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Last Build Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2006 05:17:58 GMT

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Shopping: Chill editionbelle & sebastian

Thu, 07 Sep 2006 05:17:58 GMT

A super chill and relaxed day! And apologies for my recent horrible apostrophe habits. I should proofread better if I'm going to write publicly after such exhausting days.SummaryFirst class started: 8:30 AMLeft last class: 4:00 PMTotal classes shopped: 7Approx hours in class: 5.5DetailsAB hour (8:30-9:50 AM)McGarvey's Burden of Disease deserves its excellent reputation. McGarvey speaks clearly and to the point, and while his class demands a lot of its students, it does so in a managable way. Numerous guest speakers bring their expertise to this interdisciplinary study of global health, but I decided there were others more eager than I am to take the course capped at 70 students, and that it's really early for my schedule. So I gave up my preregistered spot and moved on. Even so, I stayed for the duration of the first day lecture and skipped Imagining Other, Constructing Self — since I've already found literature classes I'm super excited about, I decided not to rush to explore ones I was ambivalent about to begin with.Out: BC 107, CO 81-5C hour (10-10:50 AM)Hooray for North American Environmental History! Jacoby was visibly nervous and on edge today (and his technology wasn't working, which doesn't help), but even so his skill as a lecturer showed. While studying environmental history, this course will revisit the division between humanity and nature and consider how different conceptions of that boundary affect historical narrative. Jacoby offered the Main Green as an example, asking how we might read it "as a text." The straight-forward answer is to think about how the Green came to be and how each of its species came together. But we're also challenged to ask: is the green a piece of nature preserved in campus? or itself human-made? And so on. eo and I sat with each other again, and agreed we're likely to take it together...Likely: HI 179Skipped: EL20-2D hour (11-11:50 AM)No class! (I stopped at American Popular Culture for a moment but could tell that the prof's style wasn't going to make the class worth it). Instead, I went to the Farmer's Market (hooray for having an on-campus farmer's market) and bought fresh delicious local produce for lunch and then did Arabic homework.E hour (11:00-11:50 AM)Third year Arabic provided even more evidence that my Arabic has deteriorated — my vocab was far behind even in this class. And Suleimani will be a fantastic teacher: despite being maghrebi [Moroccans are notorious for their unusual version of Arabic], he has precise and clear formal Arabic, is a pleasure to listen to, and engaged as an instructor. He never lapsed into English, and despite the classes large size, ensured that everyone had ample time to speak. And he has gorgeous script, drawing out the sin's and marking each dot individually. Despite yesterday's leanings to 4th year, I left prepared to take this class all year and enjoy it. I also started to flirt with the idea of taking 2 Arabic classes to maximize my capacity for improvement this year.I didn't make it to The 1001 Nights, which impressed Murray so much that he's taking it. It'll be a good class, but if I study with Colla this semester, I want to push myself to do so in Arabic (see below). Besides, Colla is available to me to discuss these texts anyway (see below). I also missed Sacred Stories, which I was mostly shopping as a chance to see Harvey in action once more, since she remains one of my favorite profs at Brown. I might stop by Friday for kicks (and then I could be surprised into taking the course), but I don't expect to end up there.In the cart: AB 50Still on the shelf: CO 142, RS 9F hour (1-1:50 PM)Nothing again! A trip to the bookstore and more Arabic homework! And a discovery that the lab component of MU30 was cancelled, making it into a perfect last course -- 4th if my primary 3 are high-workload, or possibly even a 5th class...G hour (2-2:50 PM)I returned to Fourth Year Arabic to give it one more chance, only to find that my Arabic continues to improve (I understand much more than I can express myself) and that my classmates are all[...]

Shopping: Wednesday-Friday-Monday

Wed, 06 Sep 2006 06:05:45 GMT

My MWF shopping schedule is calmer than I've ever had before — not only is this list short, but there are several on the list that I'm not actually planning to take but shopping for kicks. Hooray for easy(ier) days. But... if you're shopping something excellent that I've missed, let me know.

AB Hour (8:30-9:50 AM)

BC 107: Burden of Disease in Developing Countries (McGarvey)

B Hour (9-9:50 AM)

CO 81-5: Imagining Other, Constructing Self (Pougouris)

C Hour (10-10:50 AM)

EL 20-2: Word on the Street: The City in Postcolonial Literature (Gui)
HI 179: North American Environmental History

D Hour (11-11:50 AM)

AC 161-7: American Popular Culture

E Hour (12-12:50 PM)

AB 50: Third Year Arabic (Souleimani)
CO 142: The 1001 Nights (Colla)
RS 9: Sacred Stories (Harvey)

F Hour (1-1:50 PM)


G Hour (2-2:50 PM)

AB 70: Fourth Year Arabic (Christoff)
CO 71: Classical Arabic Prose (Colla)

N Hour (3-5:20 PM Wednesday)

ES 70: New England Environmental History (Stein)
HI 197-49: Memoirs & Memory: Individual Experience of Modern Jewish Life (Mandel)
HI 197-39: Identity Conflicts in Middle East History 1900-Present (Akarli)

O Hour (3-5:20 PM Friday)


M Hour (3-5:20 PM Monday)

HI 197-23: The Urban Crisis and American Political Culture, 1932-1984 (Self)

...and that's all, folks!

Fall 2006 Shopping -- Day 1 ReportMinguelay

Wed, 06 Sep 2006 02:48:24 GMT

Day one of shopping is complete! Summary First class started: 9:00 AM Last class ended: 9:00 PM Total classes shopped: 11 Hours spent in class: about 8.5 Details Shopping was strange today...while I usually rush frenetically, all morning I was happily content to sit in  just one class. Different? yes. Refreshing? absolutely. A sign of my age? Perhaps. Before heading out for the day I fixed my computer's inability to hibernate (probably because I really wanted to hibernate myself, but had to get out of bed). After a quick bowl of granola I headed out for... H hour (9-10:20 AM) MU 30: Sondheim And. Professors Josephson and Subotnick are hilarious, like an old happy-grumpy couple (think Mrs. Boettcher and Doc in Human Rights Club, Akiba folks). Joyfully cutting each other off, they introduced us to this study of Stephen Sondheim's work in the context of the earlier composers from whom he draws. We started off the day comparing the overture to Mozart's La Nozze di Figaro to the Company overture [For example: Both depend on cascading repetitive themes. However, Figaro dramatically distinguishes between reality and the fantasy on stage, whereas Company's opening starts right in, challenging that boundary.] We continued with Don Giovanni's famous Finch' han del vino aria from Don Giovanni against Bobby's opening reflections on love, also from Company. Class ended with an excert from Topsy Turvy about The Mikado to discuss the tension between art and entertainment in musical theater. Bottom line: This class will be awesome but very lightweight. It's too bad it's early in the morning — it's a perfect 4th/5th class for a tired afternoon slot. If not for the 2 hour listening lab on Weds, it would be a shoe-in, and I'll almost definitely take it anyway. Since class was so great I didn't sneak off to check out any others, so I missed AIDS in International Perspective (which I probably couldn't have gotten into anyway), Circumpolar Ethnography, and Social Entrepeneurship (which is being taught by a notoriously disorganized prof this semester anyway, so it's not a big loss). Murray reports that Emotion, Cognition, Education will also be excellent, so I'll probably check it out Thursday before committing here. Very likely: MU 30 Revisit: AN 100, ED 126 Out: AN 102, EN 193-10 I hour (10:30-11:50 AM) I sat next to eo in Harlem Renaissance, and we agreed that Denniston's quiet intensity is wonderful. However, Harlem Renaissance is probably going to be an awkward class. She wants it to be more discussion than lecture, but I don't think she'll be able to pull it off with a class of 60+ students, and I suspect that discussions will be tentative and basic. If I weren't coming directly from another relatively easy/simple class the previous hour, this could be the class to balance the schedule, but I'm more excited about Sondheim than about Harlem Renaissance. To quote Vonnegut, so it goes. If I want to study with Denniston, her afternoon African American Women Novelists, limited to 20 participants, will be a better space for reading such texts in depth. Class ended early, but I decided to welcome Colla back to this country rather than rushing over to Barcelona through Literature and Art. There's always Thursday. Unlikely: EL 171 Revisit: SP 150-2 CONVOCATION Highlights: As the procession moved past me, President Simmons turned and asked, "You're still not wearing any shoes, are you?" as she continued with a laugh. JCN dropped the G-bomb during her invocation, which I've never heard her use before in public speech. Once again, Father Bodah and I were the only one's in our area who knew the words to Alma Mater (which was painfully slow, even when Dean Bergeron sang it a second time, "faster." The Music faculty and majors looked visibly uncomfortable.) J hour (1-2:20 PM) Here I picked up into traditional Benj-shopping mode after the morning's slow start. First stop was The Roots of Radical Islam, a 100-person class in a 30-person room for which 200 people showed up. Pro[...]

