Your Name Have I Forgotten

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Holocaust Memorial Day – Yom HaShoah 5774
Naomi Barnett
April 15, 2015

yh candles

We are a religion based very much on names
You are Your name son of His name
daughter of Her name
who was the child of Their names
when We are called up to Our sacred book
We use Our names
and when We read from it,
every word has to be correct,
or the witnesses on either side repeat it,
the correct pronunciation and diction until you can say it, perfectly
it’s not that We’re based on perfection
so much of Us is flawed, so much ready to be filled
when We raise Our heels up to the heavens, Holy, Holy, Holy,
We only wish to get higher

Once upon a time they say
We tried to build a tower as high as God
but We fell
and another time caused the world to be washed over under a sea
We settled around the earth,
too far from each other, far from home for protection
and Our years gave way to more sorrow than we thought we could bear
We are not perfect and yet when
We say Our Kaddish, for Our fallen, we have to get Their names precisely correct,
lest We do not do Their memories peace, justice
and yet on the night of the largest Kaddish of all
Six Million of Us alone
and too many others of Our extended family
We read Their names and stumble over Eastern European spellings
Majka, Minsk, Auschwitz
I am not pronouncing these
I am not pronouncing these
I am not pronouncing these right at all

Forgive me Forgive me Forgive me
as I forsake Your name in the language I never learned
my Zayde might have spoken, safe in America,
I know Your name in my heart but
I cannot say it with this collection of letters
the vowels flood together in a way I haven’t been taught
I have Trespassed, I have Sinned
I have committed the act of Unthinkable Wrongs
Your name was erased and replaced with a number
and these squiggles are all I have to show for it
I have been Greedy
I have been Short
I have been Loathsome
I have been Vain
I have turned away from my God and my people
I have Messed up Your name
I have Forsaken
I have not Forgotten

yh kippah

International Students Need an Advocate They Trust to Navigate Cultural Differences

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She shows me what she calls “the locker room” and I can’t help but let my jaw drop. It’s a room, all right, and it has lockers, but it’s not locked, the lockers are makeshift, and the couch looks like… well, I wouldn’t want to sit on it.

She points to the couch, where her bag was sitting a few hours earlier. She says “I always keep it here.” I ask her “why don’t you keep it in the lockers?” and she says she’s not allowed. Only the full time workers are taught to use the lockers, and since she is a part time student worker, she is not allowed. “Can you keep your bag with you at the station?” I ask then. She told me that her manager had instructed her not to.

My friend, who is an international student from China, told me that she had a problem. Her tablet had been stolen, she thought, from the locker room where she kept her bag while she worked for Sodexo in the Union Marketplace. Just the week before, her money had been stolen from the same place. When she told her manager, he told her that she shouldn’t have been keeping money in her bag, and he couldn’t do anything for it.

The money was one thing, only $50, but her tablet was another. This was how she got email, took notes, and used the web. She is a very intelligent, determined graduate student in the Business School. It’s hard enough to be a graduate student in any country, let alone one where you don’t speak the language fluently. She speaks English very well, if not too quickly, and yet she needed help to get through the regulations of the environment.

Together we checked the locker room, under the rugged couch, and afterwards checked the last classroom she had the tablet in. After it was determined that it had definitely been in the bag when she left, we went back to the locker room to talk to the manager. After explaining the situation, he gave her the same answer as before: “you shouldn’t be keeping your bag in the room. From now on, keep your bag with you in the station.” She told him that he had previously told her not to, and he responded that the circumstances had lead him to change his mind.

I was astounded. I couldn’t believe that there was no one to stand up for this girl besides me. The manager couldn’t even be bothered to reprimand the employees who had potentially repeatedly stolen from this girl, as well as others. There were no rules and regulations in place, and there need to be. Especially rules and regulations that help students coming to us from another country, students whose working backgrounds are culturally different from those in the US. Students from China are brought up with different mindsets and values; questioning a manager to elaborate on a rule might be human nature for a NY employee, but for a Chinese student, was not comprehensible. Asking for permission or a lock might be a standard among a part time student from the US, but would never enter the mind of an international worker.

