Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and Mt. Herzl

Yad Vashem

Today we spent the afternoon at the Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, it was established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education, and commemoration of the Holocaust. What was astonishing about the Yad Vashem is the design. The museum itself is underground, cutting through the hill like a sharp item! The outside long structure is shaped similarly to a triangle.

Inside the museum, there is a long hall and a path that weaves its way through two sides exhibits (small rooms), as we kept moving into the end of the museum, there was a final stop, a huge spacious room called the Hall of Names (apparently this room was visited by many high ranked officials and leaders from all over the world including the president of the United States as it shows on the picture above) This two-story room was filled from the bottom to the top with books bearing testimonial pages of those lost. Looking up, you see a dome covered with faces of victims. Looking down, you see a large hole filled with rock and water.

As we walked outside the triangle, we were amazed by a striking view of Jerusalem, and that itself had a meaning to many Israeli, that this is the future, this view is the a new page of hope, this gorgeous view might remind the people of a better Israel.

Few steps from the Yad Vashem museum, we walked to what is known as the Children’s Memorial a tribute to approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust. As we went inside, everything was dark, a windowless building, we found ourselves surrounded by many light/candles (Each light represented one child that were murdered in the Holocaust) we had absolutely no idea, which way we were walking. All what we heard was voices announcing a name, an age and a country as the list of children killed in the Holocaust was read.

In the way out we stopped at another historical place, which was the Mount Herzl, or the mount of remembrance, the site of Israel’s national cemetery and other memorial and educational facilities. It is named for Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism. Mount Herzl was a meaningful experience, it was a great way for us to learn about the foundation of the current state of Israel.

Yad Vashem is seriously one of the most incredible museums I have ever been to. It’s an incredibly moving experience, situated on a huge, beautiful compound, filled with so many remembrance, shapes, and halls, as well as other touches. This place was one of the greatest experiences I had so far at Jerusalem.

 

-Amine Ihaddadene-

 

 

 

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Tuesday July 15, 2014

Today my natural alarm clock didn’t wake me up and I slept til 8 am when my phone alarm went off! I jumped out of bed and hurriedly got ready, deciding that I wanted to get breakfast at a coffee shop rather than making it myself since I was in a hurry. I headed towards downtown and got a cappuccino and some small pastries from the English Cake cafe on King George street, and then I took it to a bench on Ben Yehuda and enjoyed some alone time and some people-watching.

Once I finished eating I walked to Hadassah Academic College for class where we had a four hour session of our Contemporary Israel through Literature and Arts class. We spent some time discussing a poem by Amichai, called “A Man in His Life.” It begins:

A man doesn’t have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
was wrong about that.
A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and to cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.

This allusion to a passage in Ecclesiastes, a book in the Bible that I’ve read many times, caused us to read the poem in a different context: it’s not just a poem written by a man in modern day Israel, it’s an Israeli man reacting to an ancient text written by another Israelite man, both living in the same place but living in two different worlds–separated by time and the events of those years. This corresponds with a literary tradition used by many authors, including authors we’ve read for class, where the author draws your attention to a past belief or text and then disturbs your previous belief or knowledge in some way, causing you to think more about the topic and create deeper meaning. We talked about the concept of paradox, how literature can be the best way to process the contradictory aspects of life because it can incorporate the different feelings that a person or group of people can have all at the same time. One of the paradoxes I’ve felt while here is that while the air raid siren is going off I’ve still felt completely safe, trusting in the Iron Dome and in God’s protection. Speaking of which, please pray that Hamas will accept the ceasefire and this area will go back to its more peaceful state.

Today was extra special because the third hour of class was comprised of a field trip to Hadassah’s graduate student art exhibit. As our Northeastern professor told us when we returned, it’s always very cool to see student art because it’s always on the cusp of the future. I definitely saw this expressed through the incorporation of technology into the art.

This exhibit was made up of six different videos, each showing a part of the process of baking cupcakes, but shot from a very interesting angle... Two of my favorite things integrated: art and dessert!

This exhibit was made up of six different videos, each showing a part of the process of baking cupcakes, but shot from a very interesting angle… Two of my favorite things integrated: art and dessert!

One of my favorite exhibits was done by a woman who had lived in New York City for a while and loved watching musical performers in the subway, so she created an exhibit where different images in the room triggered videos of those places when viewed through an iPad or an app you could download to your smartphone. It was crazy to see the pictures come alive when viewed through the lens of technology.

Interactive art

Interactive art

After class some of us (Anna, Jaclyn, Maggie, Carlos, Anuphab, and I) went to an adorable restaurant in the Rehavia neighborhood called Fernando & Bella where we had light sandwiches (nice to have a break from hummus, delicious as it is) and spent time working on our journals/blogs.

The Fernando & Bella cafe

The Fernando & Bella cafe

And because I’m a #hashtagwhitegirl here’s an Instagram-style picture of my sandwich… (To those of my readers who are not of my generation and may not know what I’m talking about by saying “hashtag white girl”: please do not be offended by that joke)

I wish I had discovered this place sooner, it's really close to our apartments and it's really nice. I'm sure I'll be back!

