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Rabbi katie's Thoughts about the trip

Abundance. Diversity. Suffering. Depth. Complexity. Beauty. Grief. Hope.

Or Shalom’s first trip to Israel and Palestine was a whirlwind.

Every morning, hotel breakfast buffets greeted us with crazy abundance and variety.  It would have been impossible for one person to even taste a little of each item.  And the trip was much the same.  Just tastes -- not even tastes of everything -- but still almost more than we could take in. 

The trip combined history, politics, culture, spirituality, and a wide range of immersion learning experiences.  Most days, we met with inspiring and challenging people from a variety of communities, Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and non-Jewish, who spoke to us of their experiences.  Many were working for equality, peace, and social justice.  We will publish a list of organizations shortly.

Some had stories filled with grief and fear.  Others challenged our assumptions or pushed our buttons.  Through it all we had expert guidance from an articulate and skillful tour guide named Ilan Bloch who managed to explain different perspectives without judgment.

I found myself saying to our travelers many times – if you are confused, don’t worry.  If you are overwhelmed, don’t worry.   Success on this trip does not mean figuring out once and for all how you think about this complicated place and its diverse people.  Success might mean that you begin to understand how little you understand.  Success might mean that you develop a deeper capacity for thinking critically and listening compassionately.  It might mean that all of us can speak about this place with more humility and depth. 

The trip was also personal and spiritual for us as a group and as OS members.  Several participants told me that they treasured our many moments of singing in different places.  And more than once, a presenter heard us and asked to video our group singing Lo Yisa Goy El Goy Cherev (nation shall not lift sword against nation).  An early highlight for us was a service at the kotel, the Western Wall, where Lillian’s daughter, Naomi, and our member Gail Gurewitz both read from the Torah for the first time. The trip was bookended with yoga on the beach in Tel Aviv led by Gail.

In different moments, we all felt inspired and moved, over-saturated and exhausted.  It was a rigorous trip emotionally and sometimes physically. 

About half of the group had stomach issues sometime during the trip.  A few days in, we learned of Louise’s passing, and held a gathering in her honor to share memories and send our prayers to her loved ones.  Several days after that, Raj was hospitalized and I had to come home unexpectedly early. In each of these difficult moments, I was moved to see how we cared for one another so well.  Zehava especially, was a solid leader who inspired joy and strength for all of us throughout the whole journey.

I write now in the strange slice of time that opened between the trip and my sabbatical.  In time, our travelers will make a plan to share with the wider community about our experiences.  Stay tuned for links to photo albums and enjoy the summer!

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780