These and Those

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

Turkey 2017: The In-Between

Posted on February 23, 2017 by Amalia Mark

Tags: , ,

Between two continents; sky above, water below. The in-between space.

It’s a beautifully unsettling place, one where we can be struck with the immense magnificence of creation and human ingenuity. I’m speaking of course, of the bridge that connects the two continents of Europe and Asia within Turkey. The Bosphorous Bridge, most recently known as the July 15 Martyr’s Bridge. It’s a work of art and allows for a beautiful view of water, land, and sky.

Bridges and the spaces in-between—the theme of the past six days.

Flying to Turkey on Tuesday I was excited, nervous, apprehensive, and anticipatory. I held a maelstrom of conflicting emotions close.

Leaving Turkey tonight I am again in-between.

As I write this, we are currently in flight, journeying back to Israel. My emotions and thoughts are moving between sadness for having to leave the warm embrace of the Turkish Jewish community, excitement to share stories of my travels with the Pardes community, and the bittersweet taste of having spent every waking moment available learning about the far-reaching roots of the Turkish Jewish community and the knowledge that there is so much more to learn, offer, and receive. The opportunities we had to teach and learn alongside the Jewish community were deeply appreciated and mutually enjoyable, but six days is only a beginning.

Six days the Divine created and on the seventh—rest. For six days Pardes and the Turkish Jewish community modeled the Divine, beginning to build relationships and bridges together, but on the seventh Pardes will be in Israel. The beautiful thing that remains of our work is our bridges. We traversed the foundations of the bridges laid in the years before us, and laid our own bricks as well.

This past Shabbat, as a Pardes community, the 10 of us joined the Jewish community in Ortaköy for Shabbat. Ruach, singing, joy, and learning reigned throughout the 25 hours.

Friday night, as we brought in Shabbat, as dusk fell, the women of Pardes joined the women of Ortakoy in ecstatic song and dance. Saturday night, as twilight crept in, the men of Pardes assisted in facilitating a beautiful, uplifting Havdalah. Watching above from the ezrat nashim, I witnessed a striking moment. As the lights turned off one-by-one for the light of the candle to take center stage, the men below swarmed the bima, pulled to the light of the Havdalah candle. For one moment, as the final light was extinguished, the room was white fire on black fire. The white blaze of the candle with the stark silhouettes of the men below.

And then Shabbat concluded and I was left with the emptiness of Shabbat’s departure that waits to be filled again the following week. This week was particularly difficult; how could I fill that emptiness in the same way in the coming Shabbat? Our new friends and family won’t be present.

As I grapple with this challenge, I sit once more in the in-between space. I have met so many incredible Jewish leaders and educators in Turkey who have given their all to the Jewish people. I met youth, elders, babies. I leave a piece of myself behind in the beautiful streets of Istanbul and Kortaköy.

I leave changed.
I leaved hoping to return; one foot in Turkey, one in Jerusalem.
I leave with a bittersweet taste: how to say goodbye with the hopes that one day I will say hello again.

I leave only to find myself in-between.
And in the in-between space, between Turkey and Israel, between the elders and the youth, between Jew and Jew, lies the bridges we have built.

May we have the opportunity to traverse these bridges once more, together.

Amalia Mark
Pardes Experiential Educators Program 2016-2017