My friend and I made our way to the Administration building, where we filed a police report. She was able to answer the simple questions herself, but asked me to help her with the more complicated questions, such as where the locker room was. After answering, I explained that the locker room was unlocked, anyone could get in, and that she was unable to use the locker since she was only a part time worker.

While explaining the situation to the police, it dawned on me that I should not have been the one to explain to the officer. I was just another student, an undergraduate who had befriended her through the English Conversation Pairs program, but obviously one that she felt comfortable with trusting. I felt honored that she came to me with her issues, but beyond simple translations and knowledge from being at the university for more time, there wasn’t much I could do. My friend needed an advocate, and while I could advocate for her, I was not her Advocate.

International Students like my friend need a person they trust with the knowledge to help them navigate situations that they might not face in their home country. This Advocate should be a person with cultural expertise for the country at hand, as well as someone who understands the university policies and systems, especially when it comes to governance and rule breaking. If there is such an advocate now, either international students are not aware of it, or they feel uncomfortable going to the advocate. An advocacy program could be spearheaded by professionals and employ students with international, judicial, or political interests.

In the meantime, the police found my friend’s tablet when the thief used the logged-in credit card information to buy a product. My friend got her tablet back, and was given the option of prosecuting the thief, which she decided not to do, since they were fired from Sodexo anyway. She came to me with questions about prosecuting, getting a new credit card, and more. While I was happy to be utilized, someone with more firsthand knowledge than me should have been the one to turn to. International students bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our University. Our University should be there to bring justice to them.

Obama’s Real Burn… It’s Not The One You Think

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Last night, I really watched the State of the Union address for the first time. By “really watched,” I mean that I tuned in and took every word the President said into account, and didn’t just read the headlines the next day. I didn’t turn off once he started talking about economy aspects I didn’t understand, I listened throughout. I even watched the Republican Response afterwards.

I guess I really am growing up.

Five years ago, I would have told you that I hated politics. I was a lowly high school sophomore, and to me, politicians were rich white men fighting with each other about obvious things and culminating in nothing good for the public, whether it be a hike in taxes or a loss in rights. I complained about the fighting sides and how they were rude without comparison. I wasn’t half wrong, but I now know there’s so much more to politics than that. I now realize why I should be interested, involved, and informed. Thankfully, I had some excellent history teachers and was awakened to the good government can potentially do – and when I turned eighteen, the first thing I did was register to vote.

So now, as a self-proclaimed liberal, peacenik, equality minded individual, (maybe an activist,) and junior at a State University, I watch the State of the Union with pride (and sassy tweets). I won’t hide my admiration for President Obama – he really impresses me. He has the hardest job in the world, but is a dedicated, passionate, and amazingly intelligent individual. I didn’t fact check everything he said in his address, but his stats seem pretty darn good. More jobs, lower deficit, more clean energy, lower gas… more states with gay marriage, women’s rights at the forefront of our consciousness, a commitment to allies and keeping our country safe without war; all of these things are music to my ears. (I admit, I don’t pay taxes yet, but I’m pretty okay with everyone in America having access health care, so I don’t think I’ll mind much.) And, a new clincher: two years of free community college.

Conservatives fight all these things – because they’re expensive. They don’t want taxes to go up. I get it, you want to keep your hard earned money. But let’s face it: at the end of the day, would you rather die with money in your hand, or knowing that the world is a safer, more equal, greener place?

If your answer is “money,” please, just… don’t.

But Obama’s answer is definitely the latter. And last night, he put a call out to his Republican Congress and Senate to realize that as well. Obama’s real burn last night was during the beginning of his speech, as he began to talk about raising the minimum wage.

“If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.”

Now that, not this, was the ultimate burn.