Fall 2006 Shopping List, Tuesday/Thursday EditionUncle John's Band (The Grateful Dead)

Tue, 05 Sep 2006 02:13:49 GMT

I'm excited for this last semester! Here's the shopping list for tomorrow. Feel free to comment, especially with your experiences with these courses/profs.
And... let the learning continue!
 ~ Benj

H hour (9-10:20 AM)

AN 102: AIDS in International Perspective (Symonds)
AN 100: Circumpolar Ethnography (Anderson)
ED 126: Emotion, Cognition, Education (Demick)
*EN 193-10: Social Entrepeneurship (Bull)
*MU 30: Sondheim And (Subotnick)

I hour (10:30-11:50 AM)

EL 171: Harlem Renaissance (Denniston)
SP 150-2: Images of the City: Barcelona through Literature & Art (Bou)

Lunch hour (12-12:50 PM)

AB 50: Third Year Arabic (Soulaimani)

J hour (1-2:20 PM)

AC 161: British and American Nature Poetry (Armand)
*CG 105: Music and Mind (Heller)
*CO 142: The South: Literature of the US South & South America (Merrim)
EL 171: Faukner (Weinstein)
EL 191: Dreamworlds: Utopias from Plato to the Present (Feerick)
*PS 143: Roots of Political Islam (Luong)

K hour (2:30-3:50 PM)

AB 70: Fourth Year Arabic (Christoff)
CO 272: Theory & Practice of Literary Translation (Haynes)
CS 17: Integrated Introduction to Comp Sci in Scheme and ML (Klein)
EL 171: African American Women Novelists (Denniston)
RS 88-32: Islam & Modernity (Gheissari)

P hour (4-6:20 PM Tues)

ED 164: Public Schools and Politics (Starr)
HI 197-75: Colonialism, Culture & Conflict in Modern Ireland (Meloy)

Q hour (4-6:30 PM Thurs)

ED 101: The Craft of Teaching (Johnson)
RS 188-40: Christianizing the Roman Empire (Frankfurter)
US 187: Green Cities: Parks and Designed Landscapes in Urban America (Malone)

the good news and the less good news

Mon, 27 Feb 2006 00:04:11 GMT

Brown University decided to divest from companies whose business supports genocide in Sudan over the weekend, which is excellent. The full report is available on the Brown homepage and a longer news bulletin.

Unfortunately, in their eagerness to share the good news, the University posted this map on the website: (image) For those who need a pointer, Kenya appears twice, once in its own place and once as Ethiopia in disguise (As of 3/26 7PM EST, the map is still visible here). Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about our knowledge and concern for Africa, eh? Alternatively, maybe this is subtlely articulating an official postmodern ideology that nationalism is outdated and nation-states are pretty amorpheous, anyway. Or maybe Kenya conquered Ethiopia and I just haven't read the news today.

In any case, the university VP for Communications emailed me back:


Thanks for bringing this to our attention.  Ken will make the fix.

And now the website shows this map:(image)

But you can still tell that they made a correction! More importantly, Brown has divested, one move among many more which are needed, which I hope will make a change there.

goal #14532: do fewer things at oncemuppets

Wed, 18 Jan 2006 15:15:20 GMT

Upcoming dates, part one:

Feb 17-19, 2006
  • Naomi & Miron's wedding.
  • Jews in the Woods (Not gonna win this time)
  • Flogging Molly in Boston!
  • Last weekend before... but those are hard to predict and don't always happen on schedule.
Aug 18-20, 2006
  • Megan & Charley's wedding.
  • Pa Hans' (my grandfather) 90th birthday celebration.
  • Philly Folk Fest (another one which isn't gonna win this year)

so much for that goal.

Speaking of misplaced priorities:

Wed, 07 Dec 2005 01:03:36 GMT

David H. Brooks, CEO of DHB (who make bullet-proof vests for the US army), spends $10 million to bring celebrities to his daughter's bat mitzvah party:

On the day the President told the American people to prepare for the long haul in Iraq, here’s a story that seems to perfectly sum up our priorities as a nation. They’re calling it Mitzvahpalooza. It may go down in history as the world’s most obscene birthday party (eat your heart out Dennis Kozlowski). David H. Brooks, CEO of bulletproof vest maker DHB Industries, spared no expense for his 13-year old daughter’s entry into adulthood. The girl and 300 of her closest BFFs were entertained recently in New York’s Rainbow Room by Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Kenny G, Aerosmith and, believe it or not, 50 Cent (I guess 500 large can make you forget all about street cred). It was hosted by Tom Petty. The reported cost: $10 million. See the pics here.

First off, what 13-year old is a fan of Don Henley, Fleetwood Mac and, for God’s sake, Kenny G? Who was this party really for? Second, and more importantly, where does a guy get $10 million to blow on a Bat Mitzvah? Well, it appears, from you, the American taxpayer. According to United for a Fair Economy, Brooks and Co. have made a tidy profit outfitting our nation’s fighting men and women in body armor that allegedly couldn’t take a hit from a 9mm round:

I think it's high time that the US Jewish Community take a clear and outspoken position against such gross spending.

radio silence

Fri, 21 Oct 2005 06:53:48 GMT

Hello all, It's been a long, long time since I've written, and I've heard from some folks asking why. The main reason is that school is incredibly overwhelming and I don't have much time. In addition, I'm most interested in continuing to write to you about Israel-Palestine, but from this side of the ocean I'm confined to a more analytical role -- a role very different from the reacting I was doing over the summer. A solution to this quandary has presented itself in the form of my comp lit. class on Palestinian Literature, providing me with lots of new material to respond to. With that in mind, I plan to post some of my writing for that course here. Please let me know what you think -- does this work? Would you rather read other material, or none at all? ~b. The following essay is in response to Ghassan Kanafani's Returning to Haifa, written in Arabic in 1969. I read the translation by Barbara Harlow and Karen E. Riley in Palestine's Children (Colorado: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2000), their collection of short fiction by Kanafani. Most of the footnotes are added here, and weren't part of the original essay. 10/11/2005 CO181.3 Response #2 (week 5) The climax of Ghassan Kanafani’s Returning to Haifa emerges as Dov, born Khaldun, returns to his Israeli adoptive mother’s home in Haifa where his Palestinian biological parents are waiting, having returned to their former home in Haifa for the first time in twenty years when they were forced to leave.[1] During the ensuing scene, many arguments attacking and defending both Palestinian and Israeli positions are hashed and rehashed, but those arguments are not what captured my interest. The moment Dov is presented with his “original parents” (p. 179), he denies their connection to him, which seems reasonable as a first reaction from a person in his position. The readers understand his skepticism as he asks “Don’t tell me they want to take me back?” And yet, the conversation about who “owns” him happens immediately anyway. Using an abandoned child as the symbol for an abandoned country adds an unusual twist to the debate about the legitimacy of Israel’s possession of its country, however, since unlike land, which can only be anthropomorphized, a child actually has his own views and preferences which ought to be considered when deciding his fate. The translator presents two interpretations of Dov/Khaldun’s symbolism and message: Mansur sees Dov as a symbol of Israel today: seized by force and then developed (likely by means of erasure and by developing Israeli national narrative, as discussed in earlier weeks’ readings) so that new “facts on the ground” emerge and Israel’s character seems certain (p. 27). The conversation must hover closely to the partitioned/pro-Israel side of the spectrum, to connect this to our discussion of the map assignment.[2] In contrast, Radwa Ashur sees the journey and visit as representing the Palestinian people coming to terms with their abandonment of Palestine and failure to act for twenty years (p. 21). Kanafani himself could have doubtless had room for both of these interpretations, which dovetail even as they conflict. Said’s character, however, is much less clear. Like Dov, I am left asking “What do you want, sir?” (p. 180). Did you expect to find Khaldun alive, eager to meet you again, and ready to go home with you? Early that same evening Said “felt he’d never be able to reach his goal. They were on a collision course here, it couldn’t be denied.” What was his goal? Having Miriam, who readily acknowledged how she came by their house and possessions, still largely laid out as they had been 20 years earlier, go further and relinquish all of it to them with no reservations? Erasing the “Dov” from Khaldun and having a purely Palestinian child as they would have had they never left Haifa in the first plac[...]

