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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

The Girl Who Cried at the Stations of the Cross

by Kate Moos, executive producer

P1000153
(photo: Chris Heagle)

I came to Jerusalem as a journalist, not a pilgrim, and so I was completely surprised today, when, in the cacophony and kitschy merchandising of the Old City’s Via Dolorosa (“The Way of Sorrows”), my eye landed on a sign marking the second station on Jesus’ march to Calvary (“Jesus falls for the first time”) and felt a sob rising in my throat. Embarrassed, I touched Krista’s arm and told her I thought I might cry, trying to explain to her what the stations meant to me as a young girl.

The Stations of the Cross, a devotion performed by Catholics typically every Friday afternoon of the Lenten season, was hugely formative in my early spiritual imagination, and for a few moments I was again a six year old focusing my whole being on each step of Christ’s scourged and bleeding procession to Golgotha. “Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem.” “Jesus is stripped of his garments.”

Map of the Stations of the Cross

As we squirmed through the narrow corridors through log jams of tourists and pilgrims, I felt a deep sadness I hadn’t experienced in years — for the terrible suffering of Jesus, to be sure, but also for my own innocence, a girl who cried over the suffering of God. Among the pashminas and souvenirs, I was experiencing a religious sentiment I had not consciously felt for decades, and I was swept up in it like a strong and unexpected wind.

So, we are in Jerusalem and hardly know what to report, what to say. It feels impudent to think self-expression matters here, or that what one can see and digest in 48 hours has any significance in a city where so much of the history and meaning of the world’s Abrahamic faiths was minted, and is encoded in every stone, every street sign. As I found on the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem is so full of religious significance, it reaches out and grabs you.

Comments
I don’t love to speak about politics, but we live here. We eat and breathe politics.
-

Dr. Sharif Sharif, archaeologist in Nazareth, Israel

(via reporting-on-israel)

Comments

A Palestinian Nest with No Babies

by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Robyn Carolyn PriceRiadh Abu Eid checks his mobile phone while standing on the rubble of his demolished home in Lod, Israel. (photo: Robyn Carolyn Price)

A hummingbird’s nest sits in a high branch of the ficus tree on my porch in Los Angeles. Knitting together twigs, leaves, and small scraps, a mama bird has prepared a home for the babies she expects this spring.

I thought about that nest when I saw the ruins of the Abu Eid home in Lod.

This past December, the Israeli police demolished the Abu Eid’s home, and six others on the street, because the families did not have building permits for an area that is zoned “agricultural” instead of “residential.” Authorities acted despite the fact that the families have lived in the neighborhood for years and have repeatedly sought but been refused permits. Meanwhile, adjacent sites have been reclassified as “residential” for an Israeli housing development and a Jewish school.

Standing on the ruins of the Abu Eid’s home, I imagined the slabs of broken cement, bound together by a tangle of brown steel rods, as the building blocks of a nightmare nest. Its hollows are filled with a brown door, a flattened washing machine, and a plastic chair; its sides built up with a white sneaker, a tattered blanket, and a pink blouse with lace trim.

Tragic yet compelling, the smashed house bespeaks the home/no home predicament of Israel‘s Palestinian citizens. An art project befitting an inscrutable God, this nest will hold no babies come spring.


Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

Comments
The Next American Idol in Jerusalem
by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Like most 14 year olds, Rivka Bayene has big dreams.
“I’m going to America, I’m going to sing, I’m going to be on American Idol,” she told a roomful of guests at Kedma School, her home away from home in Jerusalem’s south central Katamon neighborhood.
Katamon looks similar to LA’s South Central neighborhood. Houses are neat but need a fresh coat of paint, grass pokes out from cracks in the sidewalks, and trash chokes weeds in large, empty lots. Katamon also is home to the city’s people of color, and Kedma School is a safe haven for black and brown Jews.
Rivka’s parents immigrated to Israel when she was a year old. Her father wanted her to have a better life than the one awaiting her in Addis Ababa. But when she started school, Rivka learned it was hard to be different in Israel. Between 90,000 and 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. In the 1980s, the Israeli government mounted “rescue” operations to bring home these “lost” and “forgotten” African Jews. But many Ethiopians say they have faced discrimination, if not outright racism, in their new country.
“People didn’t want to be close,” Rivka said, describing life at her old school.

