Thursday, November 18, 2010

Id and Public Speaking

November 18, 2010

This week is a Muslim holiday, called an “Eid” (thanks for the spelling correction, Zeenat!) in Arabic. It is the holiday commemorating when God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac, or Ishmael, depending on whom you ask. I’m not sure exactly why you’d want to commemorate that, but hey, whatever. Last night I was walking down the by the beach, and I saw all the celebrations. It is like the Fourth of July; it seemed like every Muslim family in Yafo was out on the lawns above the beach. They brought picnic blankets and portable BBQs, and they were all making some of the best smelling meat I’ve ever encountered. Everyone is in new clothes, and all the kids are running around, riding bikes, flying kits, and shouting. There were huge fireworks, and traffic was completely clogged. It seemed like kind of the most fun holiday ever.

To round out this Israeli experience, I had to go to the bathroom, so I went into the Dan Panorama hotel. The hotel was hosting some sort of formal event, so the bathroom was full of Jewish women in evening gowns, most of them quite immodest. My iPod was playing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and I was like, WHAT IS THIS. Observant Muslims outside BBQing, skanky Jews inside dancing, and me bridging the middle. It was quintessential Yafo (even though the Dan Panorama is actually just across the border into Tel Aviv.) It was also interesting being in Israel while there was a huge holiday I wasn’t celebrating at all. All the other holidays since I’ve been here (and there have been SO MANY) have been Jewish, so I at least knew what was up, and felt some connection to them. For this, there were fireworks and the Arab schools are closed and the place I get my shwarma from was decorated, and it was sort of like Christmas back in the US. But I certainly didn’t feel any of the resentment I feel at Christmastime; I felt really peaceful and was grateful that I got to experience this giant party. I did want some meat though.

Yesterday, before I went to the beach and watched the celebrations, three other participants and I met with donors and representatives of programs that Masa supports and/or is affiliated with. We were basically selling the program to them, to try and increase our exposure and funding. The meeting was focused on Coexistence, so it was a conversation only about the Yafo track. I thought it was going to be a pretty boring event, but I actually had a good time. The topic I chose to talk about (for my allotted 5 whole minutes) was how the classes we take and the conversations we have with each other help to enhance our volunteering experience. During the Q&A section, I brought up one of my most foundational beliefs about coexistence and social justice work: the (very simple) idea that being together is not enough. Just being near each other, be it in Yafo, in kindergarten, or on a college campus in the states, is not enough for a diverse or coexistant experience. I mentioned that I thought being together was only step one, and there are about 12 more steps before you actually get to coexistence. A woman asked me what I thought some of those other 12 steps would be, and then I got to talk about my Number One Favorite Topic Of All Time: Dialogue work! I talked about that (with great enthusiasm) for a bit, and then she asked about my dialogue experience, and so I got to shout out to NewGround and MHC Intergroup Dialogue, which is always wonderful.

I realized afterwards that I really had fun. It was the same sort of exhilaration I got after facilitating a dialogue at Sholem, and almost as good (almost!) as the feeling I got after NewGround sessions. It further cemented for me that I need to find a career with public speaking in it, because I find it to be incredibly fun. I am such a nerd!

While I was at the beach, watching people celebrate and sitting on the rocks over looking the crashing waves, I was thinking about some of the questions the people at this meeting asked. And I realized something else: this is not a place to come if you want answers. This is a place to come if you want to better understand the complexities of the questions. I think that realization has helped, and will help, me frame my experiences here. It certainly removes any pressure I might have felt to find any answers and solve any problems (about Maria!) while I’m here. My new goal is to emerge from this experience more informed, with more understanding, and with more confusion that I came in with. I consider that a job well done.


  1. I like that....this is a place to come if you want to better understand the complexities of the questions.
    it definitely takes the pressure off finding the answers to everything. I'm not sure we'll ever find the answers, but we can learn a lot by better understanding the questions.
    i really enjoy reading/hearing your observations !

  2. I'll make you some lamb anytime. Happy Eid, dear Emma!

  3. DANG i spelled it wrong! HAPPY EID ZEENAT.