After listening to four days worth of discussions, information and questions I think we have all become thoroughly disoriented. On Monday we started this process of getting to know each other with mixers and started to look at some basic texts. On Tuesday the discussion was framed about why am I here? We heard some speakers and learned a little about the college and our program. In breakout groups we talked a lot about our own personal journeys that led us to Hebrew Union College and why did we want to be here.
Wednesday was more interesting than orienting. After a series of discussions, the school wanted us to start tackling the questions of, "Why did you bring us here?"
For myself, this has never been a hard question. It would only make sense that we should spend time in Israel to learn the history of the country and immerse ourselves in Israeli culture. I guess this has been harder for other people and a much more difficult question for them.
Why has it been so easy for me to come to Israel? One of the skills that I believe we all need is a command of the Hebrew language. Understanding the history of Reform Judaism and knowing that historically Hebrew has not been an integral part of the movement. However, the times are changing and there is a sense that the early reformers missed something in throwing out that aspect. Logically, it would seem that we need to learn Hebrew in this new phase of the reform movement and it is only possible to truly get a handle on a language by being in the land that it is spoken.
As a historian, I also believe that in order for us as the future leaders of the Reform Movement to understand the past of Israel as a land and as a country. Many people in the United States have questions and frustrations with the country of Israel and already I have been asked by people to defend the country's actions. Again, there is no better place than in the land that it happens to study it.
We had a little Tiyul (hike/trip) to look at Jerusalem from a different view. We looked at it from the side that you can completely see the different parts of the city, new old and then there is the wall or border or fence that cuts through the country.
Yesterday was focused on community and understanding peoplehood. We had some more fantastic speakers talk to us and then we went on a Tiyul again. We looked into Jerusalem from Mount Scopus and from the Mount of Olives. It was incredible. Despite the dirt and grime, this country is so beautiful. I couldn't imagine better places to start to learn. I haven't put pictures on my computer yet, so when they are up, you can look at them on Facebook.
It is starting to hit me that school is really just about to start. We've already started to learn Torah and Talmud and it's fantastic, although we don't really delve into that until September. We do get to start to work on Hebrew on Sunday morning. Class starts at 8:30AM! On that note, we also learned our placement for Ulpan. I was surprised to learn that I am going to be in the 4th level out of 5. I don't know how I feel about that. I'm glad that I was placed high, but I don't know that my Hebrew is that good.
We will have to wait and see on Sunday.
It's almost Shabbat and I have a lot to do. So with that,