Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Bitter End

Dear Everybody,
I haven't been here for quite a while and I'm coming back with quite sad news. You all probably know that the current situation in Israel is getting more and more harsh, bombs and rockets fall on both sides of the border, several civilians and soldiers got killed or wounded, the online world is as full of violence as the real one. Of course, thanks to the Iron Drome intercepting a vast majority of the Hamas rackets, life on the Israeli side is incomparably more 'normal' than the reality in Gaza. People keep working and going out, in spite of the tension created by daily red alert sirens, terrifying news and violent political demonstrations.
However, the organisers of the Arava Valley of Peace Camp found the situation in the area too dangerous decided to cancel the camp. I can't blame them, it's obvious they want to avoid the risk. If anything happened to such an international youth group (and there's always such a possibility, even in the safest areas) Israel and the EMIS school would have to provide about 30 countries with apologies and explanations. That is clearly the last thing they need at the moment. It is quite an irony though, that a peace-focused camp got cancelled due to a military conflict. 
Personally, I'm rather devastated. I've been waiting for this trip for such a long time, counting days and holding my breath with excitement... And suddenly, this summer-dream vanishes, leaving me with nothing but a long, pointlessly free month. Of course, I'm going to spend it immersed in the news articles, tracking the next stages of the conflict and impatiently waiting for an efficient, peaceful resolution. And hopefully, as things get calmer, one day I'll catch a plane to Tel Aviv and experience everything I'm longing for.
Thank you all for crossing the fingers for me! No matter if I'm going or not, I can't underestimate the importance of all the amazing encounters, conversations and experiences. I've learned a lot during those months and I'm truly grateful for that. Even though my blog adventure is over, I strongly encourage you not to give up on your interests. What I managed to describe here is just a minute fragment of the multilayered Israeli reality, waiting for us to discover it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

This Land Is Mine

Have you ever wondered when and why did the whole Middle Eastern conflict start exactly? It just seems to have been going on ever since the beginning of times. Today I came across this brilliant short movie, showing all the endless bloodshed from a more objective and humorus perspective. Simple, funny and - unfortunately - true.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Knowledge is power

Dear All,
I've recently promissed you to write an article on kibbutzim, the bygone socialist Israeli utopia, but  I'm afraid I'm going to let you down on this one. The kibbutz communities are fascinating indeed. However, given the current situation in the Middle East, getting all excited about books and lectures as if nothing was happening just wouldn't feel right. The situation is getting more and more serious and cannot be left without a commentary.
I don't feel in a position to present you with summaries, analysis nor opinions - I don't want to stuff you with some second-hand, subjective mash of 'events in a pill'. I would like to encourage you all to  get some in-depth knowledge about the issue and (re?)shape your very own point of view. The Internet is literally crammed with biased news, fierce arguments and thoughtless statements. Not only that people quarrel about their opinions, they also tend to disagree about the reality. Which is why... please, do not rely on one single source of information. Read as much as you can, search for the facts, understand the position of both sides. I don't know how it is in your countries, but in Poland the media tend to simplify things a lot, omitting many seemingly inconsequential details that are an essential part of the whole picture. My advice is to read either the Middle Eastern newspapers (they will give you firsthand, immediate information but may be quite biased, accordingly to their country of origin and political stance) or the Western ones that focus exclusively on the international affairs.
Here's a couple of useful links:
Haaretz - the oldest Israeli newspaper, left-winged and critical about the Israeli policy
Israel National News - quite the opposite 
Israel Herald - somemwhere in the middle, criticizing aggression towards civilians
Palestine News Network and Palesstine Chronicle - the most popular Palestinian media available online in English
Ma'an News Agency - a Palestinian News Agency, slightly more moderate, provides with detailed news from every district of the PA
Middle East Monitor - seems to have a non-sensational, research approach (*correction: as I started to follow it on daily basis, it turned out to be strongly pro-Palestinian)
Foreign Policy - my favorite global affairs news agency with a decent Mideast Brief daily newsletter
These are just a few suggestions how to get access to news of various, contrasted perspectives. Of course, in the online media world, there is much more: BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, etc. I wholeheartedly recommend you to use some of them and get deeper into this ongoing conflict. Sure, it takes a lot of time and effort and you will probably start to take it all personally, getting very irritated, terrified or touched. But at least you will form your own, independent opinion and get a little bit closer to the tricky truth. I believe it is worth a lot. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

