June 28, 2013 admin

Vignettes from Israel

Four days in Israel, where it’s wonderful to be: here are some of the matters which have engaged, excited, troubled, and inspired me;
–          Met colleagues who created Kasuvot or ‘Listening’, a pastoral service for Israel’s hospitals. How can they develop it, gain recognition for chaplaincy as a true profession? Later I learn about multi-faith chaplaincy at Haifa’s Ramban Hospital, Jewish, Muslim, Druze.
–          At the Israel Trauma Centre with Prof. Danny Brom, thinking about the programme ‘Peace of Mind’ (when soldiers come, like the unit we hosted, for hours of discussion and debrief, while cared for by Jewish communities abroad). 25 units are waiting for invitations: how can regular funding be found? When will we host our next group? I watch the film about the unit who was with us: snow, Claire welcoming,  Mitzpah trotting by, one of the soldiers explaining how much it meant for them. ‘One hadn’t talked about what it felt like…’ Our community all learnt too, and loved it.
–          At Yad Vashem, searching for anything on the Jewish Hospital in Poznan. My great-aunt’s husband was a doctor there until December 1939. Then Ostrow-Lubelski, then perhaps Treblinka. In the huge data-base, an entry by a relative who grew up with my mother’s mother. I walk out through the gateway designed by Roman Halter. Later, conversation with relatives puzzling for hours over letters. A postcard sent to Kanitz in 1893 with congratulations on the birth of a second daughter, – that was my grandmother Ella. 
–          At the Conservative Yeshivah, with rabbis Joel and Shaya, and the Kelim group from London (which includes Mossy): three impassioned evening debates ‘Why Believe?’ ‘Why Observe? ‘Why Learn?’ High energy: we want a Judaism with the spiritual discipline which develops the quality of our consciousness, guides our actions, and yet argues the real moral issues of the universal world. Yirat Shamayim withTikkun Olam – Awe of Heaven and social justice. Everything I care about debated with a passion! There’s a great future for Masorti Judaism. (How do we work with the Yeshivah more; bring its excitement to London, take more of us to its heart in Jerusalem? We shall!)
–          In the Knesset, listening with Rabbinical Assembly colleagues to MK Avraham Mitznah. He comes across well: Iran, Syria, Jordan, (Israel helps with the refugees, quietly, below the radar). Then a difficult meeting MK Meir Shitreet to petition him in the name of UK, Israeli and US Rabbis for Human Rights (of all denominations) to work on the deeply troubling bill about the Negev  Bedouin. Let ancestral lands be kept, villages be recognised…Painful, worrying.
–          In the Jerusalem Botanical gardens: ‘The porcupines come out at night. They display their quills like a peacock. Both humans and animals generally retreat’. European, Australian, Mediterranean, herb and bonsai gardens. The motto is ‘Plants grow people’. I know it’s true. Ecology goes deeper than religious divides: there’ll be a walkway of the faiths; ‘The plants in the sacred texts are basically the same – we all depend on wheat, olives, dates…’ We want everyone to come here, religious, not religious, jews, Muslims, Christians, children, elderly…‘Will you bring people here from London?’ Definitely! ‘A three-day botanical trek in Israel’s hills?’ Tomorrow if I could! 
–          I meet a friend who’d just done her Masters in not-for-profit management. ‘There’s a revolution in  caring for the elderly; how to make homes becomes communities. In the US whole towns are studying to be elderly friendly.’ Send me literature please!
–          Long conversations with a family. Next month it’ll be the fifth wedding in Israel I’ll be privileged to help conduct. Ketubah. Music. Feelings. (One time the photographer said ‘Do that again for the camera.’ He’d miss the groom giving the ring. ‘No way!’ and, rarely for me, I gave the man a lecture.)
–          ‘Yonatan!’ – I turn round, ‘Shmuel!’ (I taught him English, he taught me Judaism, thirty years ago). ‘What are you working at?’ ‘Where food and Jewish culture meet’: he writes, cooks, researches: Did you know that Rabbi Moses Isserles (Krakow, C16) says that what’s called Lokchen here was known as Varmicelli by our ancestors? He does a night time tour through Jerusalem’s challah bakeries, testing the flour, tasting the dough). Yes, he can lecture in English; eating is international – very Jewish too. Heard of Gefiltefest? No! Come to London? Sure!

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