While driving back from Beit Shemesh, where I dropped off Tzur Hadassah’s contribution to the collection of toys and food for kids and soldiers stuck in shelters and bases in the south…
I saw this scene and it took my breath away. The sound of hundreds of hooves crunching against the grass; watching hundreds of sheep and goats moving together in the same direction; for some reason it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a while.
Life will go on, with or without our conflicts, our mess, our perspectives, our hate.
It’s a nice place to spend up to two hours with small kids. You can pet the roaming goats, prance with roaming deer, hee haw with the donkey, chase chickens, and see a few native Israeli animals like foxes and hyrax (senior year YOF Tanach class, anyone?).
There’s also a ‘gymboree’ area with old farm tractors and makeshift car rides.
It’s 25 shekels for kids and 15 for adults and open every day but Shabbat.
On Friday, Jan 6th, 2012, a group of 250 women from Bet Shemesh decided to raise their voices against the exclusion of women from the public domain by holding a mass public dance in the city square. The women, residents of the city from all ages and sectors, religious, traditional and secular, gathered together in a flashmob dance, in the city square and started dancing towards a change.
The protest in Beit Shemesh was impressive. We really did have all kinds of people – people with dreads, people with payot, women with head coverings, women with leggings, kids with their parents, charedi guys willing to speak to the news cameras, women holding pamphlets, men holding signs thanking god for making them women.
I do have to say, it was disappointing that, while there were many dynamic male speakers – charedi and non – there were no females on stage except for Na’ama’s mother, who gave a great 2-minute thank you to the crowd. If there were female politicians in the crowd, why didn’t they speak?
Anyway, it was a good kickoff to what I hope becomes a bigger movement for awareness, togetherness and change in our Israeli society and even our Jewish religion. Both entities of our people suffer from misunderstanding and mis-prioritization.
Here’s a bit of what I saw (scroll over photos for captions/translations):
Well, tonight is the public, national beginning/culmination of the Jew vs Jew misfortune in Beit Shemesh with an expected 10,000-person protest outside the girls’ school. People from all across the country, from all stripes, are expected to join together against the violence and extremism that has grown from the extreme Haredi sector here.
I think this is messy. Jew vs Jew is bound to be. But even within the protesting camp, where there will inevitably be plenty of Beit Shemesh haredim opposed to the extremism (finally) – will the secular folks from out of town get that? Will they assume they are the evil ones? Will they begin to see the difference between dati leumi, haredi lite and haredi? Are secular people from across Israel prepared to learn that there are plenty of peaceful, respectful haredim out there? Among us? That they are related to us, married to our family members, that they hold jobs AND learn Torah, that they want to live and let live?
After almost a week of driving back and forth to work through trees and hills (the way God intended, no doubt) I have to say that it’s as if I’m only just now settling into my Israeli life. Jerusalem is more international, more global… in importance, position, people. It was a very different Israel, if Israel at all.
Now I feel tucked away on an Israeli yishuv, surrounded by nature and silence. No one has to know I’m here and I can just look up and feel like I’m standing with thousands of years of history, the image of God and myself.
I’d suggest to people that if they’re thinking of moving from Israel because it didn’t work out – and they’ve only lived the city life – try this for a change of pace and appreciation. Of course, I’ve only just arrived, but for now I’m betting that this will be a very different experience.