Israel, day eight

Today was a looooong day! We did a lot of travelling and spent a lot more time in the car, which of course made everyone cranky by day’s end. We started with another great breakfast at Kibbutz HaGoshrim and then after packing the car we left for Tzfat. The boys were not sure about going to Tzfat, but during David’s talk about Tzfat and about the Ari, Noam and Shayna were definitely listening. Especially the story about the origins of Lekha Dodi. We saw the Ashkenazi Ari Synagogue and went next door to buy some of the famous Tzfat candles. We took a walk through the artist area and picked up another set of Tekheilet. Right after we get home from Israel, Noam and I will need to tie his tzitzit on his tallit and I think Tekheilet purchased in Tzfat is all the more special.


A view of Mount Meron from Tzfat. Until 1967, this was
the highest mountain in Israel. There is still a listening
station at the top.

After lunch in Tzfat (finally, my first Shwarma!) we drove to Haifa. Shayna did a report on Haifa for school a couple of years ago and ever since she has wanted to go there. Marsha and I have actually never seen the Bahai gardens, so we were more than happy to go and see it. We all learned about the Bahai faith and took some photos at the gates of the gardens. After the Bahai, we took a ride on the Carmalit. This is a funicular subway that goes up and down the Carmel in Haifa. It is the second shortest subway system in the world and is more like an elevator at times than a subway. Shayna had a blast riding down and then up. Finally, we went to get some all-important ice cream.


Noam, Marsha, and Me in front of the B’hai gardens.

Finally, we drove back to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, when we hit Tel Aviv we also hit traffic so we did not get back to Jerusalem until about 8. We drove to the city center and walked around the Midrachov and on Jaffa Street for a little while. Did a little shopping and just took in the Jerusalem nightlife.

After a lot of thought, we have decided that tomorrow is going to be a totally “chill day” for the boys. We do not have a guide for tomorrow and the original plans were for us to go to the beach in Tel Aviv, but Avi has no interest in the beach and Noam does not care. So the boys will stay back and Marsha, Shayna, and I will go downtown again to do some shopping. Perhaps we will try the shuk again in the morning when it is less crowded.

I am looking forward to another Shabbat in Jerusalem. This Shabbat will be all the more special because Noam will be reading Torah at Kehillat Yedidya at Minha. The Minha torah reading comes from the next Shabbat’s parsha, which is Noam’s Bar Mitzvah, so he knows it well. We will have a small Seudah Shlisheet after as well.

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Israel, day seven

One thing I was certainly looking forward to was the full Israeli breakfast that you get at the Kibbutz Hotel! The standard Israeli breakfast always includes salads and vegetables, eggs, cereals and drinks, but here they also have other additions such as pancakes and even pizza! Noam tried the pizza but did not like it. Perhaps the first time he met a pizza that he did not like. Avi filled up on pancakes with chocolate sauce. Shayna, of course eats everything! Later in the day, Avi asked if we will get the big breakfast again and he was very happy when I said yes, and sad that we won’t have it again this trip.

After breakfast we went to Tel Dan Nature Reserve. Here we saw one of the tributaries of the Jordan, called the Dan River. It was quite beautiful. We also saw the excavated ruins of the ancient Israelite city of Dan, including one of the two alters built by Jeroboam in the book of Kings.

After Tel Dan, we went ATV riding! This was a definite highlight of the trip and all three kids loved it! Shayna was very apprehensive at first, but she was laughing and having a blast over the bumps in the road. This was a great company, because I got to drive the vehicle (sort of a cross between a jeep and a traditional American ATV). We drove up to the edge of the Golan and looked out over the Hula valley and some of the Syrian bunkers sitting on top of the ridge. I know the kids learned something because when David would ask questions later, they knew the answers. At the end of the trip we stopped at the Banyas River, one of the other tributaries of the Jordan.


Getting ready for our ATV ride. Noam is in the back hiding as usual.