Obama knows that he isn’t living on less than $15,000 a year. He knew it was pretty hypocritical of him to make that call to congress without living it himself. And yet, by advocating for better lives for the undereducated, people with disabilities, and minorities through raising their wages, he is making a call that puts him on the forefront of equality and prosperity.

Those who oppose raising the minimum wage need to understand the complexity of the lives of those who work two minimum wage jobs, try to raise children, try to lead better lives. By Obama challenging Congress the way he did, he called them out for being unsympathetic to the majority of our nation.

The truth is that raising the minimum wage won’t detract from expensive vacations or the ability to send your kids to private school. The truth is that raising the minimum wage will provide parents with more time to spend with their families instead of at work. The truth is that raising the minimum wage will give people leisure time to become more informed, educated, and even healthier. The truth is that if a few of us take the hit and pay a little more, we’ll be better off as a nation.

Obama just wanted the Republicans to see that – and that was why he challenged them to live on $15,000 a year. Are they going to do it? No. Do they have to? Not necessarily – not if they understand the good they can do for the people of America.

So that’s why, last night, Obama’s burn to the Republicans wasn’t that he won two terms in office. It wasn’t that the economy is at its best and that troops are home. It was the challenge to take a step back and realize that some of us live in a place where we will never understand what is like to go through the daily struggle of making ends meet. It was a challenge to understand that our mental and physical abilities have brought us to a place where we don’t have to work minimum wage jobs. It was a challenge to understand how great this country could be with just a little more sacrifice. It was a plea for the Republicans to see how they can start to make a change.

I dare all of us to do the same.

Happy Belated Hanukkah: All Of The Controversial Jewish Things Part 2

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Part 2: Increasing the Diversity in Jewish Magic

Anthony Goldstein’s etymology is intereting. His last name, Goldstein, is a common Aschkenazi Jewish surname. However, his first name, as related by Harry Potter wiki, is “an Egyptian ascetic monk considered to be the founder of Christian monasticism.” Although Jewish first names can be truly anything, Anthony proves to be an uncommon one.

This begs the question – was one of Anthony’s parents… not Jewish? If he took his father’s last name, it would have to be his mother who was of another faith. And thus, according to Jewish law, unless she converted, Anthony would not be Jewish, since Judaism runs through the mother.

This falls back to the question of Anthony’s observance. Although he might not lawfully be Jewish, if he (or JK Rowling,) considers himself Jewish, that might simply be a product of his observance level. And although not all levels would consider him Jewish, if he wants to identify, who is he hurting? He’d be a cultural Jew, and observe the traditions that made sense and mattered to him.

Whether Anthony’s father, Mr. Goldstein, “inter-married” or not, intermarriage has become a highly debated topic in the Jewish American world in regards to USY, the Conservative moment’s Youth Movement. The teen-filled international board recently decided to remove a role banning regional leaders from dating non-Jews. This rule has made some people very happy, and some very angry.

I am one of the happy people. For me, at the end of the day, a connection with a person is more important than their religious beliefs. If two people share a special relationship, it is their choice how they will deal with their differing religions, and no one else’s. Additionally as much as it will pain some people to read this, appropriate sexual relationships are important and can be exceedingly healthy. Having a preliminary relationship in one’s youth doesn’t dictate what choices the person will make in the future. And even with a non-sexual emotionally romantic relationship, very good things can come out of knowing someone special cares. Who cares what religion that person is?

Some of these thoughts are a little too vague and unfounded to make a true argument for the rule changes. So I’ll delve into law. USY Regional leaders are mandated to keep the laws of Kashrut (kosher) and Shabbath observance. No interfaith dating used to be among these rules. However, Jewish law states that one should keep kosher and observe the Sabbath, but there is nothing about interfaith dating. Sure, Jews have to be fruitful and multiply, potentially to keep the religion, but dating is nowhere in the Torah. Additionally, one can marry someone of another faith and still make the choice to raise their children in a Jewish household. It happens, and it can give a child a more worldly and diverse view.

