Dear Friends of Makom Bagalil,
The Unetaneh Tokef prayer, a central piece of the high holiday liturgy, contains the powerful lines: ''On Rosh Hashanah it is decided and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: who shall live and who shall die, who shall become rich and who shall become poor, who shall be at rest and who shall be troubled... etc.; but repentance, prayer, and tzedaka can avert the evil decree.'' We are left, on the one hand, depressed by the fatalism of our fate being sealed for the year - yet with the optimism that comes from having some power to influence the outcome. So which is it? It seems we'll never know for sure, but it can't hurt to try.
In the turbulence around us during Elul this year, this sense of fateful decisions being taken without our being able to control them can feel ominous. A summer of protest over the feeling of powerlessness regarding economic policies and structures, the many questions surrounding the next phase in Israel's relationship with the Palestinians and the world - make the words of the prayer relevant and rather scary, leaving us looking for ways to avert some evil decrees.
We take comfort from Rabbi Tarfon's words in the Mishnah (Avot): It is not for you to complete the task - but you are not free to stop working on it. So here we go, entering another year of trying to fix the world - one person, one activity, one encounter, one hour - at a time. It seems we won't finish the project this year, either. But throwing up our hands is not an option.
Best wishes for a year of health, fulfillment, and peace!
Rabbi Marc J. Rosenstein, director
Our ''Neighbors'' encounter program hosted over forty busloads of guests during the summer, around 1,600 visitors. This was a big and often frustrating undertaking, as idealism and good intentions are one thing, while logistics are another: will the bus be late? Will the air conditioner in the hall function? Will the Arab teens show up? Never a boring day. But the outcome was definitely successful. In a follow up questionnaire, we found that:
- The introduction was balanced and fair - 89%
- I learned new facts/perspectives in the introduction - 93%
- I learned new facts/perspectives from the encounter - 82%
- This caused me to rethink some of my assumptions and opinions - 62%
- I would have liked more time to meet with the Arabs - 94%
''I feel that it was a very important thing to meet with Israeli Arabs and talk to them, because I feel that that is an aspect of visiting Israel that is often left out... Meeting with these Arabs, and being able to talk to them about how they feel about current events, cultural and discriminatory issues was a very eye-opening experience. It led me to view other sides of issues from the Arab perspective, and see what they lose during compromises and what they gain.''
At the same time, it is important to point out that since these are open and uncensored meetings, we don't control the results, and different people experience them differently. In the questionnaire, 25% said that they ''heard things that made me upset or angry.'' Two instructive examples:
''I was upset/angry for them. For example, the way that some of the girls spoke about how oppressed they are with such matter-of-fact sentiment was hard for me to hear because they shouldn't be treated the way that they are treated.''
''...prior to this experience, I was very open and accepting to Arab Israelis, however I felt this program had an opposite effect on me. When asked how they felt when they heard Hatikva, the Arab teens responded with, ''What is the Hatikva?'' This left me angry and made me rethink my views on Arab Israelis.''
It can be confusing to live here. We figure our guests should have the chance to share that confusion.
We are excited about a new project initiated by Tova Sacher, our coordinator of pluralistic Jewish study: a ''Hevruta network.'' Several centuries before it became a fashion in western education, cooperative learning was adopted as a widespread method in the world of traditional Jewish study. Hevrutot, or study pairs, were and are an important institution in yeshivot and other contexts - two partners who study together intensively, pooling their resources to make sense and achieve ''ownership'' of difficult texts. Our idea is to find individuals in our area who would like to participate in such a partnership, studying independently as pairs, on their own time in their own homes (or a nearby coffee shop etc.); we will help match partners and decide on content, provide materials, offer coaching and support, and gather the participants now and then for learning opportunities for the whole network together. Initial registration has been very encouraging; we'll be holding a kick-off event after the holidays.
After a year of significant steps toward professionalism, the Galilee Circus is presently beginning a new year of programming, recruiting new participants, seeking orders for performances and workshops (for local audiences and for visiting groups from abroad), starting to plan for a return visit to the US next summer. The show goes on...
After three years of slow but steady growth and development, we are pleased to report that our Hebrew-Arabic web magazine serving the Galilee has begun to sell advertising. This means, of course, that Dugrinet has achieved the first [small, as yet] step toward our original goal of self-sufficiency. But perhaps more encouraging is the fact that in order to sell advertising, one has to have enough traffic on the site to justify the investment. And due to the hard work of a lot of volunteers and an overworked, dedicated core staff, led by coordinator Hedva Livnat and editors Tali Eisner and Smah Basul, Dugrinet has become an interesting and informative multicultural meeting place which attracts hundreds of visitors every day.
Educational Tourism Update
Sigalit Ur, our educational tourism coordinator, led the process of developing a new educational game in the old city of Acco this summer, involving independent exploration by small groups according to a ''treasure hunt'' model. We have tested it and it works; inquiries welcome.
We are sad to report the death of Yakov Kasczmacher, an artist in Safed whose shop/studio was a mainstay of our ''Lost in Safed'' game for over a decade. He was a fascinating, talented, humble, and open-minded person who always welcomed our wandering teams, and took an interest in our work in general. May his memory be a blessing.
Remember New Years' Cards...
...before e-cards? As mentioned in a previous newsletter, singer-songwriter Chava Alberstein has donated a set of her paintings from her latest CD booklet, to support www.dugrinet.co.il, our Hebrew-Arabic website. We have converted the paintings into colorful 4 x 6 in. top-fold note cards, and will be happy to send out packets of 8 assorted cards with envelopes, as follows (via air mail):
Contribute $18 - receive one packet of 8; $30 - two packets; $40 - three packets; $50 - four packets
To donate, click here; then send us an email with mailing instructions.
Feel free to forward this offer to friends who might be interested!