After a spending our last Shabbat in Jerusalem for now, we started on Sunday The Israel Today Seminar (ITS). The premise of these 3 days was to expose us to different issues, and open our eyes to sites that we might not know about. Also on Monday and Tuesday we had some options to choose from to allow everyone to hopefully learn about something that they understand.
Sunday we started of the day and the seminar with a lecture on Israeli current issues with Jeff Barack who is an editor/journalist for various newspapers (check out his credentials here). He spoke to us about the vast amounts of Arab and Haredim who are affecting various aspects of Israeli society such as education, politics, welfare programs and Israel's reputation. He was not that captivating of a speaker but did make me think about the future of Israel with these two groups of people being a larger part of the future voters due to the high birth right. Afterwards we went to The Begin Centre which is devoted to the life of Menachem Begin. The museum was split into different rooms each showcasing a different period of time in his life which was shown through videos. It was a very interesting museum because I did not know a lot about his life so I feel that the center did a great job explaining his life. After The Begin Centre and a bit of rest time we had a panel discussion about the IDF with 3 of our staff members and two Americans who had joined the army. Even though I do not plan on joining the army it was a very interesting discussion and I learned a lot about the various jobs, challenges and more in the army. That evening we had time to relax, pack and hang out with our friends
Monday morning was our first day of options and I chose to learn about Israel and the environment. We first visited the Hava & Adam Ecological Farm which focuses on education and sustainability. We first got a tour of the farm and got to see how they have built their farm in a green manner using mud and manure as walls, compost toilets and more. They also have a solar panel for energy and many other aspects that make this a very ecological farm. After our tour we got a chance to make our own lavender oil even grinding our own lavender and I'm looking forward to using it. We then went to The Ayalon Recycling Park and learned about the process of garbage disposal and what the plant is doing in order to minimize the amount of garbage that is sent down to the main site in the Negev. Probably the most interesting part was the visitor's center where most of the furniture and decorations is made out of recycled materials (chairs out of slides, garbage cans and signs made out of old furniture etc.). After our tour there we went to the Holon Cinematheque to see the Israeli movie "Lost Islands". It was a movie made in 2008 about two twin boys growing up in the 1980's in Israel and their families. Throughout the movie the characters learned about love to one another and a significant other, loyalty and attempting to fulfill ones dreams without giving up to much. Personally I thought it was a very well done movie, using great background sounds and making us laugh throughout most of the movie. For dinner that evening we went to the Azrieli Mall in Tell Aviv and I had a great Chinese food dinner.
Tuesday was our second day of choices and I chose to learn about Israel and politics. We started off the day by taking a tour of the Israeli Supreme Court. The building is just 20 years old and is a beautiful and stunning building with great views and lots of symbolism throughout. While there we learned about the judicial system and the differences from the US judicial system and it was very interesting and we also got to see one of the courtrooms. Afterwards we went to the other youth hostel in Jerusalem for a session about the constitution or the lack thereof in Israel. We discussed the pros and cons of having one and then split up into groups discussing various topics that might be in a constitution such as symbols and the anthem. Our last stop of the afternoon was The Gush Katif Museum. This museum commemorates the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the lost of the settlements and lives there. Our guide had lived in the Gaza strip for 23 years and raised his family of 9 kids there so this for sure added a different level to our visit. Prior to visiting the museum and did not fully understand about the disengagement and its effects but throughout our time there I really got to see what the evacuation had done to all the families living. We learned about the buildup of the various settlements and saw pictures from prior to 2005 as well as pictures, videos and artifacts from during and after the disengagement. Our guide also told us his story of after the disengagement they were put up in a hotel in Jerusalem for what was supposed to be 10 days but turned out to be 7 months of hardship and he us told us that when some of friends had looked into their storage boxes a lot of their belonging were not useable. As well, the graves were dug up and reburied and beautiful homes, synagogues and Yeshivas were destroyed. The worst part is that the disengagement did not achieve much and many people are still not in a stable home almost 5 years later.
That evening was most likely one of the best so far on Nativ. We went to the Nalaga'at Canter to see the play "Not by Bread Alone." The show is about baking bread (kneading, raising and baking) and how you cannot live on bread alone but you also need love, company, to have dreams and more. The special thing about the actors is that they are deaf, blind or deaf and blind so it was very interesting how those could not speak signed to those who could speak to speak for them or they signed and a translator spoke what they were signing. Those who could speak spoke but they were blind so they had to rely on others to help them wither their sight. It was a wonderful thing to see everyone helping one another whether it was moving around on the stage or speaking. As well there was Hebrew, English and Russian subtitles as well as someone signing so really anyone could understand the play. Throughout the process of the play as mentioned before they baked bread so after the play was over we got to meet some of the actors and eat hot, fresh, baked bread which was delicious. The show and actors were truly amazing and inspiring and it made me realize that such simple things, sight and hearing, which I take for granted others are not so fortunate. At the Nalaga'at Centre there is also a café with deaf waiters and a restaurant called Black Out where you eat in the dark and has blind waiters. As you can see it was a great evening and a great way to end The Israel Today Seminar.
Wednesday morning was spent having orientation for Kibbutz learning about the job opportunities, meals and more. The afternoon we packed and enjoyed our last day in Jerusalem before leaving for Negev Tiyul.