Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
Another great week is coming to an end! Spring is almost here, the sun is shining, and we of course took the opportunity to take our shnattim out of their campuses for different activities. You can read about these lovely activities below in the Etgar and Machon updates.
One of the most exciting things that happened I think is the Shabbat dinner and activities the shnattim arranged for themselves. It is that time of year that the shnattim are more settled, and we, the staff, take a step back and give them room for their initiatives. And indeed we see things happening, which makes us really happy and proud. May these peer- led experiences, initiated by our participants continue and grow!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shaloma a good month, as Rosh Chodesh Nissan was this week!
Weekly update by Adam Keren- Black and Jason Bourne
On Wednesday and Thursday we had an intense seminar on the topic of Tikkun Chevra, the repairing of society. We learnt a good deal about the flaws of capitalism and the benefits of socialism, from sources such as the excellent documentary Inequality for All (go watch it, it really is great) and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. On Thursday evening we started to really discuss our ideology, what we want out of the Etgar program and how we can achieve it, in a compelling session run by Asha and Becky.
My favourite thing this week was Shabbat. We had a proper Shabbat dinner (at a table and everything!) prepared excellently by Elinor and Asha, and we were joined for dinner by Abraham. As well as him, on Saturday a number of other Machonniks joined us, and it was really great to be all together. Their perspectives were invaluable in Caroline and Mili’s program on the nature of God – Tom K induced some serious emotions by his being a walking existential crisis. On Saturday night we watched V for Vendetta, which was actually our Tikkun Olam class homework – it’s all about eradicating corruption in society.
We were all a little groggy starting the week on Sunday morning, but our bodies and minds were quickly energised through a yoga and meditation session run by Hannah, Jayme and Liat. We attempted to clean the flat, which is something of a gargantuan task when you live with 15 other people, and we only really managed to improve it from hellishly bad to just very bad – this understandably wasn’t enough for Ady and Danit, and we had to leave a program to clean to normal human being standards.
This week we’ve had a lot of great programs. In Chinuch vHadracha, we each brought an item that made us feel comfortable and secure. We also watched a video about ‘power posing’ and learnt that our bodies really can affect our minds, just as our minds can affect or bodies. In Zionist Dilemmas we watched the beginning of the classic Jewish movie An American Tail to learn about the pogroms of the nineteenth century, and our teacher Amir was a little disturbed at our interest in certain methods of ending someone’s life revolving around cats and stomaches. With Ady, we examined the idea of the prophet and the priest (the former forging the path for a new Idea to enter into society, and the latter upholding the vision of the former) and looked at how we can apply it to our own lives and our Netzer experience.
For a while recently we have been preparing a program to run at Yachad Bilingual School, which caters to Israeli kids of all backgrounds (including Arab ones), and this week we finally ran it. We ran fun activities teaching them about England and Australia, and made chocolate balls and chatterboxes with the kids as well. At the end we played the classic tag-style game ’40-40 Home’. They seemed to really enjoy the whole experience!
Today Machon and Etgar joined up in Tel Aviv to visit the Yitzhak Rabin Centre and to explore the museum there. It was a powerful experience, weaving together Rabin’s life, the relevant Israeli history and contemporary world events of a cultural, societal and political nature. The final room focused on Rabin’s funeral, and was darkly lit with little lights like candles all around on the floor.
We’re looking forward to our first closed Shabbat of Etgar, where we spend Shabbat together as a kvutsah and try to have a meaningful experience of some description. The events team has been working out a plan for a spiritually fulfilling and just plain fun Shabbat. It’s going to be great!
Weekly update by Eve Phillips
The last week of Machon has involved lots of exploring and travelling round Israel in order to gain more insight into israeli society. I am pleased to inform you all that the week kicked off with Netzer retaining our title as the champions of the Machon football tournament. Due to a shocking performance last week, the feeble Hineni lost their licence to play, allowing us to delve straight into the action and challenge our rivals. Despite being half the size of our opponents, once again we managed to demolish the testosterone fuelled Beitar with an emphatic 3-0 victory.
On Monday as part of Yom Tnua, northern Netzer along with Noam attended a Seminar run by Yachad , an organisation who works to mobilise British Jews in support of a political resolution to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The seminar involved visiting Mount Scopus to look out onto the view of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and learn about the injustices which the Arabs living in these areas experience on a daily basis. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to a resident of East Jerusalem, who was very excited to learn that that we were not of the right wing, settler view (unlike our friends from Beitar). He spoke to us about the regular raids carried out by the Israeli army and the unfair disparity between Jewish and Arab punishments.
Following our trip, we got to speak to a panel made up of left wing, Zionist speakers. Much to the groups outrage, the speakers told us that British people need to stop talking about the conflict and focus on our own problems which is rather ironic seeing as half the panel was made up of British people who are earning a living writing and discussing the conflict, but do not worry, we were certainly not afraid to tell them this and if anything their negativity only inspired us to keep discussing and understanding the conflict.
