My husband's rabbinical training required that we spend a year in Jerusalem. Now at the tail end of this time, I've been feeling a lot more "in progress" than complete. A dear new Israeli friend and I have just gotten into the swing of things on our babycare swap. A local midwife I just worked with said she had wanted to send clients my way all this coming year. I'm just starting to memorize phone numbers, get some major growth in the garden, get my yoga schedule down pat, string together (three-word) sentences in Hebrew, and figure out a good system for refilling our brita. I'm so ready for NY, but I'm not quite done here.
I'm also grappling for meaning because it's so hard to make sense of the political climate in Israel. There are so many hurt feelings and different perspectives that I don't always know the right questions to ask, let alone how to put forth my own assertions. And there's often a big white elephant in the room (or playground, where I'm told it's best not to talk politics in casual conversation).
I was privileged to attend and teach babywearing at a gathering of Israeli and Palestinian woman joined together under the moniker Midwives of Peace. We talked about birth politics and procedures, traded trade stories, and told a few (dirty) jokes to break the tension. I learned the Israeli homebirth midwife makes 4 times what the Palestinian one does. I got to attend hospital and home births, and was surprised and relieved to find the hospital experience a bit more humane than what I often experience in NY. I attended a seder in Tel Aviv for the hundreds of refugees who walk here from Africa each year in search of asylum. I got to visit the Hebron Hills, East Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, hear perspectives from Israeli soldiers (including cousins and friends) meet a few Palestinian families (among them dear friends), and see Jewish Israel through new and challenging lenses.
Three years ago when visiting a bedouin family in the Negev desert with my husband's family organization Kivunim, all the women were hidden - this year, just having a daughter was enough to grant me effortless entrance to this (and other) women's areas. Thankfully Kivunim is teaching students to speak both Hebrew and Arabic, because rifts between people are great enough without the language barrier.
Amazing things happen when you put people in a room together. This is a feat unto itself; but if you can witness it, you can have a tactile experience of the other. Sometimes we learn the other is just like us. Other times it's not all pretty, we even deepen our stereotypes. But putting even an ugly face on a nemesis is much better than a bullseye.