Shopping: Day 2

Thu, 08 Sep 2005 01:23:32 GMT

My shopping journal continues. By some inexplicable (miracle?), there weren't nearly as many classes I was interested in shopping today. Not really sure why, but I won't complain...classes on the list: 5classes visited: 4Despite crashing unusually early last night, I didn't wake up early. Rather than rushing off to class I ate a good breakfast and prepared for today's shopping; as a result I missed HI 183: American Urban History since 1870. I've heard from friends that Professor Chudakoff knows the material well and presents it clearly but isn't an unbelievable lecturer. If I wake up for B hour on Friday I'll try to give him a chance, but I won't rush to fit him in. not likely.AN 121: Nations in StatesAfter attending the first session of this course, I have a good sense of the historical background which led to the presence of indigenous or "first" nations (or "4th-world nations") in many modern states. I've also learned some of the history which leads to tensions and conflicts today. Unfortunately, Professor Anderson didn't share why he thought this was valuable to study, what questions or themes we'd think about when considering these phenomena, or what we could gain from taking the class. He also failed to keep me awake and focussed, even though this was my first class after a full night of sleep. decision: not gonna' happen.HI 164: Clash of Empires in Latin America"Like so many good stories, this story begins in Pittsburgh. Well, not quite in Pittsburgh, but what was to become Pittsburgh..." -- Professor CopeOn a whim I followed some friends into this class on Lating American history with Professor Cope (as a result missing ED 102: History of American Education). I enjoyed this class very much. In contrast to HI 162, Professor Cope's other class on Latin America which looks at internal forces and themes in LA, this course examines LA from an external perspective: How do developments in the Americas relate to, cause or result from events in Europe? What economic, social, cultural and ideological bonds emerge in the formation of an Atlantic world? How do these themes relate to the present-day emergence of a global world? Yet while Cope was very good, he didn't wow me. It may simply be my sense of impending departure from Brown, but I'd like to raise my standards for non-required course selection to the "wow" category. decision: I don't know, but leaning against it.AB 50: Advanced ArabicThe arabic classes here are like my family: familiar faces with whom I've been learning in more of less the same group since first-year. In that way, they're a small yet comfortable reminder of high school (yes, an odd sentiment). Part of me doesn't want to take this class: "it's just a language, you can do that any time" I hear myself saying. Or "why not just speak in Arabic with friends -- does it really deserve it's own class slot? Is it worth not taking another class when your choices are starting to run out?" I think the answer is yes, it does. My Arabic is only OK, not great, but it's on the upswing after my return from Jerusalem. This is my chance to keep it up and reinforce it, helping it move from a neat but mostly useless state to being truly useful. And Mirena is an amazing teacher. Perhaps the best language teacher I've ever had. I wish I could realistically take this as a fifth class, but that's just not going to happen: too much homework, plus everything else I do. decision: I really should.CO 181.3: The Present Absent in Palestinian LiteratureTwo years ago I was one of the few admitted to the class who then dropped it; at the time I couldn't handle the workload (sometimes 300 pages a week) and didn't think I couProfessor Cope is a very enjoyable Professor. ld hold my own in class. In addition to being one of the most dynamic professors I've known at Brown and exemplifying my preferred approaches to classroo[...]

Shopping: Day 1

Wed, 07 Sep 2005 18:37:56 GMT

One of the great opportunities Brown offers is a shopping period when classes start. Having no core requirements for graduation and leaving the registration deadline two weeks into school, we're given a chance to visit and test many courses so that we may create our educations in an informed way. Even so, most Brown students shop minimally: many select their course load in advance, and those who do shop usually select three classes in advance and shop a few for their final slot. In contrast, in a typical semester I shop 20-40 courses, and this year will be no exception. Mostly to help me process my decisions and partly to document my process, I thought I'd keep a "shopping journal" until I've settled my course schedule for the semester. Of course, you're comments/advice about my choices or process are more than welcome.So, day 1: Tuesday, 9/2/2005.Classes on today's shopping list: 15Classes visited: 8(you can find descriptions for any of these courses at 133: Abnormal PsychologyProfessor Hayden is a soft-spoken children's psychotherapist and very funny and engaging. He's the concentration advisor for psych concentrators my year, and most of us haven't outgrown our Professor-crushes on him. A captivating story-teller, he warned us that students in this class tend to spend their time psychoanalyzing each other and themselves and urged us not to. This class will examine various psychopathologies from a variety of approaches and in several contexts. While readings will focus on the physiological and medical side of things, lectures will develop the experience and narrative of patients, so that we can learn to analyze (hypothetical) patients (ourselves?) with accuracy but leave them with respect and dignity. For the final exam we will fully analyze a given case, explaining possible diagnoses, our reasons for the diagnoses, and our recommended treatment path.I think Hayden's great but I could get much of the content of this class from the readings. Since it overlaps so much with PY 30 which I took with him sophomore year, I'll hold off this time around.decision: noED (Education) /SO 147: Sociology of Children and AdolescentsThis reading-intensive class will examine childhood from a sociological perspective. Is there an objective time which we may consider childhood, or is it a contruct which varies by context and culture?  How do children develop as individuals? In adult society? Are their child-societies in parallel to the adult ones? Professor Modell held my attention easily while running this 100+ person first-session as a discussion (of the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). The reading load is heavy. I know lots of people who'll be in the class, which is important. One of my best classes here, RS 72: Christianity in Late Antiquity, was so worthwhile in part because I took the class with friends and we did a good job of integrating the material into our out-of-class lives and thinking about it together. Another worthwhile option. More work than the psych but perhaps better payoff. Depends on the rest of my schedule. decision: maybe/shop againAC (American Civ) 161.5: Converts, Dropouts, ReturneesProfessor Davidman's topics are always fascinating. This one looks at the US as a marketplace of religious ideas and approaches, and especially at the question of one's own identity regarding affiliation, separation from, or return to a religious or cultural tradition. Cross-listed in both Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, this class could help me think about the make-up of the US Jewish community a lot, and would doubtless help me in some of my post-college work. (No, I don't know what that will be, but this will surely be helpful). I have mixed reactions to Prof. Davidman's style which have made other classes of hers a lower priority f[...]


Thu, 01 Sep 2005 05:22:33 GMT


As if by silent contract, the mosquitos woke me up just as the sky begins to brighten in anticipation of the sun's arrival. While black slowly fades to blue above me, I sat overlooking the hills below. It's beautiful, this rocky slope dotted with houses. Yet each moment reveals more that I worry about: Closest to me appear the collapsed ruins of homes where children used to play, now mangled heaps of concrete and steal. A few minutes later I can trace the future path of the Separation Wall which will surround and cut off this community. I finally, the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim shows its face on the horizon. Can there be hope?

