|I have also taken this opportunity to participate in many programs outside of the classroom. In January, I participated in the Encounter Program, meeting with members of the Palestinian community to learn and hear their stories. These community members were open about the complexities and the challenges from both sides of the conflict, and each work to establish peace and coexistence. This experience raised many new questions for me about the realities of the conflict, media coverage and the ways that we engage with this topic back home.
In February, I chanted Torah at the Kotel, for Rosh Chodesh with Women of the Wall. All year, we have been actively involved with the Israeli Religious Action Centre (IRAC) and Women of the Wall, fighting for religious equality. It was a really special morning, to stand with Progressive, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox women in the Women’s section of the Kotel, supported by men (who stood in the Plaza) and chant Torah. Despite our differences in practices, rituals and customs, we come together each month, striving to understand more about each other, and work towards forming an Israel that represents all Jewish people, and all people.
For Pesach, I travelled to Belarus as part of the HUC/WUPJ/JDC 2018 Pesach Project. We learnt about the Jewish communities in Gomel, Mogilev and Minsk. We participated in 7 sedarim with different organisations and demographics. We met with community leaders who shared with us the incredible work that they do, with very little resources, collaborating with other organisations and creating real change, not only for the Jewish community, but for the wider Belarusian community, including Netzer, the WUPJ Synagogues, a Jewish Day school and Hesed – the JDC program for the elderly.
Now we find ourselves in the middle of the Israeli High Holy Days – Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut. The feeling in the country has changed. The people are mournful and reflective, thinking about the past and preparing for the future. We are participating in a number of memorial and commemorative ceremonies, including the Yom HaShoah National Memorial Ceremony I attended last week at Yad Vashem. It is a time for reflecting about what it means to be Israeli, and to be Jewish in the modern world.
This year in Israel is quickly coming to an end. I am excited to continue the next year of my studies in Los Angeles. The opportunity to be living in Israel this year has been something very special and I am very appreciative of the support of ARZA.
Thank you again,