The Conservative movement is often criticized for being too loose of a middle ground, but that’s exactly what I love about it. Not keeping Shabbat doesn’t not make you a conservative Jew. Not keeping Kosher doesn’t either. And nor does dating someone of another religion. It’s up to the individual to decide what aspects of the traditions are meaningful, and as far as rules go, they should be made to increase spirituality, not hinder a personal life. Observing Shabbat and Kashrut can be adopted, but relationships are more complicated – they affect other people too.

If Conservative Judaism is to last, young Jews must not be ashamed or ostracized from their fellow peers. In a time of an open world, but one with seemingly increased hatred, communication, compassion, and understanding is of utmost importance. Relationships need to flourish. Especially relationships with young Jewish leaders.

I have friends with mixed families who are happy and secure in their Jewish beliefs – whether those be religious or cultural. I have a book character who is Jewish because he believes as such. Instead of penalizing for following different rules and customs, we should be embracing others from all walks of Judaism, for each person brings their own traditions, their own opinions, and their own magic.

Happy Belated Hanukkah: All of the Controversial Jewish Things Part 1

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Part 1: What Matters About Anthony Goldstein, Jewish Wizard

It’s not about the correct spelling of the transliterated holiday – if only it could be so easy. Then again though, when there are Jews, there has to be a difference in opinion.

First off is something light-hearted, something fun, something literary in nature, fiction in thought, but pressing in realty.

Beloved Harry Potter author JK Rowling tweeted to a fan “Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish Wizard” in response to a questioning tweet “my wife said there are no Jews at Hogwarts. I’m a Jew so I assume she said it to be the only magical 1 in the family. Thoughts?” (JK Rowling later went on to write that the only religion not represented at Hogwarts was Wiccan.)

I was overjoyed to hear this. As a kid, I wondered if I could go to Hogwarts even though I was Jewish. There were only Christmas trees and “Happy Christmas” remarks, no menorahs or mentions of Passover matzah or time off of school for the High Holidays. Naturally, the news warmed my heart, but for others, happiness wasn’t so simple.

Social media, therefore, erupted with articles and statuses questioning how Anthony could follow Jewish law and rules (Halacha) at the wizarding school. Would house elves know how to cook kosher food? What sort of magic is permitted on the Sabbath?

Although these questions are all in good fun and wonderment, they post a larger, more controversial question: does Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish Wizard, truly need to follow the answers of these questions to truly be the Jewish Hogwarts Wizard?

My answer is no. There are people who would disagree with me based on their own interpretations of Judaism. But to me, and many others, Judaism is as cultural as it is religious. Therefore, Anthony can affiliate as Jewish without following prescribed laws.
If Anthony affiliates as Jewish, he is. Whether or not he observes the rules of kashrut or Shabbat, that shouldn’t matter to our tribe members. In fact, truthfully, Anthony probably doesn’t.

Conservative Judaism, a middle ground in observance, isn’t nearly as prominent in the United Kingdom as it is in America. Anthony would mostly likely be either secular or Orthodox, and if he were Orthodox, he’d probably want to be in a Yeshiva (Jewish school.)
What matters to me as a Jew is that Anthony is representing Judaism in the Wizarding World – that he is bringing diversity and tolerance to the forefront of Wizard consciousness. That he is showing the best sides of Judaism in tikkun olam (healing the world), tipuach nefesh (saving a life), and righteous lovingkindness.

Similarly to people of color, people of differing religious observance are not often displayed in popular literature. It’s exciting for children of all diversities to have role models in their favorite fantasy. Whether Anthony Goldstein is similar or different from me in his religious observance isn’t the important thing. It’s simply that feeling of “people like me.”

My more knowledgeable friends can and should debate Anthony’s halachic observance all they want, but to me, all that matters is that he exists. He exists as a figure to look up to in pop culture, for whether he’s mentioned once, twice, or is the main character, Anthony Goldstein brought happiness to millions of Jewish JK Rowling fans. High levels of observance or not, Anthony Goldstein is a Jewish Wizard. Our Jewish wizard.