Happily, things are different at Kedma where the faculty works to create a loving and supportive atmosphere. The only school of its kind in the city, it welcomes children who have had difficulty fitting into public schools. Rivka said she was relieved to find people at Kedma who looked like her, and teachers who wanted to hug her. But she says the journey is not over. She’s planning to be the next Rihanna and she expects she will need to move to the U.S. if she wants to succeed big-time.
“In America, they have many black people,” she told us, adding with a sly smile, “It’s going to be good.”
Diane Winston holds the the  Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for  Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A  national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes  religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the   entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current   research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media,  and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog  called the SCOOP and tweets too.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for  possible  publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.
The Next American Idol in Jerusalem
by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Like most 14 year olds, Rivka Bayene has big dreams.
“I’m going to America, I’m going to sing, I’m going to be on American Idol,” she told a roomful of guests at Kedma School, her home away from home in Jerusalem’s south central Katamon neighborhood.
Katamon looks similar to LA’s South Central neighborhood. Houses are neat but need a fresh coat of paint, grass pokes out from cracks in the sidewalks, and trash chokes weeds in large, empty lots. Katamon also is home to the city’s people of color, and Kedma School is a safe haven for black and brown Jews.
Rivka’s parents immigrated to Israel when she was a year old. Her father wanted her to have a better life than the one awaiting her in Addis Ababa. But when she started school, Rivka learned it was hard to be different in Israel. Between 90,000 and 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. In the 1980s, the Israeli government mounted “rescue” operations to bring home these “lost” and “forgotten” African Jews. But many Ethiopians say they have faced discrimination, if not outright racism, in their new country.
“People didn’t want to be close,” Rivka said, describing life at her old school.

Happily, things are different at Kedma where the faculty works to create a loving and supportive atmosphere. The only school of its kind in the city, it welcomes children who have had difficulty fitting into public schools. Rivka said she was relieved to find people at Kedma who looked like her, and teachers who wanted to hug her. But she says the journey is not over. She’s planning to be the next Rihanna and she expects she will need to move to the U.S. if she wants to succeed big-time.
“In America, they have many black people,” she told us, adding with a sly smile, “It’s going to be good.”
Diane Winston holds the the  Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for  Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A  national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes  religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the   entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current   research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media,  and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog  called the SCOOP and tweets too.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for  possible  publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

The Next American Idol in Jerusalem

by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Like most 14 year olds, Rivka Bayene has big dreams.

“I’m going to America, I’m going to sing, I’m going to be on American Idol,” she told a roomful of guests at Kedma School, her home away from home in Jerusalem’s south central Katamon neighborhood.

Katamon looks similar to LA’s South Central neighborhood. Houses are neat but need a fresh coat of paint, grass pokes out from cracks in the sidewalks, and trash chokes weeds in large, empty lots. Katamon also is home to the city’s people of color, and Kedma School is a safe haven for black and brown Jews.

Rivka’s parents immigrated to Israel when she was a year old. Her father wanted her to have a better life than the one awaiting her in Addis Ababa. But when she started school, Rivka learned it was hard to be different in Israel. Between 90,000 and 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. In the 1980s, the Israeli government mounted “rescue” operations to bring home these “lost” and “forgotten” African Jews. But many Ethiopians say they have faced discrimination, if not outright racism, in their new country.

“People didn’t want to be close,” Rivka said, describing life at her old school.

Rivka Bayene

Happily, things are different at Kedma where the faculty works to create a loving and supportive atmosphere. The only school of its kind in the city, it welcomes children who have had difficulty fitting into public schools. Rivka said she was relieved to find people at Kedma who looked like her, and teachers who wanted to hug her. But she says the journey is not over. She’s planning to be the next Rihanna and she expects she will need to move to the U.S. if she wants to succeed big-time.

“In America, they have many black people,” she told us, adding with a sly smile, “It’s going to be good.”


Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

Comments
Educational Inequality Divides Israeli Jews
by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Aside from Israel’s ongoing conflict with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, it must also deal with the internal complexities that exist in most modern societies, like immigration and racial discrimination.
An example of this can be seen inside the immigrant and impoverished neighborhood of Katamonim of Jerusalem. There, the Kedma School serves Jewish students that come from countries such as Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Morocco, Yemen, and Iraq —  called Mizrahi Jews. Kedma’s mission is to combat the educational inequality these students face at other schools where the dominant population of students are Jews of Eastern European descent — called Ashkenazi Jews.
It’s a small school for 160 seventh to 12th graders. Many of these Mizrahi students were unpopular at their previous schools. Some say they weren’t accepted socially, seen as outsiders by their classmates and troublemakers by their instructors.
The Kedma School provides smaller class sizes — two teachers for every 26 students — than the typical public school, which has one teacher for more than every 40 students. According to the school’s website, only 10 percent of students from the greater Katamonia community complete high school. Many of these students come from single parent homes and are not encouraged to pursue professional careers in other schools.
Yardena Hamu (pictured above) grew up in this neighborhood and faced the same discrimination as these students. After receiving her bachelors’ degree in art, she returned to be a mentor and teacher at the Kedma School.
Having migrated from Iraq, Hamu can relate to her students. She keeps them motivated as though they were her own children: “We hug them, we kiss them, and we shout at them.”
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.
Educational Inequality Divides Israeli Jews
by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Aside from Israel’s ongoing conflict with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, it must also deal with the internal complexities that exist in most modern societies, like immigration and racial discrimination.
An example of this can be seen inside the immigrant and impoverished neighborhood of Katamonim of Jerusalem. There, the Kedma School serves Jewish students that come from countries such as Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Morocco, Yemen, and Iraq —  called Mizrahi Jews. Kedma’s mission is to combat the educational inequality these students face at other schools where the dominant population of students are Jews of Eastern European descent — called Ashkenazi Jews.
It’s a small school for 160 seventh to 12th graders. Many of these Mizrahi students were unpopular at their previous schools. Some say they weren’t accepted socially, seen as outsiders by their classmates and troublemakers by their instructors.
The Kedma School provides smaller class sizes — two teachers for every 26 students — than the typical public school, which has one teacher for more than every 40 students. According to the school’s website, only 10 percent of students from the greater Katamonia community complete high school. Many of these students come from single parent homes and are not encouraged to pursue professional careers in other schools.
Yardena Hamu (pictured above) grew up in this neighborhood and faced the same discrimination as these students. After receiving her bachelors’ degree in art, she returned to be a mentor and teacher at the Kedma School.
Having migrated from Iraq, Hamu can relate to her students. She keeps them motivated as though they were her own children: “We hug them, we kiss them, and we shout at them.”
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Educational Inequality Divides Israeli Jews

by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Aside from Israel’s ongoing conflict with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, it must also deal with the internal complexities that exist in most modern societies, like immigration and racial discrimination.

An example of this can be seen inside the immigrant and impoverished neighborhood of Katamonim of Jerusalem. There, the Kedma School serves Jewish students that come from countries such as Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Morocco, Yemen, and Iraq — called Mizrahi Jews. Kedma’s mission is to combat the educational inequality these students face at other schools where the dominant population of students are Jews of Eastern European descent — called Ashkenazi Jews.

It’s a small school for 160 seventh to 12th graders. Many of these Mizrahi students were unpopular at their previous schools. Some say they weren’t accepted socially, seen as outsiders by their classmates and troublemakers by their instructors.

The Kedma School provides smaller class sizes — two teachers for every 26 students — than the typical public school, which has one teacher for more than every 40 students. According to the school’s website, only 10 percent of students from the greater Katamonia community complete high school. Many of these students come from single parent homes and are not encouraged to pursue professional careers in other schools.

Yardena Hamu (pictured above) grew up in this neighborhood and faced the same discrimination as these students. After receiving her bachelors’ degree in art, she returned to be a mentor and teacher at the Kedma School.

Having migrated from Iraq, Hamu can relate to her students. She keeps them motivated as though they were her own children: “We hug them, we kiss them, and we shout at them.”


