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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.

On Tisha B’Av, a family reads Lamentations at the synagogue Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot, Jerusalem.
(Photo by Brian Negin/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

On Tisha B’Av, a family reads Lamentations at the synagogue Kehilat Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot, Jerusalem.

(Photo by Brian Negin/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

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Walking a Constant Tightrope Between Vulnerability and Responsibility

by Krista Tippett, host

In Rabbi Hartman's office It feels poignant, and important, to put this conversation, “Opening Up Windows,” with David Hartman out into the world this week. Last week’s experience of the Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh evoked a bit of light and air in the present contested moment. So, too — albeit very differently — does David Hartman. Neither of these men speaks for his people, but each uniquely embodies and articulates the drama of his national narrative.

What David Hartman offers is a window into intra-Israeli searching and struggles that drive news headlines from this part of the world, but are rarely heard in and for themselves. The effect of his presence is at once humanizing, uncomfortable, and revealing.

Years ago, in the early days of creating this program, people sometimes asked me about the balance of drawing out a single voice to speak to a complex issue. The question, I think, betrays the way we’ve narrowed the idea of balance in our public deliberation of many important issues. There is certainly a place for debate between fixed, competing positions; but the biggest “issues” before us are often, as Sari Nusseibeh so acutely put it, matters of gradual human maturation and evolution. Point-counterpoint exchanges bury this possibility, but it can be heard through a single voice — in the self-examined life of a person who wrestles with complexity and change, and who continues to challenge oneself.

So, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, questions of how to define statehood and draw borders always coexist with related, but not identical, questions of how two peoples can maintain their dignity and live together. As a Jew who chose to move to Israel with his wife and five children in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, David Hartman has lived along the continuum of the Jewish encounter with all those questions in the decades since. A former congregational rabbi, he created a think tank and educational center that has brought Jews of different traditions together in unprecedented ways.

David Hartman has also been an unusual religious figure in Israeli society as a leader who challenges traditional Judaism from the inside. His daughter Tova is known as an Orthodox feminist. In part, because of her influence, David Hartman became an activist for the inclusion of women in ritual and practice, challenging traditional Jews to see the matter of women’s rabbinic ordination as a statement of nothing less than the character of the God one worships. To deny the full personhood of women, David Hartman says with characteristic forcefulness, is “spiritual suicide.”

He is frank and searching, too, on Israeli-Palestinian relations. “That’s so painful,” he says, when I ask how his discernment on God and the dignity of women might relate to the Jewish relationship to Palestinians. On the morning I interviewed him, a Jewish family, including a three-month-old infant, had just been brutally murdered in a settlement near Nablus. The weight of that news was all around us, and so too was the fear — soon to be realized — that this act of violence would yield to a new cycle of reprisal and attack, with grief on both sides. “I am constantly moved up and back,” David Hartman tells us. “When my family gets killed, and my family’s frightened to go to sleep at night, I get angry. I have a lot of anger in me. But part of my tradition is to learn how to control that anger. And I don’t know if they really want to live with me.”

It’s strange, really, that for all the human drama that is so assiduously reported from this part of the world, we so rarely hear the kind of direct struggle with anger and pain that David Hartman offers in this conversation. Both emotions are embedded in the fabric of daily life in this land, and they merge with the longer lineage of Jewish history. “[A] core meaning of the State of Israel,” David Hartman has written, “is precisely the will of the Jewish people to remain in history, despite overwhelming evidence of the risks involved.” In Israel as in the rest of the world, as he describes it, Jews walk a constant tightrope between vulnerability and responsibility — alternately powerful and weak, and both at once.

He describes the dignity he experiences of being at home in Israel as “a return to memory.” And so, he adds evocatively, “How do we deal with this memory? Narcissistically? Triumphantly? Arrogantly? Or we say, ‘Now that I have my memory, tell me about yours.’” This echoes the journey Sari Nusseibeh shared with us, of walking into a former “No Man’s Land” in 1967 and looking back at where he came from — wanting to see himself from the other side. In such images, we don’t merely experience a new way to see a painful global crisis; we feel ourselves addressed.

About the photo: Krista Tippett interviews Rabbi David Hartman at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Photo by Trent Gilliss.

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I know about leaving. People would say to me ‘If you don’t like it, go change it.’ What they mean is, ‘Go away and change it.’ But there’s power to staying.
-

Tova Hartman, founder of Shira Hadasha, a modern Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem that has no central leadership or rabbi, and permits women to lead services and bat mitzvah ceremonies.

Read Kevin Grant’s full article on The Huffington Post.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Multiple Narratives and Many Truths about the Same Facts Emerge If We Only Listen

by Krista Tippett, host

I first discovered Yossi Klein Halevi in the early days of this program. I picked his book Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist off the shelves of the public library and was riveted by this son of a Holocaust survivor’s journey into, and then beyond, violent rage.

In the 1970s, in Brooklyn where he was growing up, he got very close to a charismatic rabbi who inspired his followers to bomb Soviet embassies to liberate Jews in that now-vanished empire. A deeper connection to the spiritual core of Judaism drew him out and took him to Israel. And there, in heady days of the Oslo Accords of the 90s, he undertook another kind of journey inward and outward — an experiment in religious empathy.