Shayna in the Banyas River

After ATVing, Marsha and I got to make a quick stop at Kibbutz Naot Mordechai. Some of you might recognize the first name in the Kibbutz. This is the Kibbutz where all of the Naot shoes are made. They have an outlet there, and I found very comfy sandals for an amazing bargain.

We then made our way to Katrin were we saw a great multimedia presentation about the Golan Heights and saw an incredible scale model of the entire Golan. It turns out that right around the corner from the movie location was the Golan Heights Winery, and David’s brother-in-law is a production manager there! He gave us a quick tour and then we got to have a nice taste of a few of their wines. I wish we could take home many bottles, but we only purchased two.

After dinner it was back to the hotel to clean off from the day (the ATV rides made us all very dirty).

Tomorrow we will see Tzfat and Haifa and then back to Jerusalem.

 

 

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Israel, Day six

Today, we began our trip to the north with a drive west through Tel Aviv and then north. Our first stop was Caesarea, where we saw the Roman ruins and the theater that Herod built. I think Avi really got a lot out of this part of the trip due to his love of things Roman (which in turn comes from his love of the Percy Jackson books). He asked a lot of questions and was really engaged. Avi and I even got to run a race in King Herod’s Hippodrome!


Shayna is ready for a chariot race!

After Caesarea we drove to Akko for lunch and a quick story about the Jewish jail beak at the Akko prison. We eat lunch at this hole in the wall Hummus restaurant. According to David it is known as one of the top three Hummus joints in the country. I must admit the Hummus was quite good and very reasonably priced. We had to wait a while to get in, but it was definitely worth the wait. After Akko we drove to Rosh Hanikra to see the grottos there which were as amazing and I remember. We went into the largest grotto and within moments, the water came in and drenched us all! Luckily you dry off pretty quickly in Israel.


Spices in the Akko Shuk


Marsha and her birthday Baklava in Akko!

After we left Rosh Hanikra we drove to Kiryat Arbah for some dinner in the local mall and then to Kibbutz HaGoshrim for our stay at their hotel. I may have been brief in my blog today, but it was a pretty long day. Tomorrow we will be seeing the Golan and ride ATVs! Here is a few photos of Noam, because there are so few photos of him this trip.


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Israel, days four and five

Sunday, again, had its ups and downs. We had a fill in guide because David had to take a law school exam. Asaf Salomon was our fill in and we really lucked out. He does all of the VIP tours of the western wall. When Pope Francis visited Jerusalem, Asaf was his tour guide. He told me that next week, he is guiding the Rolling Stones! He knows more about Jerusalem and the old city than most people.

He met us at the apartment and we took cabs to the old city. We began with a little intro to the history of Jerusalem and then we started our tour walking on the walls of Jerusalem. It is quite amazing to see the tiny paths that the soldiers walked to guard the city. Thank God we had railings! When we got to the Zion gate we walked over to the Tomb of David site to see the view of the city that was the closest Jews could get to the Kotel until 1967.

As we came into the old city, we had our second encounter with someone we know! We came back through the Zion gate and there with their guide (JJ Jonah, the person who set up our trip!) was Michael Diamond and his family! His twin girls were with Shayna at Ramah this summer and one of them in her bunk. I am sure that the Diamonds and Nava Kogen will not be the only ones we meet up with!

We then went into the Jewish quarter and learned about some of the different sites. Marsha and I had never seen the rebuilt Hurva Synagogue, and we are not sure it is even something that should have been rebuilt. Years ago, you could only see the single arch they had built as a memorial, but now the whole building.


The Hurva Synagogue. The arch you see was the memorial and for years the only part of the building rebuilt.

Next we went to the cardo the main roman street that ran through the old city in the time of the Romans. At this point Avi began to grumble so we quickly bought a gift and then went to lunch.

Our guide Asaf, telling us about the Cardo

As we walked toward the Archeological park in the old city Avi finally had enough. Marsha and Noam went with Asaf in, and I took Avi back to the apartment in a Cab. I was able to run in, leave Avi, get a new battery for my camera and get back in the cab that waited for me. I made it back to the old city within 40 minutes or so and then I caught up with Marsha and the kids. We stayed a little longer in the park and heard a bit about Kings David, Solomon and Herod, and even had a chance meeting with a couple of “pilgrims”.


