Author Archives: hannahlifshutz

July 21, 2014

Like the contrast between old and new, here in Israel the ideological contrasts between community and isolation are ever present. We started off the day in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town built around a ‘makhtesh’, which almost translates to crater. Through millions of years of geological weathering, what were once layers of sediment beneath the surface of a lake is now a naturally induced crater-like phenomenon. Talya, our tour guide, discussed to us both how the crater came to be, and how this exemplifies one of the many beauties that exist in Israel. She explained the fact that you can go to the south of a country and witness the marvels in the Negev desert, then you can travel to the north and arrive at a ski resort. Such a range of climates in such a small country had me thinking about the shift we had just made travelling from Jerusalem to the Negev, and the distinction between the cultures and the people. We left this small village and travelled to the burial place of Ben Gurion, where met Guti to talk with us about his community, the Hatzerim kibbutz.

Talya and Tali at the Mekhtesh in Mitzpe Ramon

 

Among other things, Guti spoke of the ideology of the kibbutz, which dignifies the importance of egalitarianism. After visiting the development town of Yeroham yesterday, this idea of collectivity was fresh in our minds. Both the kibbutzim and the development towns initiated the settlement of the Negev, and their founding ideologies starkly contrast one another. On one hand, at the core of the kibbutzim is the idea of communalism and total equality. While the initial members of the development town of Yeroham were essentially coerced into settling there rather than in Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv. Additionally the first settlers of Yeroham were mostly of Sephardi origins, which also highlighted questions of racial inequality.

hatzerim

Kibbutz Hatzerim during its early years around 1946

 

Although their ideologies blatantly differ from one another, the new has been able to distinguish itself from the old, in both the kibbutzim and in Yeroham. The kibbutzim, once very popular have been forced to shift in several ways since their formation because of modern complexities. However, some kibbutzim like Hatzerim continue to thrive, both socially and economically. Yeroham has been able to shed itself of its rough start, developing tremendously in recent decades in part because of increased communal effort from the students’ community service work to the donation of the independent science center. Both receive little to no help from the central government of Israel but continue to flourish with good management and communal determination. During our travels in the Negev, transitions between old and new were made apparent, as was an overall appreciation for community.    

Hannah Lifshutz

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July 3, 2014

Our first full day in Israel was spent taking a tour of the Old City. After visiting Hadassah Academic College for the first time and having some delicious falafel, we met up with our tour guide, Talya, and began walking towards the Jaffa Gate. As we were walking up to the walls that date back 800 years ago, encapsulating three very different, very conflicted religions, I was taken aback by their ability to live side by side given the immense differences that exist between not just their customs and beliefs, but between themselves. Before arriving at the Western Wall, the Islamic Call to Prayer commenced followed by the sound of the church bells chiming from the Christian Quarter. Once we made it to the Western Wall I was finally able to take in just how incredible the dedication was. Since arriving in Israel I have felt a desire to to get in touch with my Jewish heritage. I began feeling this way after being exposed to Israel’s strong sense of collectivity and community (as evidenced by the dancing and laughing at the Shabbat service we attended, among other things). The apparent significance that enjoying life has in this environment has proven to me how Judaism is such a beautifully centered religion. After entering the plaza I stood in front of the Western Wall, the last remnants of the Second Temple, taking in all of its complexity. The point of religious significance for three religions with very different religious pasts, this wall with notes tucked into its ever nook, emulated the idea of collective understanding.

 

— Hannah LifshutzPhoto on 7-5-14 at 9.35 AM