Yes. Because today is our victory, our small shout of not giving up. Today and over the past two weeks we joined together across lines which aren't "supposed" to cooperate -- Jews, Muslims and Christians; Palestinians, Israelis & internationals, to make shelter and build peace. Today we dedicated the Hamdan's new home.

After our typically delicious breakfast of Arabiya's home-made labene, hummus and salad with pita and felafel (yes, for breakfast, and scrumptious) and an impromptu conversation about diversifying the US Jewish community (both ritually/religiously and politically), I descended the long hill to our building site, all the while watching our house at the bottom, this bulky white home which has materialized over two weeks. We have a few final jobs this morning: spreading gravel and sand to level the yard, scrubbing the interior floors, painting the bars across the windows and chipping apart the pit where we've been mixing mortar and concrete by hand daily for two weeks. This last one was the hardest by far: as we mixed dozens of batches of mortar the cinderblock walls thickened to nearly half a meter. Armed with only two hoes, we took turns chipping away at this seemingly impossible task. It felt symbolic of the wider challenge that we and the world all face now. With the challenge, however, comes hope: Just as we eventually broke apart this pit despite being totally underequipped, so can we break down the obstacles to peace, justice and safety which we all now face.

After returning to Beit Arabiya for lunch, I headed down the hill one last time. This time I remembered and visualized my very first walk down this hill two and a half weeks earlier, when the Hamdan's home was just a huge pile of rubble, steel slabs and rebar. Now it's a house, ready to be lived in. With these small steps, we can change the world.

Hafla Kbiira -- A big celebration! Volunteers joined by Israelis, sitting with local Palestinian leaders and community members too. At once a block party and retrospective, as nearly everyone who's worked on the house, even for just one day, shows up. The speeches are all short, excited and optimistic. I guess they sound a lot like this journal entry itself. Most importantly, one more family has a home and in shah allah, im yirtze hashem they may live there as long as they wish to. Six more children may grow up in dignity rather than homeless and angry. After neighborhood youth performed a number of dances, we finished by planting three olive trees beside the house. They're still much too small to bear fruit. Please, please let them grow through many harvests.

Back at Beit Arabiya spirits were high, as well they should be. In two short weeks (which felt very long at the time) we've transformed a world and changed a landscape.

Where's Benj been?

Mon, 22 Aug 2005 04:58:27 GMT

This space has been remarkably silent over the past three weeks since my return over the atlantic pond. These weeks have been exhausting and full -- so full in fact, that I feel more physically worn out than I can ever recall feeling ever before. (No, I'm not sick, and I'm pretty sure of that. Just worn into the ground, but thanks for the concern.) I thought I'd break the ice by running through what I've been up to and giving you an idea of what's in store to look forward to.As my most recent post suggests, we finished building and dedicated the Hamdan home. The dedication ceremony was powerful, as was the mere fact of seeing a house on the ground where two weeks earlier I'd been climbing on a pile of rubble. On the plane ride home I wrote two journal entries -- one about the dedication and one about the summer and my reflections more generally -- which I'm hoping will find their way here soon. It was important to me that I do some serious processing before rushing into the crazy schedule I've had since then, but with the non-stop rushing around, I haven't had a chance to revisit them and type them up.My mom picked me up at JFK and after brief stops in Providence and Newton we continued to Rindge, NH for the Havurah Institute. Lots to say about that too, and some thoughts from it will also find there way here soon, too. In the meantime, a highlight.On blessings and awareness.Last winter at the end of the north-east retreat, David R. sat me down and remarked about my committment to social justice, which he noticed permeating much of what I do and wanted to thank me for. Rather than being appreciative of his comment, I was embarrassed: as I reviewed my life, my choices, my priorities; classes, extra-curriculars, summer plans, I didn't see that committment he talked about at all. I say a lot of talking, and not a lot of doing. A lot of living through my friends work. And his comment started the process which resulted in my spending this summer as I did, and in some other changes I'm hoping to carry through the next few years. At the Havurah Institute, I reminded David of his comment and thanked him for the process he'd started in me, forcing me to rise to the expectation he set out for me. David pointed out that this is exactly how a blessing can function: calling attention to an aspect of our lives or the world around us, allowing us to reconsider it and change the way we relate to it. Thank you.I'm hoping to teach a course at next year's institute comparing prayer in Islam and Judaism as a case study of the religious legal systems in each religion. I have a few months to put the course together before the deadline :)NHC and my community there were an essential step in my transition home from Israel to the USA and helped me avert the usually-inevitable culture shock. Once home, however, I still had a lot to process and think about. So, in excellent form I escaped into the newest Harry Potter book, and continued to re-read Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. I fall into this fantasy rut about once a year, but it was particularly bad this year. Coming off such a challenging summer, one in which I was surrounded by pain, suffering and injustice, but where there are no easy or simple targets or guilty parties, it's refreshing to read books in which good and evil and clearly demarcated. No ambiguity here. No trying to figure out how everyone's best intentions end up hurting everyone really badly. (Meanwhile, my brother sat across the room watching House of Sand and Fog...)And then it was off to the wilds outside Atlanta Georgia, where I've spent the past week at a leadership conference for Hillel. Again, I have a lot to process and think about. It was an extremely rewarding conference, and gave me a chance to hang out with my s[...]

Almost there!jazz

Fri, 29 Jul 2005 13:40:20 GMT

Opening ceremony of Hamdan family home

Saturday July 30rd, 2005
Anata, Jerusalem

On Saturday July 30rd 2005, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions' summer work camp will close in a festive ceremony celebrating the conclusion of the rebuilding of the Hamdan family home, demolished in June last year.
The ceremony will include:
· Speeches by Israeli, Palestinian and international participants of the camp
· Opening ceremony
· Planting of trees

Background on work camp:
During the last two weeks, Israeli, Palestinian and international volunteers from around the world, have rebuilt the Hamdan family home after its demolition in June last year. The work camp was organized by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in protest of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories, the inability of Palestinians to obtain building permits which brings about the demolition of their homes.

Background on Hamdan Family:
Arafat and Fateh have five children and a sixth on the way. The last year has been a difficult one: the family is in serious debt and, without a house of their own, the entire family now lives together in one room in Arafat's parent's house. Before the demolition, the children had plenty of room to play and grow; but with seven people in one room, there is little space to sleep, let alone have a normal childhood. Homeless, unemployed, and still traumatized from the demolition, the family has become embittered and depressed.

For more information or to participate, contact:

Salim Shawamreh 0522946531

حفل تدشين بيت عائلة حمدان

يوم السبت الموافق 30 يوليو 2005 في تمام الساعة الخامسة والنصف مساءاً

تتشرف الحركة الاسرائيلية ضد هدم البيوت بدعوتكم لحضورحفل اختتام مخيم العمل الصيفي الثالث والذي تم خلاله اعادة بناء بيت عائلة السيد عرفات حمدان والذي هدم على يد قوات الاحتلال الاسرائيلية في يونيو\تموز من العام 2004.

يتخلل برنامج الحفل :

* كلمات لمشاركين في المخيم.
* مراسيم تدشين البيت.
* غرس مجموعة من اشجار الزيتون.

لمحة عن مخيم العمل الصيفي:
على مدار الاسبوعيين الماضيين قامت مجموعات من المتطوعين الفلسطينيين, الاسرائليين والاجانب من اوروبا والولايات المتحدة بالعمل كتفاً الى كتف على اعادة اعمار بيت عائلة حمدان الذي تم هدمه في يونيو\تموز 2004 . هذا وقد قامت الحركة الاسرائيليه ضد هدم البيوت بتنظيم هذا البرنامج ضد سياسة اسرائيل التعسفية والقمعية داخل الاراضي المحتله والقدس.