The Holy City

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It was my last free Friday in Jerusalem, and I was going to spend it in the Old City, exploring, photographing, shopping, maybe writing or drawing. It was a day of my own design, and I was ready to get lost, speak to people, and find my way home, all in one piece.

I thought; “Well, it’s Friday; the holy day for Muslims. I’ll probably hear some chanting, and I won’t go near the Muslim quarter, since there will be people praying. I’ll stay in the Christian quarter – I haven’t explored there at all this trip.”

An alleyway leading to the Muslim quarter

An alleyway leading to the Muslim quarter

I’ve been to the Old City a few times now, and the words that are used to describe it are the ones which hold its charm: Old. I didn’t go exploring for the Judaica or Christian imagery, (although I was in search of a mezuzah,) but for the feeling of slipping down the Jerusalem stone steps in my new leather sandals, and to touch walls that had seen indescribable history.

However, there’s no denying what the divided quarters of the Old City is meant to be: the crux of all religion; the place for pilgrimage and homage; the center of the religious world; the pivot point for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So far though, what I had seen of Jerusalem, of the Old City, of Israel, was simply… Jewish.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: Israel is the “Jewish State.” (Whatever that means – after two months here, I’m still not sure.) But from the ideological “Israel is the perfect homeland” words of the Zionist community I grew up in, Israel was not only the perfect homeland for Jews, but also for people of the other religions that had stemmed from ancient Israel. The Old City was said to be this specific spot within the craziness of the world map where the three religions lived together, peacefully, praying.    

To be an informed adult, and to learn that Jerusalem (well, Israel,) is much more complicated than that, came as a blow to everything I held Israel to be. To learn that Jerusalem had been captured over and over again – and not just by Crusaders long ago, but in my parent’s lifetimes – and not simply existing as the central, peaceful, Holy Place; this brought confusion to my Jewish soul.

I’d been trying to find various different types of religious experiences during my stay in Jerusalem. I attempted to go to an Iftar, to no avail, and attempted to go to a Mormon prayer service, also, to no avail. I attended spiritually gratifying (and beautiful) Jewish renewal services, as well as traditional ones. I attended Women of the Wall services at the Kotel – not because the Kotel held religious significance for me, but because I wanted to stick my “feministic” Judaism in the face of the Orthodox who rule the area. And yet, for me, the Holy City didn’t hold peaceful sentiment of awe. 

Not until my last Friday.

I spent some time wandering through the cardo and window shopping, haggling, and being haggled. I found myself time and time again in an alley that I knew would lead me to the Jewish quarter, but decided firmly to take the other turn. When I did, I found myself in a corridor that looked very much like the ones I had just been in, but the sounds were new.

The chanting drew me in. I could hear joint murmuring before I saw the aisles of men lined up behind prayer mats. As I moved closer, and the sun moved behind an overhead pillar, I could see the massive amount of men, standing, bending, kneeling, bending, standing, chanting. They were all together, exclaiming their words with an indescribable passion. I found myself wondering who was taking care of their memorabilia filled shops. Then I realized; we all were.

At this time of prayer and solitude, on a day in a month so filled with extremism and anger, it was time to reflect. Jews and Muslims are both required to pray multiple times per day. Although we do not share the prayers, these are the moments where we stand to protect the holiness of our cultures.

There was a movement behind a wall. A Muslim woman dressed in a full hijab was taking pictures of the prayers, just as I was. I walked close to her. “Salaam alekum,” I said the appropriate greeting, and she smiled and gave the return one.

We both stood for a moment with our cameras. It was this moment that I had found the solace in Jerusalem that had been empty since my siren-filled visit. I was in Jerusalem, experiencing what Jerusalem had always been intended to be.

“Welcome,” she said, “to the Holy City.”