Shayna as King David


Our pilgrim friends

We saw the Kotel and the western wall tunnels after that. I think the kids really learned something and they definitely enjoyed the kotel tunnel. We left the old city and went to pick up our rental car for the rest of the trip. Here I found that you need your passport and visa to get your car! I had to take a cab back to the apartment, get the passport and visa and cab back. Way too many cabs! In the past, your visa was a stamp in your passport. Now it is a separate piece of paper you have to keep with your passport. I miss the older method!

This morning David was back and we drove to Masada. We left at 8:45 and everyone told us we were nuts for going so late because it would be too hot. Well, they were all wrong. It certainly was hot, but it was not too hot and there was a nice breeze on the top of the mountain. This kids seemed to take an interest in the tour on Masada and even Avi was asking questions.

After Masada we went to Ein Gedi, the famous desert oasis. Avi did not want to take a hike to the spring so he stayed at the main entrance and played video games while the rest of us took a hike to the spring. We even met a family from East Brunswick on the way in. The water was so cool and everyone had a great time in the water.

After Ein Gedi, we went to the Dead Sea for a very quick float. Avi was looking forward to this. His orthodontist is running a contest for the kids to brush their teeth in interesting locations. There are great prizes. Avi decided to brush floating in the dead sea!

Finally our last stop was Genesis Land were we rode camels to meet Avraham and have dinner in his tent. The camel ride was fun (and a bit scary at times) and the dinner was excellent! If you come to Israel, I recommend coming here.

All in all it was a great day and all of the kids had a good time. Tomorrow it is off to the north for two nights. Hopefully the wifi will be good enough for me to post from there.


Avi in the Judean hills

A nice end to a nice day
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Israel, Days two and three

Friday certainly had its ups and downs. We began the day with our tour guide David Landau meeting us at our apartment. We got things together and we cabbed to Ir David, or the City of David. David (our tour guide) really gave us a good introduction to Israel and Jerusalem, using Noam as a map of Israel.

David really knows Israel and his love for the country really shows through. We then went through the Ir David site and learned more of the area and the how the people lived (including an ancient toilet!). The culmination of Ir David is a walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel which brought water to the city during the siege by the Assyrians. However, Avi would have none of that, and then when Noam heard some running water, he also said no. So the three of us walked through a different tunnel that was used to bring water to crops by the Canaanites. It was a bit of a hike for us to get to the meeting point where Marsha, Shayna and David were, and it was hot, so Noam was not a happy camper. Finally we met up and then walked through a newly found tunnel that was a sewage tunnel from the 2nd temple times.


Avi got to help with some demonstrations as well

Another more recent find. This is a 2nd temple staircase that pilgrims would use to enter the city and go straight to the Temple Mount. This is the ancient sewer tunnel

After Ir David, we took cabs to Mahane Yehuda. Mahane Yehuda is the amazing open air market in Jerusalem, also known as the Shuk. You can purchase almost anything in the shuk, from housewares, to groceries to the most amazing fruits and vegetables. It is a great experience, however, on Fridays it is quite packed with people. We started with lunch and everything was fine. Marsha and I found this great fish and chips place and David took the boys in search of pizza. Apparently, the pizza place close and he got them “pizza” on malawah, which is a thick Yemenite bread. They seemed to like it which is great because they tried something new. After that, though things kinda spiraled down. With all the people and the heat, the kids were getting very cranky, so we just got staples for Shabbat and took a bus back to the apartment.

Given that it was late (3:30), I needed to do some quick shopping for Shabbat. I went to the Supersol and picked up a chicken and few other staples (aka ketchup) and went back and we made Shabbat.

This morning Marsha, Shayna, Noam and I went to shul at Yedidyah. After lunch and a short nap, we walked over to our friend Alexis’ house and spent the afternoon visiting with her and her boys. Avi had fun playing ping pong and then boys all played of Catan (thanks Nathan for getting that for them!)