للاستفسار :
سليم شوامرة - المركز الفلسطيني للمشروع 0522946531

يسرنا حضوركم ومشاركتكم

and I don't have a hebrew copy on hand.


and check out this article about us. Yes, it's disappointing that despite numerous press releases and direct phone calls we have almost no press coverage.

Shabbat Shalom

Twists on

Mon, 25 Jul 2005 22:45:31 GMT

[prayer]Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the Universe. . .. . .Who gives the rooster knowledge to discern between day and night.On the brighter side: The muezzin begin the call to morning prayers just before sunrise. Sounds and voices from many mosques blend over the hillside.On the less bright side: jackhammers from the construction site across the valley start just a little bit later. The interrogation" facility is expanding onto another hill, although no one is quite clear what will go there.. . .Who made me free.. . .Who made me one of Israel.I've gotten used to the ritual of the checkpoint, the daily exodus from the West Bank into Jerusalem. It feels like a ritual in that we go through these motions, the soldiers and I, and its all a big game. We know the outcome from the beginning, but still they look at my passport, harass me, let me go. Usually I'm with a group of participants, and I'm the responsibile counselor (hah!). Today's exchange:"Who are you guys?""A bunch of tourists. We were looking around, seeing the sites a bit.""What, it's not boring in there? Don't you want to go someplace exciting?""Oh it's nice enough. I know a family, we joined them for lunch and tea. Talked a bit.":: look of disbelief ::All in all, not that bad. Not like last week when the soldiers, who happened to be Druze, tried to keep two of my participants (one from NYC and one from the UK) from crossing into Jerusalem. I hadn't anticipated standing in a small trailor by myself with three soldiers, shouting at them that they're being rediculous. They really were. (No, this isn't as stupid a behavior as it sounds. Really.) Finally they bend. Come on, we were just playing with you! Yeah. Big joke.For the most part I am free to cross where I shall. And that little beanie cap on my head helps we with that. There are others who should be, but aren't.. . .Who gives sight to the blind.My eyes burned for nearly an hour today after I sweated sunscreen into them this morning. I guess I was just too zealous about avoiding burns on my skin. Sitting at the side of the building site after flushing my eyes out with water, unable to open my eyes at all. . .It helps you appreciate what you have.. . .Who frees the imprisoned.Today, great news! Eyal calls me at lunchtime: "Benj, I'm free!" "Free, like forever? or just for another few weeks?" "Free as in FREE! I'm done! I'm out!" Even before his induction into the Israeli Army this past late February, Eyal wrote a letter explaining that he'd refuse to serve. Since then, he's served over 66 days in military prison over 3 different sentences for his decision. After his most recent release he was granted permission to visit with an army psycologist. At today's re-sentencing session, he was able to convince the officers that he'd never serve the entire time (and some other technicalities, etc.), and they decided to release him for good. He's now finished his army service and ready to go on with his life.e. . .Who has provided for my every need.Isn't it crazy? Here I am, halfway across the world, playing for the summer. OK, working really hard and not sleeping enough. But playing! Not worrying about making enough money or weather I can afford to rent an apartment here with friends. Many of the kids I play with daily will never leave Palestine in their lives because of cost and other people-created obstacles (which we can keep trying to reduce).. . .Who crowns Israel in Glory.May we all be able to work together to wipe some of the tarnish off the crown and live up to our potential.. . .Who gives strength to the weary.I could use some of that strength right now.[...]

beit arabiya

Mon, 25 Jul 2005 22:01:04 GMT

A cool, crisp night in Anata, if slightly humid.In fact, there are clouds, which is odd.And strangely, it's the first time I'm spending a night here, a whole week+ into our training camp.[[BTW, no internet here. I'm writing it now and will post later on]]Returning from our tour of Ramle, I sat on the sloping lawn with Ahmad, Salim, and his adorable 4-year-old son Anas. Anas is unbelievably cute, but for the longest time wasn't sure what to do with this strange hairy man who speaks Arabic like a bumpling fool. Last tuesday, though, we had to set up projection and sound equipment to show a film. Standing down in Beit Arabiya, I called to Anas, "come here, I need your help," then gave him two tiny sound cables and told him it was important that he carried them up to the main patio. He leapt at the opportunity, then rushed back for more, until finally he tried to heft the stereo, as big as he is, all by himself. From then on he opened up to me a bit.The fact is I feel sorry for him. Here he is, the youngest of seven wonderful children and starving for attention. But there's too much going on for him to get it, so he acts like a pain, albeit a very moderate one by my USA standards, and so gets yelled at. And more. So it's something that's difficult for me to keep in balance: while I think the policies of the Israeli government are inexcusable here, and I love being here as a visitor to this culture, I must remember that there are aspects of it I wouldn't be sad to see go. Foremost among these are the isolated place of women and corporal punishment. (Yet sometimes I wonder, am I a cultural chauvenist to say so? no.) The lack of concern with material waste (we go through SO MANY plastic cups) is another.Actually, the kids have been spectacular all around, and most seem to think I'm pretty neat. Also, most seem pretty neutral about my open Judaism, although there have been some interesting run-ins. Just tonight one of the eldest sons sat down by me and asked why Jewish prayers are so rediculous and long, and how we can possibly really tolk to God if we're holding those books and so closed up in ourselves. So began a long conversation which, in shah Allah, will continue into the future.Two days ago at the building site, I was sitting down for a tea break with one of the kids I'd been getting along with quite well when I took off my hat. He backed away suspiciously, looked at me askance, and said "you're wearing a kippah!" (Actually, he said jizjiz, the Arabic term. I can't tell yet whether or not it's derogatory.) Then next few minutes were very awkward and forced, and he proceded to suggest that I should get back to my home in Jerusalem or America or whereever but what was I doing there? (and implicitly, that it couldn't be a good thing). However, we got over it. By the time I returned to Beit Arabiya for dinner, he and his younger brother had invited me to his house for after-dinner visiting along with Joe and FMK who were along for the day. After dinner we headed over and were welcomed by the 3 sons and 3 daughters, who brought us to the salon and seated us, then sat silently and with good posture while we visited with their mother. Intermittently they'd get up and serve drinks or bisquits, then sit again. And when the 7th sister started crying, her 5-year-old sister picked her up and carried her from the room lest her mother be distracted. Really really incredible and so abnormal by USA standards. We had a really wonderful visit all around, including some hilarious moments: after my phone rang, I asked the mother, "How do I say 'to talk on the phone'?" I was looking for the verb (batsil) but didn't get my point across clearly, so she answered, "Hello[...]


