These and Those

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

Empty Notebook

Posted on December 4, 2012 by David Bogomolny

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I doodled once on the cover of my notebook, but I didn’t take any notes. Every time we met with a speaker, I brought my notebook and pen with me, but I never once wrote down what they were saying. I’m not sure that I couldn’t have; I’m only sure that I didn’t want to.

The two days of our Perspectives Israel trip were completely packed with speaker after speaker. We ate lunch on the bus because otherwise we wouldn’t have made it back before Shabbat on Friday. And we really stuck to our schedule. They spoke, we asked, they answered, and we left for the bus. Speaker after speaker after speaker.

I think my concern was mostly about being present with them.

Levi Cooper led my trip to Poland several years ago, and warned my group against ‘experiencing our trip through the lenses of our cameras’. He told us that some people take photographs of difficult subjects as a defense mechanism, distancing themselves from their experiences. Last week I felt that truth, and sensed that taking notes would be a distraction for me – much like a camera lens.

The speakers were intelligent and articulate. Their perspectives and stories were interesting. Hareidi, Military Officer, Activist, Settler, Teacher, Uprooted, Rabbi, Secular, Living Under Rocket Fire, Mother, Politician, Librarian, Hopeful, Fearful… I wanted to feel more hopeful, as some of our speakers did, but I didn’t succeed. Still, I noted that my fear hasn’t led me away from hearing conflicting, challenging human narratives.

Some think the hopeful are naive; some think the fearful are hateful. I question my views along these lines, wondering how naive my level of hope is, and how hateful my fear is. I don’t think my views are naive, but I know some who know they are. And I don’t hate anyone in particular, but some find my views hateful.

I am sad that I cannot imagine an end to this conflict which plagues my country and my nation. Still, hearing conflicting, challenging narratives fuels my hope because I find that I am containing these. I must continue trying to hear them.

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This Chanukiah in Sderot will be lit for
the Festival of Lights next week.

And now I am left wondering whether I could hope at all if I did not believe in G-d’s love and kindness.