Tomorrow morning, I will leave Jerusalem for the second time in less than 12 months. The concept of that is hard to grapple. The fact that I have been here twice in such a short time really is a testament to the pull that this city has. In the seven days I have been here, it has been a whirlwind. I was incredibly lucky, in that I was invited to join along on 3 1/2 days of programs organized by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which had organized a world class, extremely fair and balanced, trip for a group of evangelical thought leaders, designed to explore the different dynamics of the conflict; to see the deeper narratives; and get a small taste of Israel.
In the last week, I have met with, or listened to a long list of people, in reverse order, including:
- Professor Moshe Halbertal, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute
- David Horivitz, editor in chief of the Times of Israel
- Salim Munayer, director of Musahala: a reconciliation program
- Kids 4 Peace
- Deborah Applebaum
- PLO chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat
- Dr. Kahlil Shikaki, Director, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research
- Mr. Amir Dajani, Managing Director, Rawabi, a new Palestinian planned city
- Gal Berger, Israeli Journalist
- Avi Melamed, Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs, Eisinhower Institute
- Udi Cohen, director, Citizens Accord Forum for Jews and Arabs in Israel
- Rabbi Arik Aschermann, senior rabbi, Rabbis for Human Rights
- Professor Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute
- Eliyahu McLean, Abrahamic Reunion
- Bassem Eid, Palestinian Human Rights Activist and Political Commentator
- Shaul Judelson and Jawad, Friends of Roots
- Walid Issa, Shades Negotiation Project
- Rabbi David Rosen, interfaith director for judaism outside of the US
- Rev. Canon Hosan Naoum, dean of St. George’s Cathedral
- Poet Rivka Miriam
Add to that, visiting Jerusalem’s Old City on Shabbat, the grave of Oskar Schindler, the tomb of David, the Tower of David museum, the Israel Museum, west jerusalem, Yad VaShem, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, Ramallah, Rawabi, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc (ok, it was dark out, and we pretty much just went to the winery), and numerous neighborhoods in West Jerusalem. I even learned how to navigate the public bus system. And a wonderful dinner with a friend’s daughter.
I’ll admit my blogging has been sporadic. Look at all those people and places. An awful lot of material and ideas to think through. But there will be more to come, over the next week here in Israel, and in the month to come.
Tomorrow, phase two begins. Light rail to Central Bus station, and then an express bus to Haifa, where I will spend the week in the German Colony, and will spend every possible minute reuiniting with the friends forever kids and their families. Then a night in Nazareth to spend with Raed, and then the last four days in Tel Aviv, with more meetings, and some opportunity to explore a part of Israel I haven’t seem before.