Last weekend ten of our program participants went to Jerusalem for a Security Issues Shabbaton sponsored by Masa Israel. The weekend featured speakers from security, military, and journalistic perspectives who brought professional expertise and personal experience to the conference. From Hezbollah to Hamas to Iran to the Security Barrier to the midterm elections in the states, the weekend offered a wide range of topics.
The pre-Shabbat tour of Jerusalem included a trip to Gilo, a Jewish community located outside of the Green Line, where a security expert from Haifa University showed the Security Barrier and the road to Gush Etzion. Participant Katie Vogel shares her reflection below:
"I went into the weekend understanding that I would be presented with opinions I would probably not agree with. What surprised me the most wasn’t the dominance of a military perspective, but how I felt about our group coming away from the weekend. The Security Issues Shabbaton showed me that Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa was the best possible choice for me.
Our group can barely get through a study day without disagreeing about topics of Torah, public policy and Jewish identity. Still, we try to disagree civilly and respectfully. While we challenge our rabbi and our speakers on a regular basis, respectful and critical dissent seemed absent from the Shabbaton, except for when our group spoke up. Members of our group spoke about racism they encountered in volunteering places, about social justice, and about humanistic ethics.
Our group was not content sitting back and listening–they wanted to actually be engaged in a conversation about what it would take to have a Palestinian State that could stand on its own two feet, about how racism manifests itself in Israel, and about how peace can actually come to be. Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Yafo aims to be a-political, allowing us to form our own opinions based on our interactions as volunteers and neighborhood residents.
Our study days and apartments are safe space for serious and regularly occurring discourse about Judaism, Zionism, human rights, gentrification, and the status of refugees in Israel, among other topics. I came out of this weekend feeling incredibly proud to affiliate with such an amazing program. Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Yafo isn’t about being spoon-fed answers to difficult questions. It’s about finding the answers for yourself, and on occasion, learning to be okay with the fact that there isn’t a clear answer."