February 23, 2017

In East Jerusalem: Rawdat El-Zuhur School

Majida, Randa, and I at Rawdat El-Zuhur School

I happily crossed a politically-charged line between West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem to bring blessings and love to Rawdat El-Zuhur School from dear friends Ame Kulu (Rev. Joyce Myers-Brown) and Mary Ellen Myers. Their Women’s Fellowship of Central Congregational UCC (United Church of Christ) in Atlanta, Georgia, has been sponsoring a student in the school since 2008 through UCC Global Ministries, which receives sponsor donations and distributes them to schools.

Founded in 1952 as an alternative to public education, this private school in East Jerusalem offers a culturally-appropriate vision, curriculum, and program to its Muslim and Christian students. Randa, the Sponsor Coordinator, introduced me to the principal, teachers, staff, and adorable Majida, whom the Fellowship is sponsoring through Grade 6 when she will graduate and transfer to another school.

Wall displays include children's art work, posters of alphabets (Arabic and English), and photos of the school's beginnings and a donor honor roll.

Photos of the school's beginnings

Pointing to [UCC] Global Ministries on the donor honor roll

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February 02, 2017

Mutasim Ali and Asaf Weitzen: 7 lessons from Israeli activists on how to fight for refugees‏

"Like the native among you shall be the sojourner who sojourns among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (Leviticus 19:34)
Strangers, or sojourners, are rightly under our protection because we are all strangers somewhere. In the biblical era, when strangers were under the protection of the gods, the inhabitants of Sodom defied the singular cultural importance of hospitality shared with other ancient civilizations, including Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. 
Listen to Mutasim Ali and Asaf Weitzen among the righteous in today's Sodom. (2.5 minutes)

"Outsider consciousness resides at the heart of Jewish identity." — Anish Kapoor, artist and social activist

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January 21, 2017

In Tel Aviv: Women's March against new Trump administration

"Keep your tiny hands off our human rights"
In solidarity with the Women's March of dissent against the Trump presidency that was inaugurated the day before, hundreds of Americans gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Israel where they sang, cheered, booed, and waved posters against hate and intolerance, and for social justice and equal rights for all people.

As in Washington, D.C., and in cities nationwide and around the world, participants expressed a common theme — revulsion and contempt for the man who is now president. Among protesters' local concerns and issues explained in handmade signs and speeches: "End U.S. Support of the Occupation" and "Existential Threat / סכנה קיומית" (framing a photo of Trump and Bibi).

Many women and men wore white roses in solidarity with residents of Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in Israel's southern Negev, whose homes were demolished last Wednesday for lack of building permits impossible to obtain.

November 13, 2016

Reunion with Indira Sarma and Narayan Subedi

Best people, best Bhutanese food, best time!

How I missed this wonderful couple and how joyous our reunion. True to my inherited trait, weeping when happiest, I shed many tears embracing my beloved Indira and Narayan. And we laughed, shared, and probed local, personal, and global matters; drank divine nectar and ate ambrosia they had prepared; and held closely Pritam, of blessed memory.

Ashish later joined us and shared with the Bhutanese-American couple about mutual interests (healthcare), neighboring birthplaces (Bhutan, India), common spiritual traditions (Hinduism), and exchanged thoughts in at least half a dozen languages! Then Ashish and I took off to spend the rest of the day at the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site.

Indira, Narayan, me, Ashish

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October 09, 2016

In East Jerusalem: With Yu, a fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

The professional and the dilettante 

Minutes after a drive-by shooting attack at a nearby East Jerusalem light rail station, I caught up with Yu Zhang, my brilliant and adorable friend from China currently a fellow at the prestigious W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. (At Tel Aviv University, Yu wrote a master's thesis on Canaanite Cult Behavior and the Egyptian Political Hegemony: A View from the North of Israel.)

A shout out to Yosef Halper at whose eponymous used bookstore on Tel Aviv's Allenby Street Yu and I met. Yosef and I were talking books and kvetching when Yu walked in looking for specific archeology texts. She used terms I recognized from a course I had been taking and asked, Is Dr. Omer Sergei your professor at Tel Aviv University? Yes! Our immediate deep-dive freewheeling conversation has happily continued, time- and geography- permitting.