Kotel vs. Coffeeshop

Today our group left Jerusalem and spent the day in Tel Aviv.  During all of our activities, we explored the way in which these two cities represent opposing ideas of what Israel is supposed to be.  Jerusalem ties us to our history and reminds us of the past; the center of the city represents a time which is lost. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, represents the “New Jew,” one who can embrace modern culture.  Throughout the day, we considered the question of what it means to be Jewish in Tel Aviv, and what it means to be Jewish without strong historical ties.  Some critics have argued that Tel Aviv is a negative aspect of Israeli society, lacking connection with collective Jewish consciousness.  In our discussion, Teddy pointed out that Tel Aviv is actually very Zionist, attempting to bring Judaism into modernity in a new way.

This point was driven home in our visit to Bina, the secular yeshiva.  At this institution, any Israeli can come and learn Talmud, Mishna, and Torah, regardless of their level of traditional Jewish observance.  The idea behind their program is to defend the claim that no one has a monopoly on Judaism, and that anyone can actively engage in Jewish study.  I believe that this is an important message for camp supervisors to bring to TY this summer.  If we can create an environment in which Torah study is taken out of the context of strict religious observance, we will sparks campers’ interest in Jewish learning in new and exciting ways.

-Hadas deGroot, 2011 Merakezet Hadracha

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