Tomorrow we will be the old city with a fill-in tour guide Rachel. David is in law school and has an exam tomorrow. He will be back with us on Monday and through the rest of the trip.

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Israel, Day 1

As some have already seen from my photo postings, we are in Israel. Things went pretty well on Wednesday. We arrived at the airport about when we planned. Amazingly we made it through check-in and security very fast which gave us a long wait at the gate, but the kids had video games to play and everything went well. We boarded on time and only left 30 minutes late. We arrived only 10 minutes late, but unfortunately, the kids did not sleep so neither did Marsha or I.

Once we got to Israel things went very well. We have used a company called Israel Maven Tours to plan the trip and with that comes VIP service. We had an airport agent meet us at the gate, who drove us to the main part of the airport. So no long walk to get the luggage. He gave our passports to the Passport agent, and we were through in five minutes. Our luggage came up fairly quick and we had a car service waiting for us to take us to Jerusalem. Pretty great! The driver took us to the Tayelet. If you are not familiar the Tayelet is a promenade that gives you remarkable views of Jerusalem.


Overlooking the old city at the Tayelet

After that we went to the apartment and got our things in. A quick trip to the mall a few blocks away for lunch (and a new iPod cable), some grocery shopping, and then back to the apartment for some (well needed) down time. We finished up the day with a trip to the Jerusalem Time Elevator. This is a multi-sensory movie that tells the story of Jerusalem. You sit on platforms that move and make you feel like you are moving with the film. It is fun and the kids learned a little about Jerusalem. Finally we lucked out with dinner. Our plans are to make dinner in the apartment most nights, but we were not ready for that yet. We found this little restaurant call Alma on Yosef Rivlin Street. I think it was a great find. The food was delicious and we all ate very well! Happy Birthday Marsha a little early!

Tomorrow we meet our tour guide and start our tour of Israel. We are certainly looking forward!

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Long and Winding in Israel

After many months of planning, the time is about here and the Goldwassers are going to Israel. The excitement is certainly building in the kids. Even Avi who has been somewhat indifferent to the whole thing has been showing his excitement. Earlier, he asked Noam if he was excited. I then asked Avi, and he said “whatever, I just go with the flow”. Given that this is a much better answer than, I don’t want to go, or it’s going to be boring, I think this is a step in the right direction.

As many friends and family know, the trip has had a big setback in that Marsha’s parents are not going to be coming to Israel with us. Unfortunately, Brian is not well enough to travel. All the children are disappointed that they are not coming, as are Marsha and I. However, they will hear all about our trip through our blogs (Noam and Shayna will be blogging at http://noaminisrael.goldwasserfamily.org), through skype, and through photos. Please remember to keep Brian in your prayers and thoughts,
בַּרוּךְ הַכֹּהֵן בֶּן בּוּנְיָה רְעֵזְל. Sorry for any incorrect nikud, especially the Yiddish.

Packing has been going ok. A little slow, but I hope to be mostly finished tonight. We are also trying to clean the house as well. We are having a house sitter here while we are gone, so we want to make it look nice! I am praying that we are not up until 2 am getting ready!

Not too much more to add except that Marsha and I are also quite excited and looking forward to introducing Israel to our children. I hope they have as much lover for Israel as we do.

In honor of our trip here is a great youtube that I found. Enjoy!

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Nowhere Man

This is a very hard blog post for me to write. I have agonized over this for a very long time and even now, as I sit down to write, I am almost at a loss for words. Let me start off by saying that I have been duped by our President. It pains me to say this, but it is, unfortunately true. As many of my friends know, I have been a steadfast supporter of President Obama from day one. I feel that from a domestic standpoint, he has done almost all of the right things, and I still stand firmly behind all of the amazing progress that we have seen in America. From health care reform to marriage equality, we are definitely living in an amazing and historic time which I hope will long be remembered for all the good we have done.