Bowing down in prayer

Bowing down in prayer

An Overachiever on Anguish

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Rocks in Talpiyot, Jerusalem

I’m that over achiever alternating between two internships while abroad. When I decided I was going to come to Israel for the summer, I contacted all my parents’ friends in Israel and told them what I was looking for. Something with writing, editing, social media, or marketing… something that could, at least loosely, fit into my two majors: Marketing and English. So, when I landed two internships, one for development writing in the non-profit world, and one for marketing in the startup tech world, I simply had to take both.

Four days a week, I work at Shatil,a human rights and social justice nonprofit project of the New Israel Fund. I’m on the development team, so I write everything from grant proposals to report updates, to news articles and one page summaries of projects. I’m also going to work on the English social media page in order to influence do-gooders abroad. Every day that I leave Shatil, I am proud of what I have accomplished for the day, as well as for all of the accomplishments of Shatil itself.

Once a week, I head in the other direction from my house to OurCrowd, a crowd funding platform for entrepreneurs and angel investors. What do all those words mean, you ask? Basically, if someone with a great idea and a good amount of finances wants to make their idea work, they can submit it to OurCrowd. OurCrowd is accredited in a way that investors know that the companies OurCrowd deals with the real deal. People with a lot of money called Angel Investors come to fund the projects and help them take off. (You might be thinking about Kickstarter – close, but no cigar. They’re very slightly different. You’ll be able to read my blog post about those differences soon.)

Anyway, at OurCrowd, I’m on the Marketing team, which is exceedingly exciting. I am currently helping design slogans and prepare for a marketing campaign called “What’s Your Big Idea?” that will debut in August. I’ve been writing blog posts about various things, and I’m even working on making an infographic. Of course, all that is in addition to fun interny things like updating databases and websites.

So one could say that I’m getting a really great depth of knowledge while in Israel. I’m getting hands on experience with two of my possible career goals, and spending time in another country while doing it. A country full of history and culture. A country full of beautiful landscape and exciting technology. A country rooted in the past and the present. The country of my people.

The country that is giving me extreme anguish.

I came to Israel for the first time in 2007, for my Bat Mitzvah. I knew then that I wanted to come back. At that time, I experienced an interesting type of religious awakening – not only for myself, but also for what Israel meant as a Jewish country. The idea of mikvehs and separate parts of the holy Western Wall. Wearing skirts in certain locations because my thighs and knees were immodest. Feeling anger at my tour group for traveling on Shabbat, but not knowing how I felt about a day of rest that didn’t involve music or art. This 2014 trip has included a myriad of religious-related questions. When I go running each day, should I be allowed to feel comfortable wearing whatever I want? Does my fondness for Women of the Wall impose my westernizing secularism?

This time though, Israel is handing me a new struggle: being supportive of this amazing country, while speaking out to criticize some of the socially and governmentally enforced problems. These problems include the often inhumane and unfair treatment of the people who live in the territories, the racism that occurs in Israel proper, and the reluctance of the Jewish world to try to see the other side of the horror story. My goal to bring back to school this year is that one can love Israel while being critical of some of its actions. However, this struggle is not one for the short run.

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Flowers in Talpiyot, Jerusalem

I have a few pieces of dialogue that showcase this struggle. The fight for human rights is being downplayed by those who believe that Israel can do no wrong. When I met a co-worker at OurCrowd, another summer intern from the US, we got into the dreaded conversation after I told him I was only there once a week.

“So what else are you doing with your other days?”

“Uh, I’m working at a social justice and human rights nonprofit. Doing grantwriting.” I wanted to be both impressive and cautious. I knew the atmosphere I was in.

“Does it have a specific type of human rights?” He didn’t ask it directly, but I knew where he was headed. I brushed it off.

“Uh, so, it’s a project of the New Israel Fund… it’s meant to increase Democracy across Israel by helping people in whatever they need. So housing issues, poverty, education, anti-racism…”

“But for who? Like, The Palestinians?”

