Searching for Peace
Posted by: Greg on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 10:20:33 pm | Comments (0)
Trying to understand the
Arab-Israeli conflict is like a rubix cube. You’d spend some time, occasionally
hours trying to figure out how to get all those colors lined up. Finally, when
you finally have one of the sides with the same colors, you’d realize you have many
more to go, even though we know how the puzzle will end, with each of the
colors matched up on their side properly. The same could be said about the
conflict: We know the solution (two states for two peoples) and we know that we
have sometimes matched up the sides, only to realize we didn’t solve the puzzle
(Oslo Accords, the 2000 failed talks at Camp David).
Today, we again talk about the peace
process. Then, like clockwork, the media decides to focus on other things in
the seeming hopes of deriding the goal of peace. When I got my magazines to read
this past weekend, the cover of Time magazine caught my attention.
thought this doesn’t make sense. Israel, the country where it is written in the
it’s declaration of independence that Israel extends “our hand to all neighbouring
states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness?”
Israel, the country which, despite wars in 1956, 1967, and 1973, always asked
their neighbors for peace, only to read the Khartoum Resolution announce its
famous three no’s: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no
negotiations with it? Israel, the country which was able to achieve peace with
Egypt and Jordan, that Israel does not want peace?
After I read the article, Karl Vick makes more of an
argument that Israel has been pursuing peace and that ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO BE
SKEPTICAL considering the previous attempts for peace, chiefly the 2000 Camp
David talks where Israel offered everything Palestinian leadership demanded,
but left the negotiations without even a counter offer. The crux of the article
was that Karl cited a statistic that peace in the Middle East was 5th
on a list of concerns Israelis have while Israeli Arabs have peace as first on
their list. Does Karl think that Israeli’s should be walking around their
entire existence thinking about peace? This will be a shock to Karl but
Israelis, like everyone else, worry about other issues such as the economy,
crime, poverty, and national security (all of those came ahead of peace in the
poll Karl cites in the article). It makes sense that Israeli Arabs make it
first on their list because they don’t want to be isolated from their fellow
Arabs because they opted to be Israeli citizens.
If there is anything we can learn from Karl’s article and
the decision by the editors to make it the cover story with the wording they choose,
is that they were more interested in selling a few more magazines for the shock
value than writing an actual article. Hopefully, the news industry decides to
print stories that could help contribute to the peace process instead of trying to derail it.
PNEI training at Hillel Institute in St. Louis
Posted by: Desiree Nazarian on Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 11:47:45 pm | Comments (0)
“Missouri. Hmmm.. cows... farmland....” My thoughts to a tee right before attending the Hillel Institute in St. Louis Missouri. Little did I know, I was far from home yet close to an amazing week full of a true meaningful experience.
From the Hillel Institute I realized that always having an open mind when walking into any situation that comes forth is truly a gift. I made some great friends on this journey. Ones that I still speak with and enjoy the company of. The easy-going atmosphere during nighttime was very much needed and appreciated. It allowed us all to branch out and meet each other without being held under restraints. Some of the friends I made were more religious than I, some more laid back, and some more outrageous, but all in all a wonderful group of people. The people I met at the Institute were welcoming and some of them really wore their hearts on their sleeves. Personally, from this I learned more than I had thought I would coming out of the conference: To be the best that you can be and give the best you can offer while always staying true to yourself. This showed me to never have expectations in certain situations like these. It was a great experience for networking and socializing with other Hillel’s to understand their groove of handling things on their campuses. I will take back what I learned and apply it to being a PNEI at Baruch College for the following school year. I am looking forward to a positive and wonderful year!
Jewish Tourism and Personal Place
Posted by: Matt Vogel on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 11:25:57 am | Comments (3)
First off, spelling Kyiv is the Ukranian way of spelling the city and Kiev is the Russian way. I'll probably end up referring to both throughout my time here. Either way, there are only so many times you can make the joke about asking if the chicken at the meal is chicken Kiev. :)
Our guide for the tour portion of the trip was Jeremy Leigh who has written extensively on the topic of wandering Jewishly and what it means to visit a place as a Jew and seeking the Jewishness inherent in a place. You can read a great article of his in PresentTense. We started our tour just outside the hotel across from the circus.
What is interesting is that this picture of Yelena Azriyel and Biana Lupa from two nights ago in front of the circus...
became transformed into something new as we found out that the circus used to be known as the Jewish market of Kyiv. Jeremy then asked us to consider who actually owned the memory of a place. Was it more likely to be the current residents? Historians or tourists? Or is it something that is navigated through all this varied ownership....
We moved from there to the central train station as pictured here.
As a daily commuter through Grand Central, I am quite familiar with the experience of train stations, particularly major hubs. This experience however was different for me, but I did not realize it at the time. I was taking pictures as a tourist, as someone far removed from the actual experience of being in this place.