Tuesday was Yom Yisrael, we embarked on a 2 and half hour long coach journey to Israel's closest thing to multiculturalism; Haifa. The trip involved visiting the Bahai gardens and learning about the Baha'i religion. Moreover, we visited a reform mosque where we spoke to a man who gave us an insight into his particular sect of Islam explaining to us their customs, traditions and their attitudes towards Israeli society.
If we hadn't already gone on enough trips for the week, on Wednesday we visited Telaviv as part of our movement day run by the Brazilian legend, Rodrigo. We arrived at the shuk where we were given time to buy some lunch. Some chose to buy 7 Shek falafel whereas others decided to use this opportunity to eat some edible meat and vegetables, something which the Kiryat Moriah catering staff are not aware of. Afterwards, we visited a group of like minded, reform Kids from a mechinah where with sat on the roof of their home to discuss each other's programmes, concepts such as Zionism and of course, the conflict.
To finish of our day in the sun in Tel- Aviv we were reunited with Etgar and spent the rest of the day at the Rabin museum. I think everyone would agree that the Rabin museum was fantastic. The museum took us through Israel's history from 1948 onwards and was cleverly displayed alongside Rubin's life story and other major historical dates in the 20th century. After finding out that Rabin was also a football fan and after reading about everything he achieved before his premature death, Max and I who knew little about him before, came to the conclusion that he was a massive legend and is our new Zionist hero!
Overall It's been a very exciting week out of the classroom on Machon and everyone is looking forward to a well deserved rest on the weekend.
Weekly update by the Machon staff
Machon is well and truly underway! The past month has seen Machzor 129 continue to strengthen as a learning community and allow for both independent and collective growth. With the classes and trips offering a diverse range of content, learning environments and methodologies, the level of engagement and ideological exploration is at a very high level. The last few weeks have included several special occasions and visits, including a Machon Shabbat, a trip to the Knesset, Purim, and a tiyul in the north of the country.
As part of a “Yom Yisrael” excursion exploring the topic of religion and state, the group visited the Knesset, and were hosted by MK Nachman Shai, a minister of parliament for the Israeli Labour Party, for an intimate meeting and discussion. He bravely tackled the groups questions and offered his honest and passionate view of how Israel needs to act both as a significant player on the international stage and as a Jewish state. This rare opportunity was made possible through professional connections at the Machon. In addition, the group toured the building to learn more of the workings of the Israeli government, exploring the intricacies and dilemmas that exist within a Jewish democracy.
Since then, the group celebrated a special Israeli Purim in all its uniqueness. Being that Machon is situated in Jerusalem, they were able to celebrate Purim twice: once on the 12th with the rest of the country and again on the 13th with Jerusalem. This gave their costumes many miles and many likes on Instagram! As a community we enjoyed a Purim carnival with pizza and Purim themed chuggim.
As well as Purim, the Machon had their first “Shabbat Together” on campus. Everyone, including the staff, was at Kiryat Moria for the weekend and participated in a Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat meals and activities together that were entirely organized by the group. This didn't come without its complications, with discussions about pluralism and inclusivity being present throughout the Shabbat. The discussions and challenges offered a place to think critically about pluralism and how to really include everyone in Shabbat activities, a necessary lesson for all future madrichim.
Last week the group completed this busy, varied period of the program with a tiyul to the north of Israel where, as young chalutzim of their youth movements they learnt about the early chalutzim of the country. This included visits to Zichron Ya'akov, Rosh Hanikra, Homa v’Migdal museum and Kibbutz Hanaton, to learn about early and contemporary chalutzim. The group also had fun walking through ancient water tunnels and learning about the Druze in the community of Pki'in.
Looking forward, the participants have a few weeks of classes, a movement conference with shnat programs from all over the world, Pesach chofesh and a Limmud conference organized by them. It has been a great first six weeks of the Machon and we can't wait to see the continued learning and growth that will ensue in the next stage of the program.
Ilan and the Machon team!
IRAC Testifies in the Knesset about Gender Equality
Last Tuesday, the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality convened a hearing, at IRAC’s request, to discuss recent developments concerning women’s rights in Israel. It was our last hearing for what has turned out to be the busiest Knesset session ever for IRAC. Orly Erez-Likhovski, the Director of IRAC’s Legal Department, was the star witness of the day.
Orly had a lot to report, and much of the news was good. After a string of IRAC successes in court, allegations of illegal gender segregation on Israel’s public buses, in cemeteries and healthcare clinics—once the norm—have plummeted over the past five years. Women’s voices are no longer censored over the airwaves by the public radio station Kol B’ramah. In fact, over the summer the judge who presided over IRAC’s case against the radio station will be issuing a judgment and awarding monetary damages for its past discrimination.