However, when it comes to the rest of the world, our President has failed miserably. I can only blame him for the very cold relationship that the administration has with Israel and I not only blame him for the disaster that is the Iran agreement, I am furious with him for what he has done. First off, a little background. I have always known that Obama was not keen on Netanyahu. To be honest, I really did not care. The relationship between the US and Israel is as strong today as it has always been. I truly believe that in the end, it really does not matter what the President says, but Israel will remain our one true ally in the Middle East, and this bond will never break. Just look to our military and you will see how true this is. All of the top brass of the military are friends of Israel and if you look at some of the statements coming from there, you will see what is really happening. Much of the cooperation between our countries is played out between our militaries, and the connection will always be strong. So when Obama wanted to act like a baby in terms of Netanyahu (and vice versa, by the way!) I just ignored it all.

I still hold to these beliefs. No matter who the President will be, out two countries will always be as close as they are. However, appearances sometimes matter. Public opinion can often be swayed by the actions of our President, and I think that is the case today. In February, a Gallop poll showed that about 70 percent of Americans looked upon Israel favorably, down from 72 percent one year earlier. Now that is actually a great statistic, however, it has hovered in the 60% – 70% range through Obama’s presidency. Certainly not the lowest in the past two decades (that honor goes to the first George Bush) but certainly not the highest (Reagan and Clinton). However, the more telling statistic is when people were asked if they sympathized more with the Israelis or the Palestinians, 83% of Republicans said Israelis while only 48% of the Democrats said Israelis. Again, not the lowest (also again the end of the first George Bush’s term) but not the highest (again, Reagan and Clinton). I think it is the perception from the President that causes the Democrat numbers to fall, and at this point they are continuing to fall. For this, I definitely blame President Obama.

To top this off, comes the fiasco of the Iran deal with the so called P5+1 (US, Russia, China, UK, France, and Germany). The president has pushed this deal through which is perhaps the worst deal ever seen. It does nothing to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the long term. Perhaps it keeps the bomb from them in the coming year, but there is nothing to prevent it from happening soon after. First off, there is the issue of inspection. How can we expect to keep Iran to comply with the deal if we have to give them 24 days’ notice before coming in to inspect. 24 days Iran will have to clean up nuclear sites prior to inspection! If Iran breaks the deal, sanctions don’t automatically start again. There has to be more committees and discussions. Sanctions are what has brought Iran to the table. Iran is feeling the pain from sanctions, and these sanctions are the only real deterrent we have right now (outside of war). If Iran knew that sanctions would start again immediately upon breaking the deal, it might not break it! Furthermore, if Iran does break the deal, they will be VERY close to getting the bomb! Everything they have to now will still be there waiting for them to use. Finally, how much of all the money that will be available to them will find its way to terrorists!

Ultimately, this deal is a disaster, to America and certainly to Israel. A nuclear Iran brings an arms race to the Middle east, and perhaps ultimately, to the entire world. Mutually assured destruction was perhaps the one doctrine that kept the tense peace through the cold war, but I am not certain it will work the same way in the Middle East. Just imagine Hamas or Hezbollah with a small yield nuclear bomb!

I don’t know how this will finally play out, but I can say this. It is important that we all contact our senators and congressional representatives and ask them to vote this deal down. President Obama had to agree to Congressional oversight for this deal. So once it is sent to congress, they will have 60 days to debate and vote. If both houses vote to disapprove the deal, they will send a joint resolution to the President, which he has said he would veto. Should that happen it will go back to congress and if both houses can muster a two-thirds majority to override the veto, then the President will have to continue sanctions against Iran and the deal will fall apart. In order for this to happen we need to lobby our representatives. Call or write your Senators and Congressmen and implore them to vote against this disastrous deal.

