So Israel isn't all just running and pretty views, though that is a big part of it. We have also been spending 12 hours a week in Hebrew Ulpan, a few hours on Thursday in Beit Midrash (Jewsih learning), in addition to our weekly education days that we have in conjunction with our ITF buddies.
This past Tuesday was our first Education Day, Minorities in the Galilee. We first drove to a small settlement called Shorashim, just a few minutes from our temporary home in Karmiel. There we had a short discussion about the Israeli Arabs living in the Galilee, whose families were granted citizenship in 1948. The area where we live is actually home to many more Arabs than Jews - it is 20% Jewish / 80% Arab in the Galilee, while the population in the rest of the country is 80/20. Living in a majority Jewish city full of new immigrants, it would be easy to have never realized this fact, but we are surrounded by small Arab villages that for the most part coexist peacefully with their Jewish neighbors. I was reminded of this proximity tonight during my tempo run, as I could hear the Muslim call to prayer. It's just another small daily occurrence that reminds me what a special place this is.
Next we hopped back on the bus for a short drive to an Arab High School. There, we broke into small groups to speak with seniors at the school and an Arab Israeli English teacher. The students were hard to hear in a crowded room, but I was struck by how similar they were to American teenagers. Many of them really had no interest in talking to a bunch of American tourists, and others simply wanted to know about our boyfriends. They are planning on going to college, or on to work next year. On the other hand, I loved hearing the teacher's views. She spoke about her family (she's newly married, with a baby boy and one of 17 children!) growing up in Israel, and why she choses to wear the hijab.
After a quick pizza lunch and a stop at Safta Gemila's soap factory, we hiked from the Jewish village of Harashim to the Druze village of Peki'in. The hike was beautiful and mostly downhill on Mt. Meron, through there were some pretty steep hills in the village.
After the hike, we ate an incredible Druze dinner in what just might be the coolest restaurant I have ever seen.
The food was great, too! Grape leaves, pita and hummos, rice and lentils, babaganoush, vegetables and many other things I either didn't try or don't remember (a couple of meat dishes). The owner of the restaurant then spoke to us about the Druze religion. The Druzim serve in the Israeli Army, are loyal to the land where they live, and have no nationalistic ideals.
This lack of a desire for their own state was an interesting tie in to our Beit Midrash today, which was all about the ideals and laws of a Jewish State.
Next week we are off to learn about Israel and the Environment. I'm sure I'll have much more to share then!