28 December

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Our Trip to the North

We started this morning with a visit to the Ancient Katzerin Synagogue and community (archeological park in the Golan heights). After a leisurely walk through the archeological park, our students participated in a text study with Rabbi Gabby Dagan sitting in a synagogue (now outdoor) space from 1500 years ago.

Next we headed to Mount Bental, which gave us a breathtaking overlook in the Golan Heights to the Syrian border. Rabbi Gabby Dagan discussed the history of security issues in Israel and different political aspects of Israel and modern times. We also spent some time discussing the security challenges that face Israel today and the world.

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After lunch, we traveled to Kibbutz Kfar Giladi cemetery. Rabbi Dagan shared with us his personal story his army duty during the second Lebanon War.

We then took a moment to give our respect to the Paratroopers from the 9255 fallen reserve battalion of the northern paratroopers brigade on August 2, 2006 (Second Lebanon war) at the entrance to Kibbutz Kfar Giladi cemetery. After, we entered the cemetery (with its beautiful views of the Golan Heights which had stood on those mountains earlier in the day) to learn about the trompeldor’s statue story.

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In the early evening we drove up to Mitzpe Netofa to spend some time the friend of Gabby’s, Tzippy, an orthodox woman who invited us into her home for a discussion and coffee/tea. Our students had the opportunity to ask questions about her family, values, and the special qualities of the orthodox community that she moved to almost 21 years ago.

After our evening in Mitzpe Netofa, Tzippy wrote to Gabby to share with the group that she appreciated their insightful questions and their openness to the “other”.  It was my pleasure meeting us all all!

Here are a few reflections from our delegation:

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“Going to the Ancient Katzrin Synagogue was an incredible way to experience the impact of Reform Judaism has on Israel. It was special to see this outdoor park and synagogue atmosphere. After that we got a chance to see Syria and Lebanon from the Golan Heights. Seeing how close Israel is to Syria and Lebanon gave us perspective on Israel’s presence in the Middle East. See the boarders of Israel’s neighboring countries highlighted the distinct contrast Israel has with her neighbors. Similarly, going to the cemetery really illustrated the profound effect Nationalism has on Israel.”

– Ava H.

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“Today we started off at the ancient village of Katzerin and we participated in a Talmudic study. We learned about the way the synagogue was built and how its story is found in a Talmud text lead by Rabbi Gabby Dagan. Next, we went to Mount Bental and learned about how Israel’s border influence its position in thr Middle East. We walked through the tunnels where soldiers hid and Gabby and Kinneret told us about the wars Israel fought in and how it related to the spot we were standing. After this, we went to a cemetery where Gabby told us his story of the Second Lebannon War. I became very emotional because my brother is in the army.”

– Amit C.

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 “Our day started with a trip to the Ancient Synagogue of Katzerin with study of Jewish texts with Rabbi Dagan. It was interesting to see the ancient structures and places like the olive press and house of bread that don’t exist anymore. A memorable part of the day was visiting Mount Bental because it was a really beautiful place. The wind was really strong because we were very high up, but we could see so much. From that viewpoint we could point out where Lebanon and Syria were, which I thought was really cool. We also visited a cemetery further north. Rabbi Gabby Dagan told us how he was in the army and was standing very close to the bomb that killed 12 soldiers in front of that very cemetery. They have a separate memorial for them in front of the cemetery and it was really sad to see but really inspiring. It made me think about all the soldiers that died for their country because they were protecting others and bravely defending Israel.”

-Sara B.

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“The final stop on our trip to the north was going to an orthodox community and speaking with a woman named Tzippy. We talked about her experiences growing up in a less religious family, something that we could relate to, making Aliyah and eventually living in her current community. However, we greatly differed in our relationship with Judaism. I found this discussion interesting because we were able to ask her questions about a type of Judaism that is very different than ours. And while hearing about her ideas was a new and appreciated perspective, I felt that some of the answers I received were personally frustrating. I entered this discussion mostly curious about her views on women’s equality within her religious community. I wanted to understand how someone with a liberal background felt about living in a place that is pretty conservative towards women’s rights overall. Her answer was that she considers herself an orthodox, religious feminist but has come to peace with a lot of the inequalities within her community.  She said that she is supportive of religious feminist movements in Israel, but does feel the need to participate in that fight. She doesn’t need to be the one to make change, it will eventually come. This is where I disagreed. She is a minority in her community when it comes to supporting Reform Judaism and its ideas, and instead of feeling the need to fight for them, she is okay with letting other people do that for her. To me, this idea that sitting by, supporting from afar, is against what I believe as a Jew in the reform movement (which supports my feminist ideals). I feel a responsibility to, on a basic level, support all types of women and Judaism, and I think this should translate to all those who recognize the issue.”

– Elena M.

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