I took a moment to compose myself. “No, for anyone. For example, the project I’m working on now is on health care in the north. The Galilee region has really bad health care and this project brings together a network of people who are working to create better health services across the region. For anyone. Doesn’t matter who. Jews need it just as Arabs do.”

“Oh, okay.” He let the conversation drop, although I would have many others like it in the weeks to come.

When people ask me when I’m going to make Aliyah, which happens almost every day, I usually have to lie. “I need to get through all my education before making that decision,” “it will depend on the people in my life,” “depends where my career is headed.”

The real answer is something along the lines of, “I fundamentally disagree with this country from a moral, religious, and political standpoint. Living here, as amazing as it is, would succumb me to a place where human rights are not valued as much as ancient law.”

I know that’s a drastic statement to make. It’s especially dramatic at this moment in time, when Israel and Gaza are clashing over yet another series of rockets and air raids. To be critical of Israel right now, in her time of need, is something that left wing Jewry all over the world are struggling with. People are attacking Israel because Israel wants to exist. There’s no denying that. People are also attacking Israel because Israel hasn’t been good to many of its people. There are people denying that.

Recently, I was in a cab in Jerusalem. The driver and I started a conversation, he kindly correcting my broken Hebrew. He asked me why I was in Israel, and I told him that I was working here for the summer. He asked where, and I hesitantly answered “Shatil.”

It’s a mystery what will happen when you say that word to an Israeli. Some have never heard of it, some don’t want to speak to you after they think you are an “Arab lover.” Some ask for elaboration, to which I say “social justice and human rights.” Almost always, there is a response along the lines of, “Oh, so helping Arabs?” The reply, as I stated partially to my fellow intern: “No, helping whoever needs it. Ethiopians, all spectrums of inequality for women, Bedouins, Russian speakers, people without housing or health services… And yes, making Israel a truly inclusive land for all the people who live here.”

Human suffering doesn’t go away in wartime, especially now. In fact, in Israel, where life goes on almost as completely as before, it must be addressed. People from every background and demographic around this country suffer despite what is happening with Hamas. Enabling them to stand up for themselves will make a stronger country, with more people who can advocate for true democracy.

Those of us working in human rights right now face this delicate situation that Ayala so eloquently describes in this article. If more people truly paid attention to the suffering of their neighbors, who knows what might be different?

After a moment of pausing, the taxi driver looked at me in his rearview mirror. “Ah, Shatil!” He said. He knew it. He smiled. “Shalom.” Peace. “Yafeh, yafeh meod.” Very very good. He went on to tell me a story, most of which I didn’t fully comprehend, but I understood the most critical part; Shatil had helped him and his family. He beamed the rest of our taxi drive, and encouraged me to keep practicing my Hebrew. When I got out of the car, he said the Hebrew phrase for “good luck.”

Good luck for what? For my time in Israel, my two internships? For my learning at university, which we had briefly mentioned? For trying to understand what it means to love a country while feeling sick of many of the occurrences in it?

Every day here in Israel is a unique one. I don’t know which fresh fruit I’ll pick off a tree or which person will smile at me on my very sweaty runs. I don’t know if I’ll finish a proposal for an anti-racism conference, attend a health forum in Haifa, go out for lunch, or write about Israeli startups that are going public on NASDAQ. Whatever I do, I’m getting myself into the most amazing positions I’ve ever held and the most interesting and important work I’ve ever done. Especially in the thinking sense; I’ve never thought so much and so critically about anything as I am currently thinking about Israel and its people.

Differences in opinion are tremendously important, and opinions need to differ. Dialogue though, is what will continue to move us forward. Even with awkward situations where I feel the need to hide one of my positions here in Israel, I ultimately learn every time that the way to take this anguish and make it constructive is through speaking up. I am that over achiever; the one who won’t stop until Israel is once again the country I’m undeniably proud of.

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Dusk approaching Talpiyot, Jerusalem