Friday, June 7, 2013

Israel Day 7: Friday Morning, Sea of Galilee

Sorry to have kept you, but I was busy enjoying myself in the company of the delightful people with whom I am traveling.  I deem them thusly for two reasons--first, because they are.  Irrespective of our widely disparate political ideologies, this is a literate, conversational and incredibly interesting group of traveling companions. Their company is wholly acceptable. Secondly, I write this because several of them have become readers of the blog, at least for period of this trip.

Additionally, our tour guide (Avi), previously identified in this blog as a "50 year old" from "Manhattan" wishes for the record to be corrected to indicate that he is "48" and from "Brooklyn".

Our day started out yesterday with a visit to Yemin Orde, something known here as a "youth village".  The best I can describe it is to compare it to my understanding of what "Boys Town" does or did in the past.  A place for at risk youth, Yemin Orde provides a comforting, supportive, structures and loving place for kids who might otherwise wind up on the margins of this society.  From what I could tell, the students were dominated by two groups--Ethiopian immigrants and Russian Immigrants.  To understand modern Israel, one has to understand the large influx of two groups which have added immeasurably to the polyglot society here.

The first are the Ethiopian Jews.  I gotta tell you, the sight of a young black man walking around in a yarmelke makes one take a second look the first time one sees it.  Google "Ethiopian Jews", and "Operation Moses" to read about the Herculean efforts undertaken in the 1980's to bring this group of Jews to Israel.  At some point in history, Judaism came to a group of Ethiopians.  There are several theories as to how, but the point is they were largely cut off from the rest of Jewry until the late 18th century, and remained largely isolated from the rest until the 80's.  Considered to be not fully Ethiopian by the Ethiopians, most of the people who grew up Jewish in Ethiopia believed that they were the last remaining Jews in the world.  When Operation Moses (and other events) brought them to Israel, many of the young kids were shocked to see all these white Jews.  To hear them tell it is a very funny story.

The second group of immigrants were Jews from the former Soviet Union, a million of whom emigrated after the fall of the Wall, increasing Israel's population by 20%.  Think about what a 20% increase in people would mean in the US.

Yemin Orde's mission is to help at risk youth of all Israel, but particularly from among these populations.  I found the visit to be incredibly uplifting--good people trying to make a difference in the lives of kids in a place where they may not naturally feel they fit in very well.

After Yemin Orde, we headed North--about as far north as one can go in this country, where we visited an Army outpost near where Israel, Syria and Lebanon all come together.  The area is, as you can imagine, a place where there has been much mischief in the past.  UN Forces "occupy" a buffer between the Israelis and their neighbors--who appear to be either peaceful Lebanese and Syrians or Hizzbolah terrorists.   In many cases the distinctions are fuzzy.  We were briefed by an IDF Major, a man of about 35 or so who struck me as a hardened combat veteran.  Articulate and well-informed, he gave us a pretty straightforward assessment of the situation, a who's who in the zoo so to speak. 

We then headed back south to the area of the Sea of Galilee, to our hotel--the lobby of which is providing me the wifi I currently exploit to write this post.  We dined at a nice restaurant right on the water last night, and because we did not have a speaker, the conversation amongst group members was very lively, fueled by what was commonly believed to be tasty Israeli wine.  The group dynamic continued back at our hotel, where the friendly barkeep was solicitous to the group's needs. 

We are nearing the end of the trip, and I'm getting the feeling I always get when I rent a place at the Outer Banks...damn, it's nearly over.  The weather has been sublime, the speakers uniformly interesting, the company first-rate, and the logistics superbly executed.  A lot has been packed in thus far, and I have accreted a great deal of information around an already fairly solid core of understanding. 

I must to the room to pack up for today's movement.  We'll be walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.

1 comment:

Mudge said...

"Think about what a 20% increase in people would mean in the US. "

Could you issue that challenge to Marco Rubio?

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