Sun, 24 Jul 2005 08:48:27 GMT

On Wednesday I took the day off from ICAHD and went to the Sulha peace festival. Five years ago, Sulha started in the North as a huge celebration hosted by a family in the family's olive orchards. It has since grown considerably and now meets in public parks. While this year I don't think there were many more than 1000 participants, there were apparently nearly 5000 last year. I first heard about Sulha a couple years ago, and have heard a steady stream of mixed opinions since then. On the one hand, I was told, Sulha was an unbelievable display of Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians all committed to peace and committed to making it happen. From the other side, it was a bunch of feel-good hippies living in their own world oblivious to the realities of the world they live in. Given my particular interest in both the religious/cultural and political dimensions of life in Israel-Palestine, I was glad to finally have the chance to go checkit out for myself.Travelling to Sulha with the H-B family, a Canadian/US-ian/Israeli family who have in some ways adopted me here was a plus. Crowded into a car with 3 of the five siblings and parents reminded me of going on similar trips with my own family. After only one missed turn we arrived at the Baptist Village, the Eucalyptus forest where this year's three-day interfaith gathering was held. As I stepped from the car onto the dusty, hot parking lot, I took off my shoes -- I had a feeling I wouldn't be needing them. And I wasn't the only barefoot participant, either. After letting the omnipresent security check my backpack, I walked through the gate and into a long passageway made of really awesome stretchy white fabric bent around unfinished wood. Each wall was lined with photos from 12 cities, all taken by local Jewish and Arab Israeli youth in a visual autobiography project. Very cool.The first people I passed looked like your typical Philadelphia Folk Festival participants -- flowy cloths, tank tops, scarves for belts and hair -- I found that Jewish and non-Jewish participants could often be distinguished by dress, with the Jewish folks like these people I saw first and Palestinian participants more conservatively dressed. A lot of the Israelis my age who I'd talk to were as flightly as many of the PFF people I know, too: "What are you up to in your life these days?" "Oh you know, this and that. Here and there. You know..."From a hilltop in the center of the site I surveyed the festival grounds. Tents made of that same white fabric dotted the hillside -- a Peace Children Area, the House of Prayer, Women's Tent, Bereaved Parents' Circle/Families Forum tent, and so on. Down towards the creek was a big stage for the evening concerts, and just past it the entrance to the camping area for those sleeping out overnight. The entire site was labeled with colorful yet clear tri-lingual signs which would make my dad, a veteran sign-painter for the Clearwater Revival, proud.On my way back from the washroom I stopped by the tent for the Bereaved Parent's Circle/Families Forum, the only organization which had an official presence at Sulha, most likely (I guess) because it, too, strives to be apolitical. At the tent I met a variety of Jews and Palestinians who had lost family members in the conflict, but have realized that violence and revenge won't resurrect the dead and have opted instead to seek peace. After just a few minutes chatting, however, a more formal "listening circle" started. Unfortunately for me, I was sitting in a quiet, shady place with nowhere to rush to or anything to worry about for the first time in ages. After depriving myself of sleep for most of the week,[...]

reflections a couple days in

Mon, 18 Jul 2005 22:21:23 GMT

I don't really have time to be updating now, but I shall anyway because I don't want to be writing all of this at once.In short: This is amazing. This afternoon at our building site, I was sitting on the ROOF of the house we're building laying down cinderblocks and tying steel rods together to make beams. Below us, the exterior walls were already nearly reaching the ceiling, with clearly defined doors and windows. When we left the site yesterday, there was a flat foundation with 9 concrete columns sticking up. This building feels like a miracle. It is a miracle.[absolutely no time to shrink pics and post them properly. I should write a script to shrink them etc, but even less time for that. Expect to find pics on the ICAHD site as we post daily updates, and more pics from me at the end in two weeks.]I stand on the roof-to-be of this house, looking at the jumble of steel and concrete to the side. That used to be this house. I remember less than 10 days ago sitting with Seddi, a bright and bubbling 11-year-old, talking about how this used to be his house. I remember picking out pieces of tile, finding an old pair of shoes and seeing the furniture crushed inside the house from when the Hamdan family didn't have time to move out of their house before its demolition a year ago.And now I stand here.I come home each night bubbling, smiling, floating. Singing to myself the whole way back from center city where the transits leave me. Val: "I haven't seen you this happy since we got here. And certainly not about work." It's true. Here we are, facing the seeming impossibility of accomplishing anything and we're making a small step. Netzach and hod. Jewish tradition teaches these complementary values, to be metaphorically written on a note in either pocket, or as Mitch Chefitz says, held in each outstretched hand while trying to balance. On the one hand is eternity: I am the pinnicle of creation! everything that came before me, all of the processes of the world, everything has been leading to this very moment, to my existence. I am the most important thing ever. I am the last step in many longer generations streching back through time to the very beginning. The world was created specifically for me. On the other side, nothingness. I am but dust. I come from dust and will return to dust, among the hundreds of thousands of others like me, trudging through this existence. I am but a blip. I have no lasting presence, no lasting effects and noone to remember me.One of the challenges in life is finding the rights places to balance between those poles. And this house we're building is perched there, too. On the one hand, it will have no effect. Building this house won't affect the Occupation or change the continuing oppression and abuse happening here. It won't save the world, Israel or Palestine. It might not even survive a year before being demolished again. Why am I wasting my energy here? Then on the other side: This is a family's home. They will leave here, and have a shelter and a place to call their own in dignity. Each of the construction workers can afford to bring food home to his family, and increasing challenge: According to B'tselem, even among Jewish Israelis within the green line, at least 25% of children go to bed hungry at least once a week. Some 20% of the Israeli elderly are chronically hungry and poor. In this environment, even two weeks employment will make a critical difference for these builders. And look at the relationships: among the working volunteers, a brilliant group of 20 from throughout the USA and Europe; with the several if disappointingly few Israelis who participate, with the[...]

so much!

Mon, 18 Jul 2005 11:17:09 GMT

A huge weekend -- Kol Zimrah and pot-luck at my flat were fantastic, and more importantly, yesterday was the first day of my major project here -- the ICAHD house rebuilding camp. Which means there's more going on than ever before and less time to write about it.

No time to post now, but you can check up the new update on the ICAHD website at

huge. refocussing. hopeful.

Long and Rambley

Thu, 14 Jul 2005 07:54:49 GMT

Tonight I went to hell.It was really nice, actually. I'd been sitting at the Cinemateque after just missing this evening's free concert. This week is the Jerusalem Film Festival, a mind-boggling affair of some hundred films. The entire city is decorated (in orange, or course, since the main corporate sponsor is the Orange cell phone company) and every night there's a free concert in the center of town where I arrive half way through the last song of the evening. Joe and I spent much of this evening talking about meaning in Judaism and my goals as a Hillel president this coming year, and now were moving onto Occupation. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the Valley below, I felt oppressed by the ambient orange glow that filled the air. When A and N returned, we all hopped the fence and climbed our way down.The Hinom Valley (Hebrew Gey Hinom) lies between West Jerusalem and the Old City. Way way back in the day, according to tradition, idol-worshippers would sacrifice their eldest sons to Moloch here, burning them in a huge flaming pit. The valley was so vile and parched, and associated with such terrible actions, that its name became the Hebrew word for Hell, gehennom. [And also the Arabic word, Jehenna, which is sometimes confused with the word for Heaven, Jinna. And if that's not confusing...]The valley is no longer hellish, but rather a gorgeous park and garden connected to the Sultans Pool, which houses a huge outdoor ampitheater. The super-posh Mount Zion Hotel sits at the top of the cliff with its own gardens which BE described as fit for King Solomon. Sitting among trees and grass with a cool breeze and faint salsa music seeping in from the party, we wished desperately for sheep to graze and could barely imagine the Valley of Shadow of Death (ok, it's a loose translation of Tsalmavet) that this once was. After some time discussing the finer points in life and napping, we tried to scale our way back up, only to be caught by a security guard who didn't believe that we'd come from the Cinameteque in the first place, so we had to climb up the far side and walk around to go home.I have a strange fascination with trespassing, a thrill this evening played into even though we merely crossed a forbidden barrier between two permitted areas. I'm especially obsessed with construction sites, and regularly find my way into them after hours as some of you can attest. In the days when ZT and I used to explore the Hillel construction site on a weekly basis, I even convinced my Dad to come along once. I've carried this obsession a long time: back in the Windows 3.1 days I installed CAD on my mom's computer and tried to make blue-prints, and I even considered going to McGill for architecture. Exploring construction sites (which I call "spelunking" -- although it doesn't fit exactly, it has a similar feeling) brings together a simplified abstraction of the space and the imagination of the potential which it holds: pacing through an apartment building-to-be on the East Side with JS this semester, my mind dwelled only on the people who would inhabit the space, and the lives they would live there.Given this background, I'd expect Jerusalem to be a playground for me now. The entire city is under construction, it seems. Well, half the city is under construction while the other half is being destructed, but more on that later. For now, the construction around the city feels somehow tainted. I know that's not a terribly helpful description, but that's what I have. Rather than being intrigued by the Mystery of the Light Rail System, a gre[...]

