Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Australia Day

A very Happy Australia Day to all - it's hard to believe it's really been five years since that incredible semester in Sydney full of sun, Toohey's Old, pides, ice cream, and plenty of giggling in the Cohen/Goldstein room (thanks Mikey for the photo)

Today we celebrated Brett's 23rd birthday in style. Haifa Hotel manager Joseph cooked up a Tex-Mex dinner, and Gym Instructor Tom Holtz and I contributed the dessert to the celebrations.

One of the other highlights this week was meeting with a delegation that's here from Boston called The Learning Exchange. It's a group of NGO leaders visiting Israel for a week and Haifa for a 3-day seminar, in conjunction with the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Haifa/Boston Connection. They are meeting their NGO counterparts in Haifa to share experiences and learn new approaches towards strengthening the economic development and social justice work in their respective communities. For many, this is their first trip to Israel and to Haifa, and I got to meet with them at their opening event last night.

Thursday, we will be waking up bright and early to get on a 6am bus for the start of a 5-day seminar...and if it wasn't a seminar I was really looking forward to, I'd be royally pissed to get up that early.  Our Otzma seminar is called Sichsuch veh Tikvah, or Conflict & Hope, and is about the Israeli/Arab conflict. We'll be hearing from people from all across the political spectrum - from the left, the right, and from the Arab perspective, and we'll be going on some tours around Judea and Samaria. I think it will be fascinating to be able to see with our own eyes things that we read about in the news. I think it will also be important for some people in the group to learn the real facts about certain issues, as opposed to the way the mainstream media and often anti-Israeli media, reports.

I try to read as much as I can about the current events, and I found this feature from Ha'Aretz particularly interesting, and it's definitely something I'd like to ask different people about during this upcoming seminar. The headline is, "Not all settlers and Palestinians want each other to disappear", and it's about a group called Yerushalom, made up of Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and Palestinians living in surrounding Arab villages, who meet on a regular basis and talk about the things going on in their communities and look for a way to find a common ground and live peacefully together. It's long but very well worth the read.

I'm sure I'll have plenty to write and share after the seminar, so I will post another update when I get back to Haifa next week.

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