Thursday, June 20, 2013
History coming to life
Last night was the first real night where we were not sleep deprived, allowing us to enjoy the warm night alongside the beach. Yet here we are in the heart of Israeli life in Tel Aviv enjoying ourselves, to then wake up to a very intense day. First on our agenda is the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center which having grown up in Israel myself I never knew existed. The location of the museum is actually not even on the common maps, and is placed alongside of an active military base. A big portion of this place is dedicated to be a memorial site for those soldiers that served and died while working for the Israeli Intelligence the Shin Bet, Mossad, and the IDI.
People’s names are engraved into stones with only the date of their deaths next to it. This is due to the fact that these people are so honored that there should not be any differentiation on whether they were male or female or what religion they believed in. Another amazing thoughtful part was that the placement of the stones is in a way to create a labyrinth, mimicking groves and lines of a brain. These people are highly recognized for their efforts in keeping Israel up to date with its enemies.
The tour continued and we were exposed to very visual experiences of the terror that has happened since 1948. This was quite emotional since it brought back memories I have been oppressing since the second intifada while I was living in Israel. To be honest I was very glad the rest of the group saw the tragedies Israel has gone through, since it is not covered in American news. The world truly does not know what goes on in these borders, which I find frustrating. Israel and I believe Jews also tend to not want to be vocal and loud and show their true struggle. This almost makes it easy for the anti-Israel communities and organizations to make up lies and win the hearts of those around the world. Israel does fight hard though to keep its borders and people save, even though today I saw numerous Arab maps without the acknowledgment of Israel as a country.
The day continued and we got to see another completely different side of Israel. Art. Ruben Ruben is a very respected and beloved painter in Israel. He immigrated to Israel and found his home in the land. The paintings truly tell the story of the times as the years progress so does the backgrounds from sand to buildings, from a flower to bouquet. Surprisingly Jesus was incorporated as well into the story lines which I feel helped to connect some of the other members of my group. Today was such a dip into the struggle of the fact they Israelis have to flight to live. Live in both the aspect of actually staying alive, as well as being free in such away to be able to explore things such as art.
The Rubin museum was a very interesting. The museum is dedicated to Reuven Rubin, a Jew who immigrated to Israel and created a new type of art breaking away from the traditional styles in Europe. His art became tart of the Jewish community so he created the art of the Israel in a sense. Every single painting of Rubin’s has a full backstory which I kept on tying back to the Independence Hall and the overall history of Israel. I thought it was very cool that the time Rubin arrived in Tel Aviv it was still brand new. I remember from his self-portrait, he said that Israel was just desert and he painted that but going back to the independence museum it ties back to seeing the picture of the 40 families gathered around the desert to start the well-known city of Tel Aviv. An observation I made in the past 2 days a lot of military helicopters around the beach constantly going back and forth every few minutes. Seeing those helicopters I see how strict and tight Israel’s security is and it shows that Israel is ready to protect its people.
The place where the idea of a Jewish country was created; where the struggles of the Jewish people experienced through decades of belittlement, and unfair treatment created a town which evolved into a prosperous country. Independence Hall located in an area where the city of Tel Aviv first laid its foundations can be seen as the Philadelphia of Israel. Although many believe Israel and the United States are not similar in any fashion, one can simply look at both of the countries past to see similarities. The idea to form a safe-haven for Jews was the driving force that created Israel, whereas the United States strove to create a safe-haven in new unconquered land away from Europe. It is mind-boggling that two countries located literally on the opposite sides of the globe, established their own independence because of their refusal to be controlled by another power. Furthermore, being a Latino and a United States citizen, it used to be hard comparing myself to the struggles Jews faced not only in the past, but while creating the country of Israel itself. Nevertheless, Independence Hall allowed me to draw parallels between two countries that although may seem different in many ways, both share a common history of struggles and beliefs in order to create the prosperous countries they have grown to be today. So are these two distant countries, “distant” after all?
- - R.S.
Terrorism is not a new idea for the nation of Israel and its people. Our group visited the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center (I.I.C.C.) as part of our day two schedule. Among the many rooms, tours, and lectures we attended, I was struck by one particular room. It was a room dedicated to showing inert weapons and explosives, as well as showing various tactics and techniques that terrorists utilize those weapons and explosives in order to cause death and destruction around the world. Through my previous U.S. military training and real-world experience from my military deployments, I have some knowledge of the tactics and techniques that the terrorists utilize. What I also knew beforehand, but which was re-enforced as a result of going to the I.I.C.C., is that Israel has had extensive knowledge of the ways terrorists operate for a long time. From hiding explosives in their shoes, to gluing nuts, bolts, and nails to explosive suicide vests worn by suicide bombers, and indoctrination of kids against the nation of Israel at a young age, Israel has had to deal with terrorist attacks against their nation and people farther back and more frequently than what has occurred to the United States.
The United States military had to somewhat catch up to how terrorists operate after the 9-11-01 attacks, and Israel had a vast knowledge of how to combat terrorism even before the attacks on the United States. I know that Israel provided the U.S. government with information on the tactics and techniques of terrorists that has helped the U.S. government with combating terrorism. By seeing that Israel has a wealth of knowledge from which they have collected, stored, learned from, and applied counter-terrorist tactics as best they can, I believe that the Israeli intelligence community and Israeli military are staying on the cutting edge of counter-terrorism in order to keep their citizens as safe as possible, while allowing the people of Israel to live their lives as peacefully as possible.
I exhaled in relief as we stepped into an air-conditioned room of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Center in Tel Aviv, a place where anyone can go to formally commemorate those who died in the Israel Defense Intelligence (IDI), Shin Bet, and Mossad. We each melted into the funky, beat-up, wooden seats as a speaker began lecturing us. As I looked around, the speaker’s words began fading into the background; it took me a few moments to realize that I had stepped into a synagogue, or “the shrine,” as our speaker had called it, and that there was a Torah in front of me. I probably haven’t been in a synagogue in three or four years, and I felt a different kind of relief than the one I had experienced a moment before. It was a deeper, more gratifying relief.
The speaker’s words caught my attention again as he began explaining some of the Jewish values. He talked a bit about integrity and devotion. He mentioned patriotism and maybe something about community. And then he said, “All Jews are responsible for one another.” He claimed that this is one of the most significant values of the Jewish tradition. Regardless of where they are in the world, all Jews must take care of each other.
I had a sudden flash back to the night before my bat mitzvah. I was sitting in the kitchen of my synagogue in Northern California, and I was expressing my anxiety to a friend who had helped me through the process of becoming a bat mitzvah. He told me not to worry --- that becoming a bat mitzvah would connect me with a completely knew group of people in the world, a group of people that would take care of me. He told me that, because I chose to have a bat mitzvah, I could walk into any synagogue in any part of the world and feel at home.
So here I was in Tel Aviv, sitting in a synagogue. Just sitting there. Not reading the Torah, not singing, not even conversing with anyone. Just sitting there. And, as he told us that “all Jews are responsible for one another,” I started to realize what my friend had meant. While I am quite sure he did, to an extent, mean that I could literally walk into any synagogue in the world and feel at home, I think he also meant that I have a responsibility as a member of the Jewish community to help other Jews feel at home, no matter what country they’re from. I realized that this journey I’m on with Blue Star, this journey that will help me learn how to be an advocate for Israel, is a way for me to help advocate for a literal home for the Jewish community. It is essentially a small step in doing what I can for the millions of Jews who call Israel home.