jewish “nationalism” cannot be the sole objective of Zionism. Rather, Zionism and the Jewish nation is a means towards the perfection of the Jewish people and the world (tikkun olam).
Since its establishment, Israel has meant many things to many people: a haven from persecution, a catalyst for Jewish renewal and a place where the rhythms of civic life are Jewish rhythms. We regard the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s laboratory of Jewish ethical living, one that has seen unparalleled achievements and successes, as well as considerable deficiencies and failures. We regard the founding of the state as a consummate historic opportunity, to test the efficacy of Jewish ethical values, institutions and the diversity of Jewish peoplehood all while holding onto political power as a sovereign state.
Sadly, the professors base their argument on the highly reductionist notion of Judaism as simply a religion, and they even seem to breathe life into the 40-year-old defamatory attempt to label Zionism as racism. They suggest that it was Israeli homogenization that led to the demise of Jewish communities around the world, as if the great holy communities of Warsaw, Vilna and Krakow would somehow be intact today if it weren’t for… Zionism.
They also deeply oversimplify the reality here in the U.S., with its religiously neutral environment. America, and American Jews, have championed the “Goldene Medinah” the Golden Land as the great melting pot and exalted land of assimilation and acculturation. But today, Jews throughout the U.S. struggle with the challenge of balancing the benefits of American religious freedom while responding to communal trends in which Jews struggle to find connections, meaning and relevance in being Jewish.
As Zionists, Israel is the center of global Jewish life, and, it is important to recognize, it has managed to create a vibrant and creative Jewish society with a rich and incredibly ethnically diverse Judaism. Yet, Diaspora Jewry is a partner in assuring Israel’s viability as a democracy and a Jewish state, and its security as a sovereign nation. Our role in the Diaspora is different than that of Israeli citizens, but it is no less important. Indeed, our two centers need each other’s wisdom and support.
Professors Diner and Feld seem to have been defeated by their mythic understanding of Zionism and Israel. Though there is merit to their legitimate concerns about the “other” and what Jewish nationalism must do to include non-Jews as equal citizens in the state, it is unfortunate that they are turning away from Zionism altogether. Their relationship with Israel seems to be conditional. We would like to suggest an unconditional relationship to Israel. That means, like family, when we see troubling trends and abhorrent behavior, rather than disavow the entire enterprise, we prefer to roll up our sleeves and get more involved.
They are right that the Palestinians are entitled to empathy, justice and redress. Israel cannot continue to occupy another people and remain true to its democratic and Jewish values. The only way to preserve Israel as a Jewish state and a democracy is for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into negotiations leading to two states for two peoples.
Similarly, Israeli Jews and Diaspora Zionists must actively engage non-Jewish Israelis to address the real tensions within Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. Making Israel both more democratic and more Jewish is a serious challenge, but it is the essential struggle of Zionism. And as we reject Professors Diner and Feld when they give up on Israel as a Jewish state, we oppose Israelis and other Jews who take actions that threaten Israel’s essential nature as a democracy.
Ultimately, our vision of progressive Zionism which is embodied in the Israeli Declaration of Independence and the Zionist movement’s Jerusalem Program is one grounded in hope and action. And we will continue to strive to fulfill this vision to ensure a just, secure and peaceful future for all Israelis, and an Israel that can be a dynamic inspiration to Jews around the world.
(Rabbi Josh Weinberg and Rabbi John Rosove are the President and Chair of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. Gideon Aronoff and Ken Bob are the CEO and National President of Ameinu.)
+ The weekly portion
In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion-
+ Shabbat Treat
A short video taken today at Beit Shmuel right after lunch J - https://youtu.be/lD0-98TLe5s (recommendation to this video- turn the volume DOWN!)
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
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