FKŻ - Jewish Culture Festival

Once a year, my sweet city turns into a flourishing, vibrant capital of the Jewish culture. During this first week of July, you will find in Cracow anything you can think of: lectures, concerts, workshops, discussions and sight-seeing, common prayers and dinners. The festival embraces the whole rich Jewish heritage: Eastern European or Middle Eastern, religous or secular, ancient or brand new. Everything takes place in the lovely district of Kazimierz, which makes a perfectly picturesque atmosphere for that kind of event. Obviously, I coudn't resist it!
As soon as I noticed the name of Rabbi Avi Baumol (Religion and high tech at the JCC) in the festival program, I knew his lecture was a must. And I was right. He described the Bamidbar, Book of Numbers (the fourth Book of the Torah) in such a way that it seemed an adventure story rather than a Holly Book. All the Biblical heroes suddenly became flesh-and-blood people, experiencing struggles and frustrations we are all familiar with. Don't get me wrong, the lecture was far from a naive simplification of the Torah - it was a combination of tradition-immersed spirituality, thorough knowledge, and its life application. Isn't that the kind of preaching we've always been longing for?
I came back to the JCC the other day for the 'Latke-Hamantaschen' debate. This event first took place at the University of Chicago in 1946 and managed to amuse thousands of people worldwide ever since. The rules are simple: each side has to convince the audience which of these two (fried potato pancake or triangle-shaped cookie) is "the perfect Jewish food:. In order to do so, they use the most sophisticated, elaborate and abstract arguments you can think of - referring to history, politics, Bible, gender studies etc. The outcome is juat unbelievably funny. What I loved in particular was that all the people taking part in the debate (mostly American Jews) were so deeply rooted in their culture, treating it as something totally natural to enjoy their identity to the full.
At the top of it all, there was Szalom na Szerokiej, the yearly open-air finale concert of the festival. The atmosphere was the quintessence of the whole FKŻ's diversity. On the Szeroka street, you could see people of all ages, personalities and nationalities, chatting relaxedly or bouncing to the rythm of all kinds of Jewish melodies. Magnificent.
Expect the second part of my FKŻ experiences to be described in a few days. The topic: kibbutzim!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


The situation in Israel is getting hotter and hotter.
The recent reconciliation of Fatah (the ruling AP party) and Hamas (a radical Islamic organization) infuriated Israel and their allies, which led to suspending the peace talks. On the 12 June, three yeshiva teenage students: Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrahand and Naftali Fraenkel were abducted by unknown terrorists. The one that was immediately held responsible was obviously Hamas. IDF and Shin Bet conducted an intense search for the boys all around the country.
The whole Jewish world united in social campaigns and prayers for their safe return home. Personally, I was deeply moved by the authenticity and emotionality of the widespread Bring Back Our Boys action. Today, everybody went through a huge shock, as IDF soldiers found dead bodies of the three kidnapped teens buried under a pile of rocks near the Hebron settlements.
Israeli politicians, from left to right, expressed their compassion for the boys’ families,  strongly condemned the brutal murder and declared to do all in their power to punish the terrorists. What does that mean in practice? Searching over 2000 households in the West Bank, arresting about 550 Palestinians, causing approximately 100 injuries and 6 deaths, bombing the houses of the men accused of the abduction, tripling the number of soldiers in the West Bank, airstrikes of the Gaza Strip, shutting down Hamas-related radio and television, tightening the grip over the Arab areas of Jerusalem… In other words, doing everything to crush Hamas and prove and to the whole world how powerful, proud and protective towards its citizens the State of Israel is.
The spiral of violence and mutual hateful declarations starts to spin. Rockets hit homes and factories on both sides of the wall. Politicians spread apocalyptic visions of bringing hell to their enemies. In the neighboring Middle Eastern countries, unrest continues. Syria is torn by the more and more chaotic, pointless war;  ISIS and ISIL newly-declared Iraqi caliphates are fought with the support of American troops; Egypt and Lebanon suffer from terrorist attacks by various militant groups, Iran’s stance at denuclearization remains firm, etc, etc.

 Meanwhile, the innocent, vulnerable children keep dying. Some get their names printed in newspapers all around the world and a Prime Minister’s speech at their funeral. Most don’t. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Dara Barnat - South to Be'er Sheva

I stare through the window of
the train, until we reach
the desert. Then I have to turn
away, because who knew
how bright sand could be? The soldier
next to me has fallen asleep
with a gun in his lap. Who knows
what he’s seen today?
Dusk falls, so I turn my face
to the window again. Who knew
that train tracks were built so close
to houses? In the desert
there are houses for people
who believe they are graves
for the living. I’m wondering which
came first, the houses or
the train tracks? I’m thinking
the sand will outlive everyone.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Campaign: Update

Hello Everyone!

It's been quite a time since I last mentioned my crowdfunding campaign (Julia's peace-building adventure). Shame on me, there has been so many things happening! As for the numbers: I have received 5 new donations - that means I've already collected 300 euros, or 1/4 of the cost of the camp. This is really a lot, thank you very much for your support! 

But what matters to me even more are the non-measurable things. Thanks to this whole project, I have met so many interesting people; I got help, positive feedback and critical advice from places I would never even think I might ever reach; the blog has been read by visitors from all the continents, my friends and family have turned out to be even more supportive that I'd guess... Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart!

Speaking of gratitute: I had a great fun preparing all the claimed rewards: two Hamsas (shown on the photos on the left), one Surprise (let me reveal the secret: I prepared hazelnut truffles and a handmade bracelet) and one Report (that will be a real challenge). I'm hoping there is more to come, stay with me!