Not wanting to leave off with such a downer, take a look at this fun commercial from bezeq, Israel’s phone company (like Verizon):

 

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שלום על ישראל

It is very hard to believe but seven months from today Marsha, the kids, and I, and my in-laws will be landing in Israel. It is hard to believe that is actually going to happen (we have the airline tickets to prove it!). The origin of this trip goes back a while when Marsha and I had a dream of bringing the family to Israel for one of the kids’ B’nai Mitzvah. However as time moved on, we realized that the dream would be very hard to make happen. When Noam heard that we had thought of this idea, he sort of latched on to it. He began to talk about going, and we gave him the choice of having a party like his classmates, or going to Israel. Over the summer he flipped back and forth between them, until finally he told me one day, “Abba, I’m going to go to lots of Bar Mitzvah parties, I don’t need one more.” And that was it! My in-laws were committed to helping us make this trip a reality and soon after we purchased seven tickets on Uniteג Airlines from Newark to Tel Aviv!

Next I started to do some planning for the trip. We felt it was important to get a lot done now so that we can lock things in. First up was finding a place to stay. From the start we decided that we would rent an apartment or two rather than stay in hotels for two main reasons. First and foremost, hotels are expensive and renting an apartment will be less. For example, two rooms in a basic hotel that can accommodate all of us would run us close to $5000 for the 12 nights. Two apartments, one for us and a smaller one for my in-laws will run around $3000. On top of that, we have a full kitchen and will be able to cook our own dinners most nights which will also save a lot of money. The other reason for the apartment is that in our travels to Israel we have come to really like one specific Synagogue in Baka, Kehillat Yedidya. We have friend who go there and really enjoy the services. They are a modern Orthodox Synagogue with very progressive ideology.

I searched on Air bnb and a few vacation rental sites, and luckily I found two very nice apartments within a 5 minute walk of each other and of the Synagogue. Our apartment I found on a number of different sites, but no one ever returned my emails. Finally I found it on the website of a management company and they do manage the apartment for the owners. We made the arrangements and it was all set up. To make it better someone I know in the area had friends stay in this apartment and said that it is very nice. For my in-laws I found a nice place on Trip Advisor’s vacation rental page and I think they will also be very happy with the apartment.

So now we had two of the major pieces done. Next I looked for a tour guide. For those who do not know, tourism is the biggest industry in Israel. Everyone who lives in Israel has probably acted as a tour guide at one time or another, and to become a licensed tour guide, one has to pass some very challenging tests. Some have asked why we are getting a tour guide. After all, this will be Marsha’s tenth trip to Israel, my sixth, and my in-laws fifth. For my kids, however, this will be their first trip and we really wanted to make it special. Sure we could show them around, but a tour guide will really know how to show Israel to the kids.

I got a few referrals from some people but the first person was not available, and the second was way too expensive. Finally I got the idea to get in touch with the Director of USY Israel programs in Israel. When Marsha was on Nativ, he was the director of Nativ and we know him well. He gave me the name of JJ Jonah who is the CEO of a  company called Israel Maven. JJ has had a long relationship with USY and has provided tour guides for Israel Pilgrimage and he is also involved with Camp Ramah in California. I spoke with him on the phone for a few minutes and he immediately thought of a guide for us and within a few days we had a guide and a first draft of an itinerary. The itinerary is undergoing revision and hopefully within a month we will have them done as well. In a future post, perhaps I will talk about that.

JJ suggested that we reserve our rental car now as well. The rental car companies all have 9 passenger vehicles for rent. JJ said that they do not always have many available, so we should reserve now. I checked a few rental car companies on line and found the best rate with a company called Shlomo Sixt. I have reserved the car and they took my deposit so all should be in order. I have since read some not so great reviews of this company on the internet, but recently there have been more positive reviews, so hopefully all will be ok. I will confirm with them closer to the date.

Flights, check. Lodging, check. Tour guide, check. Rental car, check. Passports, ugh. We have to get passports for the kids and a renewal for me. So one day during winter break we all went to the East Brunswick library at opening time and applied for the passports. It is quite expensive to get one these days. For a kid, it is $80 plus a $25 fee for the facility. Plus we paid $10 for the photos! For an adult is it $110 for the passport and $25 for the facility. Yikes!

Today we got the passports in the mail so now, Passports, check! At this point a most of the trip is planned and arranged. We are still working out what we will be special there for Noam’s Bar Mitzvah, and in future posts, hopefully I will post on that as well.

For now, we are all very excited about the trip, and hope that the seven months go by quickly.

