Later this week I am going to Israel for the first time.  Now is an exciting time, to say the least:  the violence in Gaza, Israeli elections, the economic downturn.  What?  Am I nuts?   What better time to go!

It’s my first time and I am doing a lot:

  • Private touring: (February 21-25)
    • Jerusalem:  the birthplace of Western Religion(s) (3)
    • Masada:  the last stance and suicide of Jewish defenders against Rome
    • Qumran:  site of the Dead Sea Scrolls excavation
    • the Galilee:  hills and forests
    • Haifa, Ceasarea, and Akko (Accre):  in order, Jews and Israeli Arabs co-existing peacefully and the largest Baha’i temple; Roman ruins; the most Arab of Israeli cities
  • Jordan tour (February 26-28): 
    • Amman, ancient Philadelphia and the capital of Jordan
    • Madaba (settled for 4500 years) and most important Christian center in Jordan
    • Mt. Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land
    • Kerak, a crusader castle—thankfully the only one I’ll bother with
    • Petra, ancient capital of the Nabateans carved out of rock in the 4th century BCE—and one of the filming locations for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

  • Study Tour with the New Israel Fund (link) in Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel Aviv, Negev, Ashdod (March 1-10) :
    • “Current Challenges Facing Israeli Society,” Professor Naomi Chazan, NIF president and former speaker of the Knesset
    • “Safeguarding Democracy and Human Rights in Israel,” Association of Civil Rights in Israel
    • Visit to Supreme Court of Israel (which recently blocked an attempt to prevent Arab parties from participating in elections to the Knesset)
    • Meeting with members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) from different parties
    • Tour of Jerusalem’s Nachlaot area (neighborhood built just outside the old Jewish quarter)
    • One City for Two People:  tour of the heinous separation barrier built by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert
    • tour of Ofrah, one of the earliest Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank, including a meeting with a defender of the settlements
    • tour of Gedera, a Jewish Ethiopian community
    • “Status of Women in Israel Today,” Anat Hoffman, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement
    • tour of Moshav Kerem Maharal—a moshav is a cooperative agricultural community centered on families, often with private ownership of farm plots
    • relax at a spa in the Galilee
    • “Promoting Democracy Education”
    • tour of Safed, early Jewish settlement, home of Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism, conquered by the crusaders and then the Mamluks.  It is now Israel’s art capital.
    • visit Emek HaEleh Winery, with samples?
    • “Religious Pluralism,” Professor Moshe Halbertal
    • Shabbat service
    • tour old city of Jerusalem
    • “Outlook for Peace – a Palestinian’s Perspective,” Professor Sari Nusseibeh of Al Quds University and author of Once Upon a Country, an absolutely fabulous book by a delightfully thoughtful man—this will be the highlight for me.
    • “An Israeli Journalist’s Perspective on the Current Mood in Israel,” Isabel Kershner of the New York Times
    • “Current Issues in Human Trafficking and Refugees,” Shevy Korzen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers
    • “Community and Business Partnerships for Social Change,” Shula Keshet
    • view Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv
    • dinner with Israel government spokesperson, Miri Eisen
    • “Addressing the Needs of the Negev in Be’er Sheva,” Yarona Ben Shalom
    • “Economic Empowerment for Bedouin Women at Sidreh,” a Bedouin village in the Negev Desert in Israel’s south
    • tour Ashdod, Israel’s primary port on the Mediterranean Sea
    • tour Diaspora Museum – the “Diaspora” refers to the spreading out of a people from its ancestral home. For Jews, the original Diaspora was the flight to Babylon.
    • tour Natan Guttman museum

Phew!  What a trip!  I’m not tired; I’m energized.