Blog  A Special Visit from the ARZENU Delegation

A Special Visit from the ARZENU Delegation

BBaruch Krausaruch Kraus is the Principal of the NFTY-EIE High School in Israel. In these weekly postings, he gives a description and rundown of what the group is doing day to day, which he hopes sheds some light on what the EIE experience is like.

Last Shabbat we had many guests: the entire ARZENU delegation joined the EIE community in the morning. Rabbis Josh Weinberg and Norm Roman (both EIE alum) led the services for the group. The aliyot to the Torah included EIE alumni and the ARZENU delegation. Beth Rodin, the Managing Director of NFTY, led an interactive text discussion with the entire group around the idea of righteousness – based on the declaration in this week’s parasha that Noah was “righteous in his own generation,” Isaiah’s promise in this week’s Haftarah that we would be “established in righteousness,” and the idea that Reform Zionism is deeply connected to making Israel a righteous nation. The conversation was rich and challenging and engaged members of the ARZENU delegation with EIE students in small groups. Following this we had Kiddush and a festive Shabbat meal together.

Yesterday morning, we had Yasmin Barhum from Ein Rafa come to speak about Islam in general and about her personal decision to convert to Islam and lead an observant and religious life as a Muslim. After her very interesting and insightful talk and a question and answer period, Yasmin’s husband Musa and their three lovely children, served us a home cooked meal: madjadara (lentils and rice) with yogurt and hot spice, salads, tamarind juice, and baklawa.

Before Yasmin came to Tzuba, we opened with a class on Islam as a background to Yasmin’s presentation. Beth Rodin, Jeremy Cronig, President of NFTY, and Max Spivak, past Cultural and Religious Vice President of NFTY, joined us today. This is what Beth had to say:

“Jeremy, Max, and I returned today to join the group for their Islam lesson. Usually, this lesson involves a tiyul to Ein Rafa, a Muslim village near Tzuba. Because of the situation, Yasmin, a member of the community, came to speak to the group at Tzuba rather than us travel there. For the first half of the day, we joined Ariela’s class as she taught the history of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. Jeremy and Max said they learned more about Islam in that 90 minutes then they had in high school in the States. After that intro, Yasmin presented to the group and answered questions. The group asked many questions and I was impressed with their genuine curiosity. Yasmin created a comfortable environment where the students were able to ask questions that they likely would not have the opportunity to ask elsewhere. The lesson concluded with a home cooked meal from Yasmin and her husband. Delicious! ”

At EIE, we are watching, consulting and analyzing all the time the security situation, with the bottom line being keeping our students safe, secure, and engaged in learning. Hopefully the lull in widespread violence since last week will continue and perhaps the tension will end.

2015-10-13 14 ResizedSpeaking of learning, we have continued our studies with the development and organization of the Oral Law over a period of several hundred years, culminating in the codification of the Mishna by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi at Bet Shearim in the second century CE. On Tuesday, we visited the site, located just east of Haifa, which was one of the four seats of the Sanhedrin after the Bar Kochba Rebellion as the center of Judaism moved north to the Galilee. This is an important location for the topics we are studying: the development of the Oral Law, the codification of the Mishnah, and its evolvement into the Talmud. Through visiting the very impressive catacombs and the funerary remains there, we were able to imagine how people lived.

2015-10-13 10 ResizedAfter a schnitzel lunch, we traveled to Tzipori, which was the capitol of the Galilee from the Second Temple Period and became a Roman administrative center up to the third century. We saw a house that had an exquisite mosaic. There is disagreement as to whether this house was the home of the Roman Governor or of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi. We saw the adjacent Jewish Quarter with its Mikvaot and the Roman theater. Our main goal was the a 5th-century synagogue with a striking mosaic — a scene which includes a zodiac with the god Helios in the center sandwiched between a scene of “the sacrifice of Isaac” at the bottom and the Holy Ark of the Temple and menorahs at the top. This provoked a discussion about why the Jews of Tzipori put a zodiac in their synagogue. We then used Talmudic texts to reveal the Rabbis’ understanding that a form is not necessarily an idol; that art can be appreciated as décor and not only through religious and ritual eyes. Our students saw how Reformation has allowed us to live in a multi-cultural society and retain our cultural and religious uniqueness at the same time.

During this week we study Islam and the rise of Jewish centers in Babylon, Spain and Franco-Germany.

This evening, parents, siblings, and other family members will arrive for the Parents’ Pilgrimage, and we all look forward to greeting them.

Shavuah Tov,
Baruch