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments
Handala in East Jerusalem
by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Handala, the downtrodden cartoon symbol of Palestinian resistance, makes an appearance in the front yard of a house in East Jerusalem. The house was once owned and occupied by a Palestinian, but he and his family were evicted. Now an Israeli settler family lives in the house. IDF soldiers protect the handful of settler families that live in the neighborhood.
Naji Al-Ali, the artist who created Handala, describes his character:
"I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness. At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national and then a global and human horizon. He is a simple yet tough child, and this is why people adopted him and felt that he represents their consciousness."
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.
Handala in East Jerusalem
by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Handala, the downtrodden cartoon symbol of Palestinian resistance, makes an appearance in the front yard of a house in East Jerusalem. The house was once owned and occupied by a Palestinian, but he and his family were evicted. Now an Israeli settler family lives in the house. IDF soldiers protect the handful of settler families that live in the neighborhood.
Naji Al-Ali, the artist who created Handala, describes his character:
"I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness. At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national and then a global and human horizon. He is a simple yet tough child, and this is why people adopted him and felt that he represents their consciousness."
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Handala in East Jerusalem

by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Handala, the downtrodden cartoon symbol of Palestinian resistance, makes an appearance in the front yard of a house in East Jerusalem. The house was once owned and occupied by a Palestinian, but he and his family were evicted. Now an Israeli settler family lives in the house. IDF soldiers protect the handful of settler families that live in the neighborhood.

Naji Al-Ali, the artist who created Handala, describes his character:

"I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness. At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national and then a global and human horizon. He is a simple yet tough child, and this is why people adopted him and felt that he represents their consciousness."

Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments

West Bank Killing No Reason to Stop Talking

by Andrew Khouri, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

A family was killed Friday night. A husband, wife, and their three children died in Itamar, an ideologically driven Jewish settlement deep inside the West Bank. In response to the suspected terrorist attack, Israel approved 500 new housing units inside the occupied territory.

Peace isn’t a popular conversation topic at the moment. News of the stabbing has dominated the news here, and thousands flocked to Jerusalem Sunday for the funeral.

Saturday night, well-known Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi said the latest violence was shocking in its brutality. “This will have, I suspect, a long-term imprint on Israeli discourse and how we view trusting the Palestinian side,” he said.

But both sides can’t now retreat into their separate corners, especially among everyday people. That was the message of Aaron Barnea and Siham Abu Awwad during an hour-and-a-half discussion over their attempts to finally bring peace among the two peoples.

Both Barnea and Abu Awwad lost family members to the conflict. Those losses pushed them to join Parents Circle, a grass roots organization that seeks understanding and peace through dialogue. Members have all lost loved ones to the violence.

“When an event of this kind, this quality happens … then we have to find the words and to find the ways how to translate actually our rage into human words,” Barnea said.

The key to solving the conflict, Barnea and Abu Awwad say, is reconciliation between individual people. Abu Awwad mentioned when she speaks to Israeli children, it is often the first time they have met a Palestinian. One boy was even shocked she didn’t have horns. Even Barnea only interacted with the other side during army patrols before protesting with Palestinians the occupation of southern Lebanon, where his son Noam was killed.

Barnea cautioned Israeli political leaders not to inject Friday’s horrific killing into a larger political debate over Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the two state solution. That, he said, should be decided on a “human basis.”

Of course, Friday’s killing was not the first, and sadly won’t be the last from either side. But Abu Awwad said, despite this, the choice to continue is simple. “What else can we do? We have to keep talking.”


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.

We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.

As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.

In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.

The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.

As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.

“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.

So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.

About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)

Correction
An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Comments

Sounds from Jerusalem: Hymns and Muezzins’ Calls from the Mount of Olives

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor, and Chris Heagle, producer

Asian Christians sing hymns on the Mount of Olives
(photo: Trent Gilliss)

We happened upon the most magnificent soundscape today while viewing the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It’s a serendipitous few minutes of audio that gives you a feel of the magic of this sacred land and the way religions, people, and cultures continually bump up against one another.

What you first start hearing is a group of Evangelical Christians from South Korea singing a classic hymn. But, within a minute, just as these pilgrims finish, a new wave laps up the side of the ridge. A muezzin calls Muslims to prayer. Then, in stagger-start style, the muezzin’s call from Al-Aqsa Mosque summons another group of Muslims. The recitations float freely and nimbly, almost as if you could waft the layers of sound at your choosing.

We hope you enjoy! I’d appreciate hearing your reactions.

