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Online Study tour to Israel and Palestine. Reflection by Rabbi Zahavit Shalev

Posted Fri, 05/14/2021 - 11:09 by Robert

So it was “us” and “them” on the CCJ Israel Palestine Study Tour. But in the most helpful way.

Let me explain...

“Us” are clergy of different Jewish and Christian denominations. Our congregants and communities expect us to have wise and insightful - or worse still, true - things to say about Israel-Palestine. But we don’t. That’s because it’s both too complicated and too emotive.

“Them” are exactly those people we are not. Experts: activists, educators, journalists, local councillors (and counsellors!), people working for NGOs, clergy living and working in communities, teachers, young people. They spoke to us honestly, and we listened. Their accounts couldn’t easily be reconciled but they were all true. Merely admitting this helped us relax.

Each day of the seminar offered a little bit more opportunity for “us” to bond and share. We reminded ourselves that conflict at a global level is a not so different from congregational and familial conflict - the kind we are more familiar with. We often don’t have answers, or solutions, but just listen.

When I think back about this virtual study tour I’ll remember sitting at my desk, (on bloody Zoom again!), profoundly encountering the faces of others. At Shavuot - which starts on Sunday night - we celebrate the moment of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. A midrashic, chassidic elaboration of the revelation declares that the entire content of revelation was simply the face of the other.

I met many precious faces, and it was indeed revelatory. 

Rabbi Zahavit Shalev

Rabbi Zahavit is on the Rabbinic team at New North London Synagogue.