When Jeremy asked us if we had any connection to this train station, it dawned on me. That old cassette recording of my grandfather speaking with his father contained a story of this exact train station. The story goes that my great grandfather met my great grandmother on the train leaving Kiev to come to the United States. She was traveling in first class and he had snuck up from his position in coach. They met, connected, but did not see each other again until later years when they were both in New York.
Seeing this train, suddenly connected me deeply to the personal experience of this train station. To know that years ago, a part of my family had started here gave me chills.
It brings me back to Jeremy's question of who owns the memory of a place. I felt connected to this place through a personal story, much more so than the connection I had as a commuter. I feel it is critical in my work with Hillel that one must be fully present. We must bring ourselves to our work to enable others to connect with their self in a personal and hopefully deeply meaningful way.
I'll finish this post a with two videos of Jeremy from our YouTube page...
More Songs About Buildings and Food
Posted by: Matt Vogel on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 4:55:18 am | Comments (1)
Some random pictures based on a wonderful Talking Heads song...
Pickles at every meal!!!!!
Mikado cake, after I was cautioned away from the Bales cake....long story for another post.
Posted by: Matt Vogel on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:41:11 pm | Comments (2)
As I started on the walk to Babi Yar today, I didn't know what I should be feeling. I know that my family history from my mother's side comes from Ukraine, specifically Kiev, but I didn't quite know how to approach this site of so much suffering and murder. I understood what I should feel at Sachsenhausen during last year's trip to Germany. There was a museum and pictures and artifacts and tangible memory, but this was different.
This small memorial was all that stood to represent the memory of over 100,000 people who were slaughtered by the Nazis in a pit behind the stone menorah.
After placing a small stone on the steps of the memorial, I slowly made my way over to the pit, to look into the abyss of where a part of my family was killed.
I stood, silently reflecting for some time. Torn between seeing nature and life in the context of so much death. I was really struggling to recall the faces of my family and I was troubled that I did not have a face to connect with for this place. I had seen pictures of my great-grandfather, the one who had escaped Ukraine before this and after so many of the pogroms. I recalled his voice on the cassette tape that my grandfather had recorded as a conversation about his life, the sole remaining memory of his voice. And yet, I still could not see the faces of my family. I thought of my mother, my grandfather and his father and tried to compile their faces into something approximating a memory but I could not.
I backed away from the site, unsure of what to think without a tangible connection.
It was then that I saw the lilac bush, standing after it had bloomed.
I didn't need to smell the fragrance, I didn't need to see the blossoms, but I had a distinct memory and a relation to all the beautiful lilacs I have seen in my life. Somehow, that was enough. Somehow it connected to my work in this conference to understand more about Jewish Peoplehood and Jewish Peoplehood in relation to the world around us.
In that moment of recalling the lilacs, I became at peace with the memory of a family I had not known. I didn't need to see their faces, but I could recall their life, their memory, their connection to me through the chain of history through my memory of the lilac.
Like the one that had bloomed so beautifully in my backyard this year.
In memory of Abraham Rudman, all of his family, and all whose lives were unjustly taken from them in senseless violence.
Posted by: Matt Vogel on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:40:36 pm | Comments (0)
Wow, that was a couple of intense days! I'll add more pictures and stories tomorrow.
Plus, an update from Biana!
Posted by: Matt Vogel on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 4:18:15 pm | Comments (5)
After a minor flight delay, Biana and I took off from JFK for our 10 hour flight to Kiev. Hard to recall most of the flight but I got the whole plot of Leap Year without listening to a word and fell asleep trying to watch Crazy Heart.
We landed this morning. Funny thing, when we were on the plane we were wondering about how we would find our driver. I said, "Oh, there's probably a sign that says 'Jewish Peoplehood'." What do you know, a Ukranian man with a sign that says "Jewish Peoplehood" was waiting for us. "Sochnut?" That's it. Good thing we've had an Israel Fellow at Baruch for the past few years so I knew what Sochnut meant, despite my limited Hebrew. Sochnut means Jewish Agency for Israel, FYI.
Borispol International Airport
Welcome to Kyiv!
We got settled in the hotel pictured below (what a view!)...
Then I took Biana's lead for lunch choices. It didn't take much effort to pass up StarDogs (at least that's what it supposedly is translated to mean).
This looked like a nice place to sit and enjoy the flowers and the shedding cottonwood trees.
Borscht was recommended but my eyes were certainly bigger than my stomach as I ended up with herring, potatoes, and pickled veggies.
It's funny, no matter where I am, no matter what cuisine, I can't pass up the pickled vegetable plate.
I recognized Yonatan Ariel and a few others who came into the same restaurant after our lunch so we sat with them and chatted. Thank fully Biana helped us with the menu ordering! :)
We are now off to have dinner with Baruch alumni and current JDC Jewish Service Corps Volunteer, Yelena Azriyel!!!
Here are my plans for later tonight, catching up with the rest of the world. :)
Baruch Goes to Ukraine!
Posted by: Matt Vogel on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 6:38:22 pm | Comments (1)
Coming soon...a blog from our trip to the Third International Task Force Meeting on Jewish Peoplehood Education and Programming in Kiev, Ukraine!