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Yossi Klein Halevi Responds to West Bank Killings

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor, and Chris Heagle, producer

Yossi Klein Halevi

Tonight, during dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in Little Jerusalem, Yossi Klein Halevi, a journalist and fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, opened his speech to a group of journalism students with the jarring news that five Israeli family members were stabbed to death while asleep in their home in Itamar, a Jewish settlement camp near Nablus in the West Bank.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"A grisly trail of toys and blood led paramedics to the first three bodies: a mother, father and their 4-month-old infant, stabbed to death in their bed. In the next room, medics say they found the body of an 11-year-old sibling. Finally, with growing dread, they reached the last bedroom, where a 4-year-old boy with knife wounds and a faint pulse was fighting for his life, ambulance workers said Saturday on Israel Radio. The medics worked frantically, but unsuccessfully, to resuscitate the toddler."

According to The Jerusalem Post, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Palestinian Fatah movement, has claimed responsibility for the killing.

In the clip above, we share Klein Halevi’s response to this attack and his analysis of its impact on relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Correction
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction on March 21, 2011: an earlier version of this article linked to a Haaretz article as the source of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claim. It no longer contains that statement so we have linked to The Jersulem Post, which confirms this claim.

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The Difficulty Of “Belonging” — And Not Belonging — To Israel

by Kevin Douglas Grant, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

As we cruised southeast from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport to Jerusalem’s Old City, our Palestinian driver Yasser — “like Yasser Arafat,” he reminded us — pointed out Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, just to our left. The West Bank, we realized, was immediately adjacent to the Highway 443. We passed village after village, walled and fenced, the minarets of mosques visible in the distance. Ofer Prison, where a year ago 200 Palestinians "rioted" against the detainment of Fatah leaders there, slipped by. Its gray guard towers and barbed wire almost matched the rainy sky.

Yasser said he has the proper card that allows him to work as a driver, which means he “belongs to Israel.” As we passed another village, this one with uniform cement buildings lined atop a craggy hill, Yasser said that particular Palestinian area had achieved the same status from Israel. Later, two of us caught a ride into the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumium on the same Highway 1, invited to attend Shabbat dinner at the home of a Jewish peace activist and construction worker. The guard at military checkpoint outside the settlement waved us through without hesitation.

“Palestinians have to have a permit,” explained Leah Lublin, originally from Canada. She and husband Al immigrated to Israel with her husband 17 years ago. They chose Ma’ale Adumium because the cost of an apartment there was right, far cheaper than one in Jerusalem a few miles away. Over more than a dozen courses, the two took turns lamenting the way many of their neighbors fear Arabs, and said they’re working through their own ingrained mistrust:

“When the Arab laborers are working on the street, people get on edge,” Al Lublin said, explaining that he loses some construction jobs because he employs several Arabs. ”They’re just focusing on their work, but everybody gets nervous.”

Talk ranged from their children’s service in the Israel Defense Forces to Egypt to The Rolling Stones. Leah leads interfaith dialogues to try to bring Jews, Muslims, and Christians together without getting too mired in politics. The husband and wife said they both preferred to focus on day-to-day living and peacemaking, blocking out somewhat the fact that they live in disputed territory. ”I’m more spiritual than religious,” says Al Lublin. “For a Jew, living in Israel is more important than all the other 613 [mizvot, “commandments”]. So I have more freedom to focus on the people in my life.”

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Landing in Israel with Thunderous Applause

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Fellow passenger deboarding the plane in Tel Aviv. (photo: Trent Gilliss)

What you can’t see in the photo above is the incredible sound of raucous applause and joyful laughter that preceded this shot about a minute earlier. Touching the ground in Tel Aviv was met with glee that rang out across the rows of the 747.

I sense it’s more than the appreciative clapping after a rough-and-tumble trans-Atlantic ride. It’s the Holy Land. German travel groups and little old ladies from Austin, Texas, Hasids from Queens and Israeli citizens were filled with the exuberance of a sacred land and filled with the hopes and dreams of this special place.

Not everyone on our staff thought it was as endearing or charming. They may be right, but I’ll hold on to my naivete a bit longer and thank all my fellow passengers for the lovely moment.

