By spotogspindel | January 14, 2013
Now that my week in Israel has come to an end, I will share with you the reason that I went there in the first place. My best friend, Anne, is here for 3 months, and I´ve been visiting her. She´s working as a voluntary peace-observer with the World Council of Churches, an ecumenical organization called EAPPI (Norwegian organizer is Kirkens Nødhjelp). People from all over the world participate in this, 35 new people every three months. This week was their mid-term orientation week, and they were allowed to receive guests who could also participate in this week´s events.
Anne on Jerusalem´s roof
Anne has a great blog, if you read Norwegian, you should read about her experiences. She shares her everyday life experiences and presents some of her neighbors and friends, as well as bigger political issues.
Her colleagues are from Australia to Uruguay, ages 24-64, priests, students, Christians and atheists, all wanting to do their share in making life better for those who are discriminated upon in the occupied areas/Palestine. I really wish there had been time for me to come with Anne to Yanoun, to see their everyday life there, both the observers, and also the village-people. I know that my impression of this country, is that of a tourist visiting Israel, whereas Anne and her colleagues, get to see much more of the complexity of the issues they deal with here.
Anyway. EAPPI is a neutral, non-activist organization, and this week we met jews from different organizations, and with different views, all sharing facts and feelings with us, so that we would get to know more about the Jewish side of the story. Let me tell you a bit about them.
Bob Lang invited us into his home in Efrat, a settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron. As a modern, orthodox Jew he doesn´t see it as a settlement, but as a part of Israel, the promised land. Bob is from the USA, a former politician and adviser to Netanyahu, he´s eloquent and persuasive in his views. He is very pro-peace, and in his opinion, the best solution is one state, where all citizens have equal rights and obligations. He insists that this already is the case for all those living in Israel now (Jews, Christians and Arab-Israelis), although it clearly isn´t. Only Jews are allowed into the army.
You can read a much more detailed post about our meeting with Bob HERE (in Norwegian)
Michael is a left-winged city-planner turned professor turned International Red Cross-worker. He held such an interesting lecture about the Analysis of Israeli society. There are so many different groups among the Jews, both religious, political, in addition to all the different national cultures they´ve brought with them from their former countries. It´s truly a melting-pot mosaic! (This lecture was so good, I wanted to go back to school and become a student again!)
Ruth Hiller of New Profile
The Demilitarization of Israeli Society was the name of this very interesting lecture. The military is the one thing that brings Israelis together. The different religious sections have their own schools, so it´s not until the military-service they get to do something common to bring them together. Both girls and both are drafted and serve for 2 and 3 years.
Ruth says this is a myth, that all Israelis go into the army. 20% arab-israelis, 8% ultra-orthodox and 17% other jews don´t do military service. Another 25% don´t finish it, most of those stop in the first year. Still there is a surplus of soldiers, and after basic training they are put to work in offices, as school-teachers, at check-points, and only so many become combat-soldiers. Yet it used to be almost impossible to get out of the army if you were a pacifist. New Profile has helped many young boys and girls stay out of prison for not wanting to be a soldier. You can read more about New Profile HERE.
An orthodox Jew in the street
Friday from Sunset till Saturday sunset is Shabbat. The day of resting for all Jews. And I´ve had the most extraordinary Friday evening! Being invited along to the synagogue for the Shabbat. A surprisingly in-formal service with a lot of beautiful songs. Since everything was in hebrew, I can´t tell you all that was said, but I did get to read along in a booklet, where some of the texts were translated into English.
Afterwards, we were invited with a Swedish-Israeli family home for the Shabbat dinner. What a wonderful family! Opening their home, and letting strangers take part in their Shabbat celebration, answering all our questions. Explaining as we went along the religious ceremony, with the wine and breaking of bread, explaining the rules of kosher food, and the rules of the Shabbat: the day of resting. Resting as in not laboring, and resting as in not creating anything new. There were some intricate thoughts that not automatically seems logical, like why the light is on a timer, and not turned on and off manually, which seems easier to me. But as we were sitting there, talking, laughing, being both serious and curious and even silly, I totally can see the positive in this un-disturbed family-time. No phones, no one knocking on the door, no TV, no music, no computers… just spending time together talking.
All in all, it was a really lovely evening, and I am so grateful for this insight into Judaism! And again, you can read more about it HERE in Anne´s blog.
The old city of Jerusalem, seen from a rooftop
I´ve been a tourist for a week now, and as a tourist, Israel is easy to like. It´s easy to fall for the colorful conglomerate this country is, filled with religious sites and historical wonders.
Most importantly, the people are friendly, intelligent, love their country and eager to talk with you, both Jews, Christians and Muslims, both Israelis and Palestinians.
But all the people I spoke with, also expressed a concern, even a pessimism about the future. Most of them were in one way or the other involved in peace-work, through a variety of organization, most of them were more to the left politically, but they were not too optimistic about the coming election (in 2 weeks). The general political trend in the population is moving evermore to the right. And the further right the political views go, the smaller the chance of a lasting peace and equality seems for the citizens in the area.
I can only hope that as more people gain more knowledge about both sides of the conflict, a solution that is good for all parties will force it´s way to the surface. Prosperity for Israel needn´t be on the behalf of Palestine. Prosperity for both countries, for all their citizens will be a win-win-sitation. Equality and fairness triggers peace, not bombs.
Janne and Anne in a sanctuary of a church in Jerusalem.
I am SO proud of Anne, for her efforts in this conflict. She is sacrificing 3 months away from her family. She is such a wonderful, wise and warm woman, and such a brave and diplomatic peace-observer. She and her colleagues are doing a very valuable job with the protective presence.