Yumm! I wish I had discovered this place sooner, it’s really close to our apartments and it’s really nice. I’m sure I’ll be back!

Now I’m off to go find a shady bench to read a book on; I can’t let this gorgeous day go to waste by sitting inside a minute longer!

– Joy Davis

Bus Tour to Key Lookouts in Jerusalem

Monday, July 14th

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Unfortunately today I was not feeling well.  Rumor has it I was sick due to having a couple beers the night before, but this is not accurate.  I did have two Israeli commercial beers – a Goldstar and a Maccabee- with my dinner, which was delicious (highly recommended).  However, during Professor Shinar’s politics and media class I developed a stomach bug, (probably from the food)  which continued throughout the day so I decided to head back to the apartment and rest it off!

According to my classmates today’s lecture with Professor Shinar topic was the role of media in the peace process of cultural conflicts.  According to Jaclyn, Professor Shinar discussed the pattern of violence that have followed after past peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  There are many reasons for the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict and some explanations for this, as Professor Shinar explained, are the Israeli/Jewish vs. Arab/Islamic conflicting ideologies, nationalism, colonialism/anti-colonialism, and of course struggles over scarce resources- land, water, and oil.  It is important to note that this conflict is a cultural conflict where both sides refuse to accept the other for many reasons.  Shinar mentioned that cultural conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are deep-rooted, long lasting, global and asymmetric.  It is interesting to think about how conflict in the 21st century is no longer really between states, but is asymmetric involving many parties, especially in the form of terrorism.

Another piece of information that Jaclyn shared with me from today’s lecture is that Shinar explained that the media prefers war and violence to peace as it makes for better television, which is a very sad reality.  I would like to thank Jaclyn for her insight and for sharing her notes from today’s lecture, they were extremely helpful.  Thanks Jac!!!

Regarding today’s class on the topic of media I had the opportunity to speak with my roommate and good friend Carlos.  He told me that Professor Shinar stated, “Media in Israel never evolved, but transformed itself.  Where in most countries you have evolution of media from the private to public hands, in Israel it was the opposite, it went form public to private, which has created a bias in the media.”

After classes my colleagues took a bus tour to key lookouts in Jerusalem.  They went to see different parts of societies that live in Jerusalem.  They visited some projects where people who arrived in Israel for the first time could better integrate into society rather then living in tents.  They visited Arab and Jewish neighborhoods separated by streets.  They then went up to higher ground where they could see Bethlehem and Arab settlements.  They also saw Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Carlos mentioned was very interesting to see in person.  Some of the main sites my classmates saw were the Knesset, the Jewish settlement of Gilo, Bethlehem, and the barrier wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank (from a distance).

The following pictures are from today’s bus tour.  Photo and caption credit to my classmate and friend Jaclyn Roache:

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The Knesset

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Bethlehem

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Israeli settlement in Gilo

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View of Jerusalem from Gilo

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Israeli-West Bank barrier

 

– Jonathan

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Today we attended two lectures: politics and literature.  The main focus in Professor Shinar’s class on Israeli politics was the media.  Ultimately we need to understand how the media plays a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; however, today’s lecture was principally on the development of the media and media studies in Israel.  The background information was basically regarding the history of the media in Israel since the time of the British Mandate.  There was not always freedom of press in Israel. Our reading on the subject by Michael Widlanksi describes the media in contemporary Israel as a strong entity against a weakening government.  According to Widlanski, the importance of the Israeli media has earned it the title of the “Fourth Estate” in addition to the conventional branches of a government.  We also heard about the evolution of media studies in Israel.  However, the discipline is now adversely affected by technological advancement as many are now able to independently participate in the circulation of media (electronically) without having to undergo a formal education on the media and journalism.

In Professor Lefkovitz’s class we started off by discussing the memoir of Amos Oz.  The author sets a rapid pace at which time passes in his story.  In about 110 pages, he goes all the way into the past to talk about his great-grandparents and then into the future to talk about his grandchildren.  Oz describes how his grandparents and his father were reluctant to leave Europe.  However, as a reader, one is in a way relieved that they did.  The writer does this by basically setting himself parallel to his cousin in Europe who is killed at only three years old during the Holocaust because his father, Oz’s uncle, refused to emigrate to Palestine with the rest of the family.  The memoir conveys to the reader that the writer’s fate could have been the same as his cousin’s.  In fact, the author would have been doomed if his father’s application for German citizenship were approved.

Thereafter, we briefly discussed Hareven’s Mahogany.  The main takeaway of the story was that if children have to protect adults in certain situations, in this case, from Nazis who invaded Poland, then it means God is missing. In other words, when God is in heaven, then things are orderly as they are supposed to be: parents are actually meant to be the source of protection for their children.  Discussion of the readings transitioned into a discussion comprised of individual reactions to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.  The beautiful view of Mount Herzl basically symbolises the notion that Israel is the bright future of the Jewish people.

