Perspectives: Day Ten, April 3, 2012

Apr
3
2012

We are all trying to put the last two weeks into some kind of perspective—not only how we can take our experiences into the classroom and our satellite, but how our experiences in Poland and Israel with continue to impact other areas of our lives.

We began our last day as always … 1,2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8, Gatsinzi? 9, 10….

And our guide, Jacob saying “Follow me, please!”

We loaded the bus for our first stop of the day, a visit to the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai. But on our way there, we stopped to pay respects to site of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. We paused to absorb some of the political complexities of Israel.

Mayor Ron Huldai, enlightened us much more. He entered the conference room casually, jovially and greeted this room of American teachers with the story of his own background as the son of teachers on a Kibbutz and serviceman in the Israeli air force and later a school administrator. He describes Tel Aviv as modern, tolerant and the “city that never sleeps.”

Corey asked the burning question we all have, what do we tell our students about Israel? His wise answer? We don’t have answers to everything in this world. And then he went on to say that the world, the media wants easy solutions, but this is not possible! Israel was 30 years ago, the underdog that everyone cheered for but now (and I paraphrase), “now we have to explain everything we do and the world views them [the Palestinians] as the underdog. He described the problem of neighboring countries who want Israel out completely. We had just come from that place yesterday, the hills around the Dead Sea where we could so very clearly see those opposing Israel’s very existence are literally just across the way, within visual sight. We closed our time with the returning back to the Holocaust. It is always with us. And the Mayor said as much.

When Katie asked at what grade level does Holocaust education begin? He replied, “Always.” From the earliest age, a child is aware of the Holocaust. The Days of Remembrance each year, memorials everywhere, all point to the fact that in Israel, the Holocaust is central. The struggle is keeping the Holocaust central, but balancing that with the hope that comes from the many achievements, and what has been built and grown from those ashes.

As we look back on our last day in Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, we find that that day, like many of the others, was a day of juxtapositions

  • from our driving around the circle of high-end stores, the diamond exchange and hotels on the Mediterranean to our driving through the poorer areas of Tel-Aviv and the textile buildings and homes of Israel’s newest African immigrants
  • from the newness of cosmopolitan Tel-Aviv to the ancient buildings of Jaffa and its newly constructed artist’s community
  • from Mirialoni’s past as a famous Israeli singer to her present, singing with an open guitar case at the entrance to the weekly craft market
  • from the painful history of the Jewish diasporas to their impressive multi-media presentation in The Museum of the Jewish People.

But, the highlight of this day for us was the congruence we all felt with the Israeli teachers.  They truly care about their students’ lives—and the lives of all Israeli students, being concerned about the effects of the current political tensions and being very much aware that the Holocaust is a part of all of their lives. We could have spent several more hours in discussions with them, and we do hope HEN can find a way for us to communicate further with them electronically.

That evening we arrived in Old Jaffa and found the view of the Mediterranean spectacular, providing  us one last round of photographs. Assia joined us in the restaurant, and we were all so humbled by her grace and lovely words of appreciation. Our final meal was more of the delicious Middle Eastern fare we have become accustomed to these past few days. .  Special thanks were given to Jacob, Mark, and David, Sondra and Jennifer for all they have done to make this journey possible, though hardly enough to express all that we were feeling.  Leaving that evening was bittersweet for all of us.

According to Amy’s pedometer, we covered 82.5 miles in these 12 days.  In those miles, we experienced both pain and hope.  But what made it all the more meaningful was that we did it together.

~Sue Fletcher and Jan Hausmann

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