Other news from Orly showed that there is still unfinished work to be done. In 2015, IRAC won a landmark lawsuit against the municipality of Beit Shemesh, which refused to remove so-called “modesty signs” (like these) from its public streets. Although many of the signs have now been torn down, some still remain. Orly advised the committee members that IRAC filed a new lawsuit earlier this month to hold the municipality in contempt of court for not fully abiding by the court’s orders.
Some challenges are in need of extra attention. Female soldiers and officers continue to be denied posts and access to army bases, and female professors continue to be passed over for college and university jobs, in order to “accommodate” male Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox students and soldiers who refuse to interact with women. IRAC has joined forces with other civil rights organizations in Israel to combat these forms of blatant gender segregation, which are on the rise in the army and in institutions of higher learning.
At one point during the hearing, right-wing Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich complained that IRAC and its supporters are “trying to force liberal values through law.” “We’re going to win,” he went on to declare, “because we have more children than you do.”
What Smotrich forgets is that half of those children are girls. For their sake, we won’t give up. With your support, IRAC will continue to be on the front lines of this issue to ensure full gender equality in all spheres of public life for all women in Israel.
ISRAELI VEGANISM: INTRODUCING THE LAND OF SOY MILK AND DATE HONEY TO THE WORLD
Irsrael is a leader in veganism and vegetarianism, an aspect of the Jewish state that is little known around the world. The World Zionist Organization’s Department for Diaspora Activities has set out to change that, introducing people around the world to both the Jewish and the Israeli connection to veganism.
Last week, the WZO ran vegan workshops for attendees of Berlin’s first-ever, weeklong Jewish food festival, Nosh Berlin. The German-Jewish community was one of the first to cooperate in the relatively new initiative, which began in February, in time for Tu Bishvat.
Starting in the US, the department distributed informational brochures to Jewish community members via Hillel, the Jewish Federations of North America and Moishe Houses.
This initiative is part of the department’s wider mission to encourage a broader discussion in the Diaspora about Judaism, Zionism and Israel.
“We are very disturbed by the growing distance between Judaism in the Diaspora, and especially among the younger liberal generation” and Israel, WZO Department for Diaspora Activities chairwoman Gusti Yehoshua Braverman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.“So we are trying to create a complex and varied dialogue about Zionism and Israel,” she said.
There is clear confusion today among Diaspora Jews between Zionism, “the ideal of a secure state for the Jews” and their views of the Israeli government, Braverman said. “If they don’t like the government, then they don’t like Zionism either. We are trying to explain that the relationship is much more complex than that, so they won’t only fall into the clichés but will really challenge the discussion.
”The WZO’s Beit Ha’am program, which the vegan initiative is part of, enables dialogue between Judaism, Zionism and Israel, which Braverman said are all “one parcel.”“I believe it’s not enough to be a Jew, but Israel need to be part of the Jewish identity,” she said, lamenting that in some Diaspora synagogues, rabbis refrain from mentioning Israel for fear that it is controversial.
“As someone who meets many young Jews around the world... I each time come back a little more concerned about what I hear, and so we try to find subjects that will challenge the dialogue,” Braverman said. “We’re not preaching to the choir; we’re trying to talk to the unconvinced.”
Thus the topic of veganism was raised as a matter of universal interest, and one in which Israel’s “Start-Up Nation” qualities can be conveyed. Israel reportedly has the largest percentage of vegans per capita in the world – an estimated 5% of the population – a statistic highlighted in the WZO brochure, which provides talking points for sessions on the subject. Thirteen percent of the population is vegetarian, and among them are 10 of Israel’s 120 MKs.
The material also raises the subject of veganism in the IDF, noting that vegans may wear special non-leather boots and are entitled to a higher salary to accommodate their dietary requirements. The text also examines veganism’s place in Judaism and emphasizes laws of respect toward animals found in the Torah, such as giving animals a day of rest on Shabbat and feeding one’s animals before oneself. It features quotes from Jewish activist and celebrity Mayim Bialik, who is a vocal advocate of the connection between Judaism and veganism.
According to Braverman, the initiative has thus far been met by a positive response from Jews and non-Jews alike, though the former is the primary target group. “Many times it surprises people – many don’t know we are so strong in veganism,” she said, having recently returned from the Berlin festival. “This is what we want – to raise curiosity about Israel and strengthen the connection [of Diaspora Jews] with it,” Braverman said. “Maybe Israel doesn’t represent them in one way, but it does in another way.”
In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion click here.
A BIG Mazal- Tov to Mrs. and Mr. Martin
Adam Martin and Rachel Elf are both RSY- Netzer and Shnat bogrim (graduates) got married this week. In the photo below- Rachel and her Shnat Chof friends!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
This may be the first weekly update you receive directly from us, and is part of our goal to have more direct and open communication with all our partners in this program
if you think there is anyone else that should receive this weekly updates, please send me their details
As always, the local Netzer Branch is always there for you as well