Kol Zimrah Jerusalem

Mon, 11 Jul 2005 13:15:40 GMT

Kol Zimrah this coming Shabbos - Parshat Balak
Kabbalat Shabbat-Orama: Davening to fill your Shabbat Neshamot

When: July 15th, 6:30pm  (Kabbalat Shabbat davening begins)

Where:  The home of Valerie Baron, Brian Cohen and Benj Kamm at 17B Pierre Koenig apt. 28. (Find the path between Pierre Koenig 11 and 13 and take it back and to the right. Continue under the front of 17 to reach 17B. Apt 28 is one flight up the stairs. We'll try to mark the path with ribbons and signs)

Who:  Anyone who likes mamash-gevalt egalitarian davening with soul.  Please bring your own Siddur. 

Delicious Kosher Dairy/Pareve Potluck to follow!

Kashrut: The food should be prepared with kosher dairy/pareve utensils in a kosher home.  Wholesome organic foods are wonderful and please bring your own plate, bowl, cup & cutlery in order to avoid the need for disposable dishes.

Feel free to email or call with questions to or 02/6728579

The Wedding

Sat, 09 Jul 2005 23:16:41 GMT

Last August, nearly a year ago now, two of my friends got married to each other. The wedding was truly spectacular -- I'd never seen so many people so focused on and happy for a couple. The event was so significant in my group of friends -- among other things, the first time people in our group of peers were getting married -- that for months before and after the wedding (even these days, still) we'd talk about "The Wedding" and all now what we were talking about.This month I had the pleasure of attending another such celebration so huge that it felt like I could go up to any random person on the streets of Jerusalem and ask them about The Wedding and they'd also be making carpooling plans. After delaying for over two weeks, the time has come to sit down and write about how the wedding as well as I can remember before the memories fade even farther.[as a side note, it seems like weddings and marriage are becoming more and more a part of my life. In the past couple years two of my sisters, Aviva and Stevie, got married as well as three of my friends nearly my age got married (the two above plus another friend last december. This summer a bunch more friends and people I know have gotten married, and also the first person I ever had a relationship with has gotten engaged. While I'm excited for her and all of them, it's a bit bewildering. I'm nowhere near such a stage at all. Now do I have to be. And now, moving on...] ... Also, this entry may be somewhat less intelligable to those who are less familiar with Jewish ritual. I may come back and add explanations and such at some point. If you have any questions at all, please email/comment.I first heard about the wedding because Barya, the chatan [groom], called my mom in Philly to tell us that he was getting married. When he found out I'd be around, he eagerly invited me. Barya's from Philly and went to camp with me and with my brother, one of his best friends. As soon as I arrived in Jerusalem, I found out that his upcoming wedding was the biggest news in town. In my circles (Anglo progressive; Shlomo Neo-Hasidic; Peace activist; brown students), everyone was chatting it up, asking if other people were going, making carpools plans, and so on. In a group email exchange I mentioned that I wouldn't be free one thursday night because I was going to a wedding, and people replied with logistical questions. It was crazy how much this even permeated communal consciousness. And wonderful. When I called Barya to confirm the details, he'd just returned from two weeks of meditation and prayer for preparation at the tomb of Rebbe Nachman (a significant and early Hasidic Saint) in Uman, and urged me to bring along anyone at all who knew him even vaguely -- he wanted to invite as many people as possible to join the celebration. Val, who went to Oberlin with him, was going to come a long but ended up feeling sick that day.The wedding was called for 5:30 on thursday 2.5 weeks ago, so at about 4:30 I met up with a few friends downtown and we found a taxi to drive us to the Carlebach moshav, a village inhabited entirely by Hasidic followers of the late Shlomo Carlebach, where the wedding was to be held. Barya has been studying at Yeshivat Bat Ayin, a full-time Carlebach study center and kibbutz in Gush Etzion, and is fully within this community. The ride to the moshav, just outside the city of Modi'in which is being designed to link Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in one continuous urban area took us through the West Bank, and I made a conscious decision to leave pol[...]

A Taste of the World to Come

Sun, 03 Jul 2005 11:10:16 GMT

Every shabbat afternoon I go to visit Rose in the Sigmund Mozes elder home just a kilometer or so from my apartment. She and her husband (z"l [zichrono livracha -- may his memory be for a blessing]) have been close friends of my grandparents since they lived in Minneapolis, where they first met. When I was living in Jerusalem with my mom and brother we spent nearly every shabbat with the Joshua's.After supper Rose went down to prepare for bed, yet I kept sitting in the elder home courtyard for a few minutes and was joined by a pleasant older man looking for some company. He eagerly told me about his life, including time as an invester and real estate broker in Providence and as an avid skier before his knee gave out. He'd first came to Israel in 1969 but finally made aliyah for good in 1973, just a week before the Yom Kippur war broke out, now lived in the elder home not far from his daughter. Soon he asked me what I was doing in Jerusalem for the summer (a student at Pardes himself, he was disappointed that I don't learn there as my housemates do). When I told him, he was quiet for a moment before asking, "Who's housing are you trying to protect?" I gave my usual answer, that I'm opposed to unjust housing demolitions in general but that right now there's a particular need to help Palestinians. Silence. Then:"I recently read in a book that Islam is out to destroy the civilized world.""Do you believe that?""Of course I do!" He launched into a particularistic history of Arabs, Israel, and Islam, highlighting the fact that the Arabs are and have been conspiring against Us for ages. It's an antisemetic world, and every act of terror is part of a carefully orchestrated effort with clear signs which the world ignored because of people like me. People like me with our trust and demands for "fair treatment" allowed 9-11 to take place. And I was stupid to be trying to help any Palestinians at all, because they all hated me and wanted to kill me and completely wipe out my entire people. Wow. OK, it wasn't anything I haven't heard before, but it came on strong.Maybe I should have just left it there, but I felt a need to say something, so I offered that "I agree that there are many Palestinians who hate Jews. Yes, there have been five suicide bombings on your street in Jerusalem in the time you've lived there, and yes, those murderers would have been happy to kill you too. At the same time, I can't believe that all Palestinians are bad; I know from experience that there are many who aren't. I think it's critical that we help those who don't hate us so that they can get more influence and power and this situation can change. What else could we do? We'd have to wipe them out ourselves!""Exactly." He stated with a cold finality. "And that's what we should do."It was chilling. I thanked him for spending the time with me, hoped that we could see each other again next week. He reciprocated my sentiments and bid me farewell with, "I won't wish you luck with what you're doing."I don't want to be too hard on him. He's an old man who's lived through the holocaust and so many wars and I can understand why he feels the way he does and so vehemently so. And I think that attitudes like his are continuing so much suffering here. Anyway, I needed to clear my mind, so instead of walking home I went to walk on the Tayelet, a famous promenade in East Talpiot -- the "standard" images of Jerusalem showing the Dome of the Rock and the Old City are usually taken from here. The Tayelet runs mo[...]


