Home > Blog > WHC > Day-to-Day – An Israel Journey
Share in the journey as WHC’s Membership Director, Lindsay Fry, travels through Israel — exploring its diversity, diving deep into the challenges it faces, and meeting with some of the country’s most fascinating leaders.
Day 3 – Tel Aviv
This busy day around Tel Aviv gave Lindsay an opportunity to understand the experiences of Israel’s diverse Jewish population.
“It’s hard for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Torah scholars to focus on their studies when their children have no food to eat.” The haredi man who said this is part of a new program through RavTech, a software development company in ultra-Orthodox B’nei Brak. With the exception of its CEO Vera Mor, a secular female Jew, all RavTech employees are ultra-Orthodox male Torah scholars. RavTech’s unique training program enables Haredi men to study Torah in the mornings and learn coding and technical skills in the afternoons. It also guarantees employment upon completion, giving Haredi men and their families a future that includes financial security.
She also toured the BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture in Tel Aviv, a secular yeshiva that emphasizes Judaism as a culture through the values of tikkun olam and represents the Secular Jewish Renaissance and Yahadut Hevratit (Jewish Social Activism) in Israel.
The third stop today was at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. There, Lindsay introduced Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and founder and current Chairman of the Board of Women of the Wall (WoW), who spoke about the decades-old struggle for women’s rights at the Kotel. The Western Wall has become the greatest metaphor for the exclusion of women in the public sphere in Israel. Through successful litigation, women now have the right to pray aloud and wear tallitot and lay tefillin at the Wall. However, even though a Jerusalem court ruled that WoW has the legal right to read from a Torah scroll in the women’s section of the Kotel, the Kotel’s haredi rabbi, a state employee, has done everything in his power to prevent that from happening. It is a battle that continues.
Day 2 – Haifa
Diversity is a starting point, inclusion is a skill.
A day in Haifa gave Lindsay’s group an opportunity to learn about Israeli-Arab relations. Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast, is Israel’s third largest city and one that is proud of its diversity.
They visited Yad BeYad (Hand in Hand) – the Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, a bilingual, multicultural school, where children begin their educational journey by learning both Hebrew and Arabic. Most schools in Israel are segregated. Yad BeYad strives to build friendship, understanding, and community among their Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze students and families. Arab and Jewish teachers work together in each class, each instructing in their native language and openly discussing differences in culture, religion, and historical viewpoint. By teaching tolerance, respect, and coexistence, the hope is that young children will grow up in an inclusive society where hearing a different language spoken in public is commonplace and doesn’t elicit fear. At Yad BeYad, Lindsay met Nasrim Ghandour Cinamon, a Palestinian woman living in Haifa with her Israeli-Jewish husband. They are raising their children (“peace babies” as she calls them) Muslim since Israel will not recognize them as Jews. At Yad BeYad, they have a community. This school reminded Lindsay of the Sir Charles Clore Jewish-Arab Community Center in Akko that Mohammed Fahili spoke about in his Yom Kippur remarks at Temple.
The day also included a visit to Procter and Gamble who is working with Joint Distribution Committee – Israel (the Israeli arm of the American Jewish JDC) to implement ITWorks’ ExcelHT program. ExcelHT serves students from the Druze and Circassian ethnic minorities struggling to find employment in the hi-tech sector despite holding academic degrees. Seventy percent of Arab women living in Israel are unemployed. This partnership offers Arab-Israeli women education and training that increases their opportunities in the workforce.
Day 1 – Sderot and Netiv Ha’asarah
Sderot is a town located less than a mile from Gaza. Here, they live by the “15 second rule.” This means that wherever people are in Sderot, they are no more than 15 seconds from a reinforced structure where they can seek shelter from a rocket attack. You would think that the residents live in fear, but they don’t.
Alon Davidi, the mayor of Sderot, spoke with Lindsay and her group during the day they spent in Sderot and the Gaza border. Davidi says he doesn’t want the children and adults of Sderot to just survive. He wants them to live. And that they do. Here, an indoor community center doubles as a bomb shelter – a bomb shelter with multiple rooms that include a climbing wall, ping pong tables, sports courts, and play areas for babies. It is bright, colorful, and cheerful.
Lindsay also spent time in Netiv Ha’asarah, a moshav (settlement community) that is the closest in Israel to the Gaza Strip. Its residents left their homes in Egypt to help bring about peace in that country. Lindsay spoke with a woman who relocated to the moshav as a child. She said they don’t have the privilege to “lose.” They are afraid that if they retreat, then they lose, and Israel’s border moves closer to Tel Aviv. She added that she once gave up her homeland for peace; she will not do it again for war. When the code red alert sounds here, she has just 3 seconds to get her children and herself to shelter. Yet, she talks of peace and remains optimistic. She is working with other women in Netiv Ha’asarah to create a mural of peace that is visible from Gaza. They hope that the mothers on the other side will see it and also want to work toward peace as well.
WHC’s Membership Director Lindsay Fry is traveling in Israel with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s “Israel Your Way” 100-person delegation. Recognizing her growing leadership role in Jewish D.C., Washington Hebrew Congregation asked Lindsay to participate on this trip that includes nine Washington Hebrew members. During her week abroad with the trip’s “Israel Insider” experience, Lindsay will explore Israel’s diversity, dive deep into the challenges it faces, and meet with some of the country’s most fascinating leaders.
This trip also gives Lindsay the opportunity to further her connection with the D.C.-area Jewish community, which she is committed to both personally and professionally. A participant in last year’s Washington, D.C. ADL Glass Leadership Institute, Lindsay is also an active member of Federation’s Young Leadership cohort and co-chaired this year’s Impact DC gala. Prior to her tenure at WHC, she was on staff at AIPAC, working in their Development and National Affairs department.
Check back throughout the week to read and see Lindsay’s experiences and reflections.
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