Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Days One and Two


I never got along well with Israeli internet when I lived here, so it should come as a surprise to no one (least of all to me) that I have had nothing but trouble with WiFi for the past three days.

I apologize to anyone who felt truly bereft by my silence. Rest assured, I have been plotting blog posts in my head (I even wrote an entire one only to have it disappear before my very eyes!) and now will be that moment when I spill all of it out because the past three days have been so unbelievably intense and it needs to be shared.

I truly don't know how to process all that I've seen and heard and witnessed since Saturday night when this program began. I really don't. Today we spent the day in the West Bank and that gets its own post. Anyway, it's 10pm, we got back to Tel Aviv about an hour ago, and I have planted myself at a coffee shop near the Mediterranean with a glass of wine, an iPad, and the program's itinerary to actually remember what we've done the past three days. 

Here's the scoop:

Saturday Night 
Dinner with former MK (Member of Knesset) Naomi Chazan 

Sunday - Tel Aviv 
Dror Marag, Secretary General of Meretz 
Zehava Gal-On, Knesset Chairwoman of Meretz 
Aluf Benn, Editor-in-Chief of Ha'aretz
Gadi Baltiansky, Director-General of the Geneva Initiative 
Michal Rozin, MK-Meretz 
Tamar Zandberg, MK-Meretz 
Akiva Eldar, writer and columnist 
Dr. Gershon Baskin, Founder of Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) ... also, it's worth noting that he was a key negotiator in the Gilad Shalit deal 
Beyond Words - a theater performance featuring Arab and Israeli women together  
Hang-time with Elana Resnick (who took me to an outstanding gluten-free market so that I could enjoy hummus with pita like a regular human being) 

Monday - Jerusalem 
Tour of East Jerusalem with Daniel Seidemann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem 
(Then we spent the day at Knesset, in suits) 
Issawi Frej,MK-Meretz and the only Palestinian Israeli in an Israeli party in Knesset (also, worth noting, a CPA) 
Mikhael Manekin, Director of Policy and Communications for Molad (a progressive think tank) 
Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of Knesset 
Dov Khenin, MK-Chadash 
Isaac Herzog, MK-Labor 
Erel Margalit, MK-Labor and founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners 
Moshe Ya'alon, Minister of Defense (seriously) 
Avi Dichter, former head of the Shin Bet 


Why am I sharing all this with you? Why does this matter? 

Well, I think of each of these meetings as a story, and I'm a storyteller. My whole life is devoted to telling the stories of the Jewish people. My career will, God willing, be devoted to listening to people's stories.

Israel's narrative is one story that we tell to one another over and over. It's a story that we add to and embellish and question and sometimes really, truly have a hard time telling. But it belongs to us, and as I alluded to in an earlier post I am here to add another layer to that unfolding story. 

Each of these meetings was significant, informative, at times hard to listen to, and overall thought-provoking. Everyone had something to say about the tension in the Middle East, the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, and their dreams and fears for the future. It was a multilayered story of hope, disappointment, mistrust, encouragement, questions and commitments. Really, it was amazing.

You who are reading this right now should absolutely look up Terrestrial Jerusalem. You should become acquainted with Erel Margalit and his work with innovation and entrepreneurship. And you should most definitely see "The Gatekeepers," a provocative film that I myself haven't even seen, but in which Avi Dichter plays a role. (So yes, Josh. Let's try to find it on Netflix)

All that we heard Sunday and Monday challenged me, moved me, and got me to think a little bit differently about the domestic fragmentation of Israel and its relationship to Palestine. And it certainly launched me into our visit to the West Bank, which I will certainly never forget. 

Thanks for reading. A jazz version of "Do You Think I'm Sexy" is playing in this little coffee shop right now and I feel like that's something you should know. 

With love,

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ms. Cohen:
    Your posts are great at setting the scene and describing your feelings, but they are short on the substance of your meetings. I hope that you will tell us more in the future about what at least some of the speakers told you and how the group interacted with them. Thanks.