Fri, 01 Jul 2005 10:24:26 GMT

Today was the Jerusalem Pridefest and Gay Pride Parade and my friends and I were there in force. In fact, I think that I ran into almost everyone I know in Jerusalem over the course of the day. It was truly spectacular. We tooks lots of pictures, and while I'm not putting them all here, it's nice to see them and catch the mood. Take a look at flickr, as a slideshow, or at[Credit where due: these are mostly Charley's great photos].The day began normal as usual: Charley and I woke up and got ready to head out, then bid farewell to Val and Brian on their way to school for the day. For Brian, a bigger farewell, as he left for Sinai right in the afternoon. On the bus into town Charley and I practiced our Jerusalem Arabic, then parted ways. While he finished up his Arabic class, I answered calls about 6 demolitions that happened this morning in Hebron -- at least two of which are (were) in an appeals process. So much for due process. . . Charley came by after class and we grabbed lunch at the Sabih (egglant/hard-boiled egg sandwich in pita) place up the street. That's when the excitment started.The gathering point for the parade was on the midrechov [pedestrian mall] directly below my window. In fact, the Jerusalem Open House / habayit hapatu'ah / beit il-quds il-maftuh, which organized the entire event, is on the third floor of my building just upstairs. Throughout the afternoon I'd grab glances at the assembling masses below. Finally at 6:30 Joseph and I finished our action alert (preparing for a demolition we're predicted for this coming Sunday in Beit Hanina (east jerusalem)) and headed downstairs. It was a zoo -- people squeezed onto a few blocks, wearing every shade of the rainbow and carrying really wonderful signs. (Mine read in Hebrew, "Senseless Hatred is why Jerusalem was Destroyed," a reference to a Rabbinic tradition that the Second Temple's destruction and the Exile were punishments for senseless hatred within the Jewish community of that time). There were signs in English ("Free Love"), Hebrew ("I want to marry my boyfriend," "Blessed are You, God, Who created me according to Your will" -- a reference to the traditional liturgy), and Arabic ("Palestinian and Proud!" "Love Without Borders" -- that last one being particularly poignant these days), with a smattering of others. I particularly liked the signs prepared by the Reform Movement in Israel which had a rainbow Jewish star and read "There's more than one way to be Jewish." The myriad colors in ribbons and flags were a great break from the overwhelming orange which has flooded the city in past weeks. The Israeli Conservative Movement was also there, recycling left-over bumber stickers from the 1998 conversion-law protests which read "Good Judaism Doesn't Force." Andy Sachs, one of the directors of the movement here, told me of his movement's support for World Pride, and mentioned that in the past week alone their online support petition has been signed by over 100 US Conservative Rabbis (I couldn't find the site, maybe you can?). He predicted that with Ismar Schorsch retired as Chancellor of JTS, the Conservative movement will be ordaining openly gay rabbis within 2 years. And he thinks I should go there for Rabbinical school. But this is also the person who got me drunk for the first time, when I was 13, and on lemon vodka no less. So I'll be patient and see what happens. For more on the US Conservative movement, keep reading. "Palestinian and Proud" "A[...]

at the office (part 1 of 3)

Wed, 29 Jun 2005 16:01:34 GMT

Charley rushes in the door: "Guys, there's someone being jumped in the stairway!" Joe, Emelyne and I jump up, and we all rush into the stairs where a group is already starting to gather, looking down over the cement and stone bannister. On the first landing there's a guy with a kippah [scullcap] on being held uncomfortably against the wall by three guys who don't have kippot. "LEAVE ME ALONE!" he shouts. "I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO YOU!" Over and over again -- he's fighting back, and they're being rough. "GET OFF OF ME!" I hear as something metallic shines. They're trying to force him into handcuffs. What's going on? I run back into the office, try to call 911. Oops. Mental note/travel advisory: always check the emergency services number before you actually need it. Luckily, we're in the center of town, so I run to the window and start shouting for a soldier. There are lots of them, but I notice they're already watching -- since the office building opens to the street, I realize they can already see the action from below. So why aren't they doing anything? What's going on?Back at the upper landing I join the group watching as they force him to the ground. As he continues shouting, they start emptying his pockets. Cell phone. coins. wallet. more money. they're looking for something else. "Where are the drugs?" I DON'T HAVE DRUGS. I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!" Both sides start shouting. A lot. Almost as an afterthought, the three members of what I now realize was a sting pull out their police caps and put them on. They shove his belongings back in his pockets, still shouting, and let him up. He starts fighting again, and they drag him outside.There must be better ways to do something like this. Less violent. Less impeding of people's rights not to beaten up in the public domain.Back in the office, Charley and I just sat blankly for a few minutes. The words don't convey it, but this was the scariest , most violent event he'd been close to ever and that I'd been in since a fight erupted on a subway car in Boston last fall. Usually when Charley comes by the ICAHD office for lunch after his days in Ulpan we just go for a walk and eat.Meanwhile, life in the office has been pretty good. The past few days have been mostly number crunching. The Jerusalem municipality issued budgets detailing equal spending on Jewish and Palestinian sections of the city (aka West and East, respectively). According to the document, equal yet small allocations were made for the East and West, and the bulk of the budget was designated for programs which "support both sections the same." So I was crunching my way through that section, seeing what I could find. Example: Jerusalem is installing a new light rail system (which is huge! hooray for investments in public transportation! hooray for green development!). That project is listed under the "both" category, yet of the 29 stations being build, 27 are in West Jerusalem and 2 are in East Jerusalem. Keeping in mind that there's also a great deal of track being laid and other overhead costs, and the fact that this transportation system will benefit people throughout the city; it still seems a bit dishonest to me.Anyway, that's what I'm up to. It's been a huge day with lots of going on. Parts 2 and 3 will follow later tonight. For now, I'm off to sheva brachot [one of 7 nights of celebration after a wedding during which friends and family members shower the bride and groom with blessings] for last[...]

Sun, 26 Jun 2005 16:33:24 GMT

General comments:ends-of-weeks and weekends here are hectic. lots and lots happens and I don't find time to write about it. result: i have lots on my mind now. I'm probably going to combine today & last wednesday, working forward from there. eh, we'll see what happends.when i started this project (already/only a week or so ago?) it was mostly a glorified journal but now it's growing beyond that. I'm thinking of moving off LJ to a space where I can have more control (domain in the works!) and also so i can more easily separate the more private/personal stuff from the more public stuff. [LJ folk especially, but anyone:] thoughts?thursday night i went to a spectular wedding. much more on that to come. in the meantime, you can find photos of Barya and Dina at Orthodox Anarchist. More and more I find myself wishing I had a camera so I could more easily share the things I'm seeing. (Like a shop selling "Huny -- Flies 100%).and now:I got a LOT done today, including starting a new regimen of waking up early for work, putting in a couple hours before other folks show up so that I can actually be productive, then taking a longer lunch break / leaving earlier in the afternoon so i can play with friends when they're free. So, this morning I revised the building camp schedule (almost finalized, then who knows, maybe I'll post it here) and carried 350kg of Jeff Halper's new book, Obstacles to Peace into the office. [note: working at ICAHD is helping me figure out a lot idealogically and about working environments; however, I think it's not very wise to post about work on a public site.]Charley, Val and I spent a half-hour filling out our blood donation forms together, learning all sorts of new hebrew words like Syphilus (zina). Then the bloodmobile broke down and they told us to come back tomorrow... We proceded down Hileni Hamalka (Helen the Queen) St. to the Damascus Gate area, where I finally found a copy of Yalla Nihki 'l-Arabiya, ("Come On, Let's Speak Arabic!") a text in the Jerusalem diaelect of Arabic. The switch from West to East Jerusalem is powerfully striking, a more pronounced version of the differences on either side of City Avenue in Philadelphia near my mom's house. Hil Hahandasa [Engineers' Brigade] St. runs north from the Old City along the Green Line. Two feet up the curb on one side of the street signs and announcements are all posted in Hebrew; on the other side of the street Arabic signs declare the names of the sprawling storefronts. People are swarming the Palestinian side, walking and buying, sitting and talking or playing sheshbesh [backgammon]. I find the bustle very welcoming, but even so have to remind myself that having so many people around is one of the symptoms of high unemployment; there's nothing else to do. And there's garbage and litter everywhere.We're not deep into East Jerusalem at all, yet for the first time I didn't feel at all nervous about being there. Next stop: old city, for nothing in particular but maybe nargila and wall tapestries. Instead, we happen upon one of the entrances to the Haram al-Sharif, the Sacred Sanctuary or Temple Mount. and just stand, staring. I've been seeing the Jerusalem skyline and the Dome of the Rock for as long as I can remember, but have only caught its striking beauty in resent months. Today I stood agape. I'm not sure how to put that wonder into words. As Charley said while we walked away: "That's the most beautiful[...]