Dear Friends Shalom,
I hope that you are well and taking advantage of the opportunity to be with friends and loved ones.
Here at Hannaton, the summer is filled with activity. Teenagers from the United States and Canada, from Turkey, and Israelis, too– lots of students have been on our campus involved in a variety of activities and studies .
But I want to tell you about one special group that came to Hannaton from very nearby – Bir el Maksur – the Bedouin village just around the corner.
Within our understanding of Judaism, we see great value in building a shared and equal society for all of our citizens and fostering brave relationships between people from different ethnic and religious groups. It is said that leaders sign agreements, but people build peace. Without detracting from the critical role of our leaders, I’d say this statement is very true. We know that we cannot wait for the reality to change; rather we must work towards creating the reality we want to live in.
“You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it”.)Mishna Avot 2:16)
(אבות ב:טז) “לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ואין אתה בן חורין להיבטל ממנה”.
And so, recently, a group of 30 children from Bir el Maksur, in 2nd and 3rd grade, came to spend
two days of fun at Hannaton with children their age. We played soccer, jumped rope, did art, and more. In the evening their parents came for a gathering with Hannaton parents. During the gathering, we stood in a circle according to the number of children each family has and much to our surprise, the family with the most number of children was from Hannaton – with seven children! The children stayed over to sleep at the Educational Center.
On the surface, this was a regular neighborhood meetup, but the truth is, a gathering like this is almost a small miracle. I say this, on the one hand, with much pride in our work, and on the other hand, with pain about our reality here in Israel. It cannot be taken for granted that others, our neighbors, would feel secure in allowing their young children to stay here (for many, this was their first time sleeping away from home). It cannot be taken for granted that they can come swim in a pool in a Jewish community and feel welcome. It cannot be taken for granted that there is so much good will from both sides.
Similarly, we had another meaningful meeting with Ahmed Zaidan, the imam of the oldest and biggest mosque in the village of Kfar Manda, just a mile down the road from Hannaton. This meeting was possible only after many years of building relationships with the different communities within Kfar Manda. Together with another eight rabbis from South America and Canada, we visited the mosque in the center of the village, where we spoke about God, humanity, and the clash with extremism which many times, to our shame, masquerades as religion. We asked ourselves – what is our role as religious leaders in the battle for a better world? We did not have answers, but at least we opened the door and started the conversation. We finished the meeting with a joint prayer for peace for all mankind.
Wishing you all a wonderful summer,