Kate and Kristat at Passport Control at Ben Gurion
Krista and Kate kindly pose at the Israeli customs gate. (photo: Trent Gilliss)

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Former African-American IDF Soldier Wrestles with Distinguishing Between God and Israel

by Rosalina Nieves, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Jerusalem, 1995, Praying with IDF soldier from Givati Brigades at Wailing Wall, Western Wall, Kotel
Praying with an IDF soldier from Givati Brigades at the Wailing Wall in 1995.

Moshe Hillel Eytan, born Marcus Hardie, is a Long Beach, California native who converted to Judaism at the age of 22. Marcus, who was raised Baptist and belonged to one of Southern California’s most notorious gangs, the Eight Ball Crips, says he found what he had searched for all his life. He found refuge in a religion that offered him a home and an identity that, he says, connected him to God.

“I experienced Yiddishkeit (Jewish Identity) at my own pace. Judaism taught me that race is of no significance and that you are judged by your actions,” says Marcus, the name he prefers to be called now.

In 2000, Moshe Hillel Eytan, as he was known at that time, thought making Aliyah to Israel had completed his conversion to Judaism. After all, he had converted to Judaism three times, twice in the U.S. and once in the Orthodox branch of Judaism in Israel. But it wasn’t enough for Moshe, who, at the age of 28, decided to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). By doing so, he felt he was securing his allegiance to Judaism and to the state of Israel.

“It wasn’t enough to make Aliyah to Israel, I needed to protect Israel. I couldn’t just come [to Israel] and integrate, and become a rabbi … or have a wife or have a child. I needed to give back,” says Marcus. “My Jewish identity, or my interest in Jewish affairs, took over my life. It felt like I was possessed.”

His way of giving back was by defending his new-found homeland from terrorists. He equated it to the violence he had once escaped from as a teenager. Except this time, he thought he would be fighting on the right side, the good side. So a year after having made Aliyah to Israel, Marcus joined the IDF.

Americans in IDF

Moshe Hillel Eytan at Basic Training
Near the end of basic training in the Israeli Defense Forces in August 2001.

“Jewish People and Jewish students in particular feel a tremendous allegiance to the state of Israel. Historically, we need a country of our own. (And) a few young men and women chose to do a condensed version of serving in the Israel army,” says Rabbi Aron Hier.

Hier, who is the current director of the campus outreach program for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was born and raised in Canada by Jewish parents. And, like Marcus, he too volunteered to serve in the IDF.

“I finished college and I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do and so I said I’ll give them a year and half. It’s that brutal, you can train as much as you want and you can’t get used to the heat, you can’t get used to the lack of privacy and living in the same clothes for a week at a time. Its not about pumping weights, it tests you in many ways. It was very hard and very rewarding.”

It’s not uncommon for foreigners, including Americans, to serve in the IDF. Some Americans are the children of Israelis who emigrated years ago; others, like Rabbi Hier and Marcus, have no family connection whatsoever.

A 2010 Ha’aretz article profiling foreigners serving in the IDF reported that about 3,000 lone immigrant soldiers were serving in the IDF and, in 2010, more than 500 soldiers were from United States.

Rabbi Hier dismissed the potential pitfalls of an American swearing allegiance to Israel. Since the two are close allies, he doesn’t see a problem. Besides, by law, Americans are permitted to serve in a foreign military.

Rabbi Mayer May, the executive director of the Wiesenthal Center and the President of the Rabbinical Council of California, also supports the idea that American Jews can go serve in the IDF.

“I can understand a lot of the kids who grow up in America, and have strong feelings for the state of Israel. They watch it and feel it as the underdog, even though it sometimes is positioned as the occupier,” May said. “But it’s not the occupier when you think of all the ten million of Arabs that are surrounding it.”

“What happens in Israel affects us profoundly here, and not only in terms of our presence in America, but profoundly because we know of our profound connection to the land of Israel for 3, 000 years.”

A Faith Replaced by Nationalism and Anger

Holding an assault rifle on the Sabbath
Holding an assault rifle on the Sabbath.

Marcus says his service in the military quickly changed his life and his views of Israel. Just as the Second Palestinian Intifida started in 2000, Israel became a more violent place. He had to suppress riots and police Palestinians. He was often the first on scene after a bomb went off.

“I would arrive and see all sorts of body parts, the ground saturated with blood. I saw people suffering. It was more than I bargained for,” says Marcus.