He sought knowledge of the religious others in his land by way of their devotional lives rather than their religious, political, or civic identities. He prayed with monks and nuns and sheiks. He knelt in prayer with his skullcap on in Palestinian mosques. He came, as he described it, not merely to revere but to love Christianity and Islam.

And even as Yossi Klein Halevi was testing — and defying — the border crossings between faiths, the Oslo process was unraveling under bad faith and broken promises on both sides. The second intifada in the early years of this century made Yossi Klein Halevi’s project unthinkable. It also ultimately brought an end to the simple freedom of movement and human contact that had made it possible. Meeting him in person for the first time as a guest in his home in Jerusalem earlier this year — I looked out his window at the wall that obscured what was once an expansive view of desert and of the Palestinian West Bank.

Krista Tippett and Yossi Klein Halevi

During our days in Israel and the West Bank, of course, we also experienced that same wall from the other side — from Palestinian refugee camps and communities where it has sliced life and dreams apart. In this newest most tangible representation of the divide between Israelis and Palestinians, a quintessential characteristic of multiple narratives about the same “facts” emerges. For one side, the wall signifies security and safety; for the other, separation and oppression. Both reactions to it are valid on some deep level.

"There are no facts here," someone said in our early days in Jerusalem. Yossi Klein Halevi admits the maddening intensity of life in a place where the abyss between different interpretations and enactments of the same history, the same facts, obliterates any sense of shared reality, much less a basis for dialogue or peacemaking.

Yossi Klein Halevi — with his own personal wells of integrity and eloquence, of grief and despair — asks provocatively how the dynamics of the Holy Land could be any less dramatic, any less extreme, on their way to whatever resolution, whatever “miracle” they must be leading towards. The Jewish story, after all, is a test case of intimacy with God; Jerusalem in particular is a crucible of sacred sites and stories that trace dispersed glimpses, as he understands it, of “different faces” of God. Yossi Klein Halevi calls this a city where not just religion but the essential human story is played out with a particular intensity. It is messy like the Bible is messy. Like human life, it is treacherous and purposeful at once.

I can’t help but correlate this observation with a conversation I just had with a great astrophysicist, Martin Rees. He recently ended a term as the president of Britain’s Royal Society, the academy to which Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking have all belonged. And after more than four decades immersed in the study of complex phenomena in the cosmos, Rees freely contends that human beings are the most complex systems in the universe. It is far easier to make definitively true statements about the constitution of stars, he says with no irony, than about dieting or child care. Imagine the Holy Land, then, as a kind of human, geopolitical black hole: space becomes time and time becomes space. Here land becomes memory and memory, land.

I can’t sustain this analogy for long, though. The Holy Land is not a place from which no light can escape. I was captivated by the human courage and long-term (if not short-term) hope that digs roots there right alongside conflict and the death of dreams. In my conversation with Yossi Klein Halevi, as with my recent conversation with the Arab-Israeli civic leader Mohammad Darawshe, I experience an incredible counterintuitive weight of human dignity and possibility.

Israelis and Palestinians both said to me, applying different words but kindred visions, that what is needed — indeed what is underway, however painfully slowly — is something like a human evolution, a maturing of people and peoples. They and I hold on to that promise, even as they also see that history progresses here one step forward and then at least two steps back, with severe trauma on both sides all along the way. To be merely hopeful would be foolish.

Yet somehow — as Martin Rees helps me take seriously — the very complexity of a Yossi Klein Halevi, or a Mohammad Darawshe, is redemptive. It complicates my hearing of the news from this region. The future is always, undeniably and everywhere, a far more fluid, expansive, and surprising thing than we ever take for granted. And as I’ve heard from diverse Israeli and Palestinian conversation partners across the years, the rest of us serve the possibilities of now unimaginable futures when we insist on seeing lives of dignity and courage amidst more prevalent images of despair.

About the image: Yossi Klein Halevi and Krista Tippett speaking in his offices at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (photo: Trent Gilliss)

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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.

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Groovy.
From Kevin Grant on USC’s Reporting on Israel Tumblr:

Graffiti in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Groovy.

From Kevin Grant on USC’s Reporting on Israel Tumblr:

Graffiti in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem.

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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.

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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.

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When Life Gives You Lemons…
by Robyn Carolyn Price, 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.

While walking around the Katamonim neighborhood in Jerusalem, Yardena Hamu explains that this rock formation is a sculpture that was created by a local artist.

Yardena, a Mizrahi Jew, has lived in this lower class area, generally reserved for non-Ashkenazi Jews, her entire life. Members of this community often suffer discrimination because of the countries they migrate to Israel from — such as Ethiopia, Iraq, and other Arab countries.

For as long as Yardena can remember, these rocks have been scattered about her neighborhood. And so a local artist took neighborhood beautification into his own hands and created a sculpture the community could be proud to look at.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

by Robyn Carolyn Price, 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.

While walking around the Katamonim neighborhood in Jerusalem, Yardena Hamu explains that this rock formation is a sculpture that was created by a local artist.

Yardena, a Mizrahi Jew, has lived in this lower class area, generally reserved for non-Ashkenazi Jews, her entire life. Members of this community often suffer discrimination because of the countries they migrate to Israel from — such as Ethiopia, Iraq, and other Arab countries.

For as long as Yardena can remember, these rocks have been scattered about her neighborhood. And so a local artist took neighborhood beautification into his own hands and created a sculpture the community could be proud to look at.

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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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