Oh as a treat, watch this wonderful video of Israeli soldiers singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

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From Rutgers Hillel

Friends, please take a moment to read this important update from my friend and the Director of Rutgers Hillel, Andrew Getraer. If you can watch Fox News tonight at 9 please do so.

 

Dear Friends of Rutgers Hillel: 
We held an event this week that has caused much controversy and will be featured on Fox News TONIGHT at 9 PM – The MegynKelly ShowTUNE IN.

This past Tuesday night the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement sponsored an event, “Examining Human Rights Violations Against Minorities in the Islamist World” A Discussion with Brooke Goldstein and Dr. Qanta Ahmed. A letter protesting the event was published in the campus paper, the Daily Targum, the day before. I personally received dozens of hate filled messages, calling me a racist, a white supremacist, an islamaphobe, etc. Dozens of posts to our Facebook event called on us to cancel the event. 

The event went on as planned. Powerful and compelling issues regarding human rights abuses throughout the Middle East were discussed. The most honest dialogue I have ever seen between Jewish and Muslim students occurred. And it has ramifications. 

The speakers, Brooke Goldstein and Dr. Qanta Ahmed were presented powerful testimony.  Ms. Goldstein is a human rights attorney,award-winning filmmaker, and director of The Lawfare Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to issues regarding abuse of Western legal systems and human rights law. She has been featured in several media, including CNN, FoxNews, The New York Sun, Defense Technology International, and WABC News Talk Radio, and has been published in a variety of sources, including The New York Daily News, Commentary Magazine, The American Spectator, The Counter Terrorist Magazine, and others.

Dr. Ahmed, daughter of Pakistani immigrants to Britain, physician, devout Muslim, and human rights activist, is a frequent contributor to a variety of international media, including BBC World Service, Voice of America, NPR, CNN, Fox, C-Span, and Al Arabiya. She has been published in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, Pakistan’s The Daily Times, Gulf News, The Times of Israel, and the World Policy Journal. Her first book, “In the Land of Invisible Women” details her experience of living and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

The presenters were exceptional: reasoned, articulate, compassionate – but no tip toeing around the issues.  It was a powerful and moving experience, before a standing-room-only crowd of students, about half Jews and half Muslim. The speakers clearly and sensitively differentiated between the term ‘Islamist’ and Islam/Muslim. They testified to their own experiences living, working, andresearching in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian territories, under the rule of Muslim religious extremists. The litany of child abuse and oppression of women and minorities was tragic and chilling. For over 2 hours students sat in rapt attention, and it  was conducted with civility.

 

Then came the Q&A, filled with shouting, anger, and discord. Not a single student addressed the litany of tragedy and human rights violations which had been described to them in detail for two hours. The lack of any concern for the serious human rights issues presented was notable and disappointing. 

 

Instead, many Muslim students focused entirely on attacking the speakers personally. Hillel’s student Israel Chair had been facilitating the event, but eventually I had to step in and restore order. I had the police remove one student who began shouting anti-Zionist epithets. Both Dr. Ahmed and Ms. Goldstein, shocked and insulted, got up and left unceremoniously.


Following the formal program, however, several Muslim students stayed at Hillel and continued discussions with a group of Jewish students for an hour.  These students expressed their feelings that the overall experience was extremely positive.  I was very proud of our students and that Hillel facilitates such discussion. 

The controversy is sure to continue. Some students have already called the Office of Student Life to condemn us. It’s easier to attack Hillel than to deal with the human rights issues related to Islamic extremism. The irony, of course, is that the victims of such extremism are almost entirely innocent Muslims themselves.

Ultimately, Hillel created a safe space for students to engage with challenging issues in a serious way – they struggled, persevered, and ran with it. We hope to continue at the Jewish-Muslim Dinner, Sunday October 12th in the Hillel sukkah next to Brower Dining Hall, co-sponsored The New Jersey Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, the Sisterhood of Shalom Saalam, andThe Foundation for Ethnic Understanding,

That is what the campus, and Hillel is all about. 

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