Today’s final programme was volunteering in a community garden.  Community gardens are maintained throughout Israel by communities that utilise them.  I felt that the activity was meant to teach us the virtues of teamwork and collectivism: engaging in collective service so that a community could enjoy the garden’s greenery and the fresh produce grown in the garden itself.  Afterwards, it was rewarding to consume pita that was freshly cooked over a fireplace that was lit next to the garden.

– Anuphab Phraewphanarai

 

A Day at The Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Today our group visited the Supreme Court along with Professor Lefkovitz and Mr. Elie Friedman (Doctoral Candidate) who gave us a lecture in the early morning at Hadassah Academic College on the Israel government system, which was fascinating to me, and controversial at the same time.

Israel government system is based on parliamentary democracy. The prime minister of Israel who is the head of the government and the leader of a multi party system. The government exercises executive power. Legislative power is put in the hand of the Knesset. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. What brought my attention during this lecture, is that Israel has a variety of political power in the government, some of its current political parties are: Likud (which is the party that Benjamin Netanyahu current Israel prime minister belongs to) and it has 20 seats, Yesh Atid and it has 19 seats, Israel Labor Party and it has 15 seats, Jewish Home and it has 12 seats, Israel our Home and it has 11 seats (Mostly Russian), Shas and it has 11 seats, United Torah Judaism and it has 7 seats, Hatnuah and it has 6 seats (It is also known as The Movement), Meretz and it also has 6 seats, United Arab List -Ta-al- and it has 4 seats, Hadash and it also has 4 seats (it is the party that believes in Israel for all Israeli), Balad and it has 3 seats (It is mostly Muslims party, Mr. Friedman mentioned that the Knesset wants to get rid of this party), Kadima and it has 2 seats (and it is known to be Ariel Sharon party).

Our tour Guide Mrs. Gigit from Belgium mentioned to us that The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in Israel. The Judiciary, the executive and the legislature (The Knesset) constitute the three branches of government. Three justices usually constitute a Supreme Court panel (We had a chance to witness one of it, it was mostly in Hebrew, so it was difficult for most of us to understand what was going on, however in the way out, Mr. Friedman, who happens to speak Hebrew, mentioned to us that this case has to do with manslaughter). In special instances the Supreme Court may sit in odd numbered panels of more than three.

When we walked toward the library, we entered the pyramid area, a large space that serves as a turning point before the entrance to the courtrooms. This serene space acts as the inner gate of the Supreme Court building. It was mentioned to us that Natural light enters round windows at the top of the pyramid, forming circles of sunlight on the inside walls and on the floor.

It was interesting when the tour guide mentioned to us that while the courtrooms differ in size and interior design, their basic structure was similar. Natural light enters through skylights located between the outer walls and the columns. The columns themselves suggest a separation between inside and outside. Each courtroom has a prisoner’s dock and a press box. Lawyers sit at the semi circular table facing the justices.

-Amine Ihaddadene- 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Today was very leisurely compared to the packed schedule we’ve had for the past few days. We began our day with a lecture from Dr. Elan Ezrachi on the demography of Israel. That afternoon, I went to an adorable café called Fernando and Bella with Anna, Maggie, Francisca, Stephanie, and Carlos. We got lunch and then returned to the apartment to work on our journals for a while.

Lunch at Fernando and Bella

Lunch at Fernando and Bella

For dinner, I ventured to an Israeli-Yemeni restaurant called Jachnun Bar with Anna, Joy, Maggie, and Francisca. We really couldn’t resist going inside after seeing the sign outside the restaurant reading, “When in Rome, do as the Romans. Come try traditional Israeli-Yemeni food.” The food was delicious, and we walked around in downtown Jerusalem after we finished, ultimately ending up in a beautiful park.  

Dinner at

Dinner at Jachnun Bar

Since today was rather uneventful, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on last night. Several Israeli students from Hadassah College and Hebrew University came over to our apartment to meet with us and give us their perspective on the current state of affairs in the country. It was really interesting to hear things from their point of view, since we’ve only been hearing about the conflict from an academic perspective for the past week.

Something I found interesting was how the students reacted to the map of Israel that we had hanging on the wall. They commented that it was an extremely leftist map that favored an Arab perspective. Pointing to specific borders, two students showed Anna and I how how they would redraw them to reflect their perspective. The students also were outraged to see East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem split into two distinct areas. Where I come from in New Jersey, a map is a map, with no room for debate about the borders. It seems like in Israel’s case, there really is nothing that remains unaffected by the conflict.

When the Israeli students were done denouncing Elan’s map, we went out and continued our night with them. We went downtown and were sitting outside when we saw a fight break out at a bar. Since Israel is swarming with police, two officers ran over to the scene and broke up the fight within a matter of seconds. An Israeli student we were with, Tal, approached one of the officers and asked what had happened. He returned to our table and explained the situation, then went on to comment that police officers in Israel are much more open to interacting with civilians than in the United States.

Meeting with the Israeli students was probably one of the most educational experiences of this trip for me so far. I’m really glad that Professor Lefkovitz and Elan set this up for us, and I hope that we get another opportunity to interact with more locals. Northeastern is all about experiential education, and this is the kind of experience that is truly invaluable.

– Jaclyn Roache