These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Chanukah is almost here! Unbelievable!

Posted on December 3, 2012 by Stuart Matan Lithwick

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The following post has been cross-posted from my Studymoon blog.


Shmatan here again, writing from the holy land!

I cannot believe that Chanukah has almost arrived! That means that all us Pardesniks have now been here for 3 months! It blows my mind how fast time goes by.

Before, we get started, I must provide an update to our ongoing measure of the Jerusalem feline population, the Shmatan Cat Count:

Our new total, as of Monday, December 3, is:


Disclaimer: This may, on rare occasions, include the counting of cats more than once, although efforts have been made to avoid such a source of bias.

Unfortunately, as I am writing this, I am sitting in bed with my first cold since being here, but it has given me some good time to reflect on what my experience has been like so far.

I love Israel, especially all of the Israel’isms that you would never experience anywhere else in the world. Being literally bowled over in the shuk at 4 pm on Friday by a senior citizen rushing to get the last container of chocolate rugelach. The shopping carts piled literally feet above the top metal rim. The transliterations that exactly mimic the English (English = Broccoli, Hebrew = Broccoli). The drivers that take the rules of the road merely as a subtle suggestion. There are other things that I could do without. The fear of war looming from outside Israel’s borders, the conflict that I observe both outside within the communities around me, and the conflict that I find inside myself, when I debate what if anything that we can do to make this part of the world a better place.

If there is anything that I have learned from the time that I have spent here in Israel, it is that the situation that presents itself here in Israel is very, very complicated. Before coming to Israel, I felt that my inability to get my head around how to achieve peace in the middle east was solely due to a lack of knowledge. Now, having been in Israel, and having met members from many of the communities that have a stake in the peace process, I understand that it is not a matter of having enough information. I definitely now have plenty of that. There are so many groups with so many opinions, so many axes to grind, so much  fear, so much hope, and a genuine desire for peace, but no way to get past history. Like I said, really really complex.

I feel now more able to discuss the issues that underlie the fight for peace in the middle east, but by no means do I feel any closer to a solution. I hope that through further discussion with progressive individuals who truly, genuinely care about achieving peace, maybe someday such a goal could be achieved. There are so many hurdles to get over, but hey, call me an optimist.

The way that I feel, as long as people are still talking to people, we are on the right track.

Shmatan signing off.

PS If anyone is interested, here is the email address of Issa, the first Palestinian speaker from the Hevron trip. From him, I felt an honest desire for peace.