This is where Marcus claims his faith was replaced by nationalism and anger. He says he started placing the state of Israel in the position of God.

“Instead of saying God is powerful, I would say Israel is powerful,” says Marcus.

On Merkava Battletank, Sayereem Military Base, Israel, 2001
On Merkava battle tank at Sayereem Military Base in Israel in 2001.

Marcus became less and less religious as he completed his two years in the IDF. The religious connection he once felt towards Israel began to fade. Although he had signed up to protect Israel, Marcus acknowledges that he knew very little about the Palestinians and Arabs living in Israel. He had only learned about the terrorists who targeted innocent Israelis. But after becoming an anti-terror fighter in the IDF, he learned the lines were often blurred.

“I didn’t really have much contact with Palestinians before then. That was a big blind spot that I had. And when I look back, in retrospect I always saw Israel as a Jewish state,” Marcus said. “For me, the Palestinian Arabs were invisible. They were invisible people. I don’t remember meeting even one Palestinian. I don’t remember having interest in meeting one.”

Marcus says his experience in the IDF did the opposite of what he expected. His service in the IDF did not complete his religious journey to Judaism. But it did changed Marcus’s life in ways he would have never imagined.

Soon after he completed his service in the military, Marcus returned to the United States and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, Marcus Hardie, resides in a modest group home in Whittier, California. He has published an autobiographical book, Black & Bulletproof, where he shares his life story and gives readers an inside look at the Israeli army and its operatives from the perspective of an African-American Jew.

Marcus still considers himself a man of faith and worships at Temple Beth Shalom in Whittier. He admits that he isn’t as religious as he once was, but says he continues to practice Judaism.

“I still think of Israel as my homeland, but the connection just isn’t as strong as it was before. No one can take away what I saw happen to innocent people, both Palestinians and Israelis.”


Rosalina Nieves Rosalina Nieves is a graduate student in the Specialized Journalism Program at the University of Southern California and an assignment editor at CNN in Los Angeles.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Are You Familiar with Israeli Literature?

by Christin Davis, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

L.A. Book Club on Israeli LiteratureOnce a month, in and around Beverly Hills, a word-of-mouth club, comprised of all Israelis, meets at alternating members’ homes to discuss Hebrew literature by Israeli authors.

“It’s interesting because we all know each other so well,” says Orna Yaron, who along with her husband Meir, helped start the club and are the only remaining members of the 40 attendees of the first book club meeting in 1989. “We know each other’s political inclinations, personal and family situations. We analyze the literature, but everybody comes from his own experience. It’s like group therapy sometimes.”

The group is moderated by a professional, Deborah Steinhart, also an Israeli, who has a doctorate in comparative literature from UC Berkeley. Steinhart went through a few of the authors the club has studied, including Aharon Appelfeld, a prolific writer on the Holocaust; S. Y. Agnon, a Nobel laureate writer; Amos Oz, a journalist and professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University; A. B. Yehoshua, a novelist and playwright; and Amichai Shalev, editor for literature and art on Ynet.

Anyone out there read in Hebrew? Are you familiar with these authors or a fan of their work? What is the major premise of modern Israeli literature? What other Israeli authors should people looking for Hebrew literature be aware of?

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Film about Tel Aviv School Educating Marginalized Children Wins Oscar

by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Amidst the glamor and glitz of the Oscars, a short film on the children of migrant workers and asylum seekers in Israel was awarded a golden statue for best documentary short.

Strangers No MoreThe film Strangers No More highlights the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, which teaches 800 students from 48 countries. Some have fled violence in their home countries, while others migrated to Israel along with their parents, who were searching for work. All are united by a common language: Hebrew.

A screening of the film in Tel Aviv on Monday night brought a capacity crowd, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert. As The Jerusalem Post reports:

"Olmert said the school presents a model of how Israel can treat those who are different and those who come here seeking refuge. The former Prime Minister added ‘We must not allow these children to be deported.’"

Olmert was almost certainly just referring to the children of asylum seekers, and not those of migrant workers. The differences in treatment between the two groups — by society and by law — are among the issues we will be investigating in our coverage of the immigrant issue on the ground in Israel.

And you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll try to meet the students and teachers at Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv when we’re there in just under two weeks!

(photo: Karen Goodman)

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