Taking Israel Off of Her Pedestal – Liora Alban

Note from the editor: In preparation to present my blog project at this week’s iCenter iFellows Masters Concentration in Israel Education Seminar (say that 5x fast), I asked a few folks I know have been following along to share the ways in which they have used the blog. A couple of people responded in such well-stated ways that I asked if they would be willing to have me share their words with you all. Here is the first of two responses.

I started reading the blog, 50 Days of Israel: Thinking About Israel from Slavery to Sinai after Dusty posted it on her facebook. Being a Jew, a future rabbinical student, and a person who struggles with her relationship to Israel, I was intrigued.

After living in Israel for a year, I returned with more questions than answers about this beautiful homeland. Although Israel has always felt like home, certain challenges and experiences in my last year made me take Israel off of its pedestal. I realized that the warm and utopian Israel which had been presented to me through Jewish education and youth trips is not the entire picture. Most noticeably, being a Progressive Jewish woman was difficult inside of traditional Jerusalem. I yearned to to sing, dance, pray, and ultimately, be, freely.

50 Days of Israel cements the fact that I am not the only committed Jew with these frustrations. The blog includes voices of friends and future colleagues whom I respect and whom allow me to sit comfortably with my own criticisms of Israel. They make me realize that with a love of Israel comes a wanting to improve it, and that this is okay. Further, the writers oftentimes present opinions on Israel that are new or different from mine. Sometimes I know the writers and sometimes I do not. Each writer answers the blog’s questions in his or her own way, encouraging me to ask myself those same questions. With each answer by a different writer, I am presented with something new to consider and a new contribution to my own answer. It is helping to carry me therefore along my own journey from slavery to revelation, from confusion about Israel to an understanding and acceptance of the beautiful complexities that shape this Jewish homeland.


Liora Alban  earned her B.A. in Religious Studies with a concentration in Judaism from The University of California, Berkeley in December 2013. She also studied religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. Although Liora grew up in Los Angeles and enjoyed exploring Berkeley, she cannot wait to make the move to Jerusalem in July 2014 as she begin pursuing her rabbinical ordination at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.


Processing Israel Through Doodles – Dusty Klass

During my first year of rabbinic school, spent in Jerusalem, I spent a lot of time listening to lectures. The lectures were often very interesting, and thought-provoking, and challenging. But because they were lectures, they allowed for very little back-and-forth, less conversation, and almost no processing. So I took matters into my own hands (literally). Below are a few of the doodles that came out of a few of those lectures:



I drew this during our visit to an army base, while many of my classmates were off trying on and taking pictures wearing various sized automatic weapons.


ingathering of the exiles

My art has never been very sophisticated; the image of the home represents the idea of homeland. The arrows represent the different ways the Jewish people are supposed to return to that homeland, both from the four corners of the earth and also from the ground up. The question mark represents my discomfort with this idea and the orange bit suggests a potential transcendence out of this traditional “homeland” idea.



I leave the interpretation of this image to you.

Teaching the sounds of a broken blossoming homeland – Allie Klein

I believe that every American child should learn many stories about Israel.

If we offer children just one window into Israel’s deeply complicated and beautiful existence, we do a great disservice in helping each child formulate a well-rounded, thoughtful opinion about Israel. The more stories we can share with our children, the more perspectives we can offer them of the myriad ways people connect to our broken, blossoming homeland.

Children who learn about a multi-vocal Israel will grow up to truly love Israel, knowing that their true love means saying “I love you and I want to help you be better,” not “I love you so you’re perfect the way you are, no matter what.”

If I could only teach American kids one story about Israel, I would teach them about the way Israel sounds – the opus of rapid-fire Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, and English; the walls of the Old City resounding with the Muslim call to prayer, the ringing of church bells, and the prayerful murmur coming through the windows of the synagogue.

I want to teach American kids what a beautiful symphony these sounds make when they join together, and show them how to listen to these sounds more carefully, more critically, and more lovingly.


Allie Klein is the student Rabbi of Beth Sholom Temple of Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is a fourth year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Allie grew up in Montclair, NJ, and attended Haverford College and graduated with a BA in Psychology in 2007. After college, she worked in Needham, MA, at Temple Beth Shalom overseeing the 6th-12th grade youth programs and spending summers working at URJ Camp Harlam, her alma mater. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her fiance Adam, who is a third grade teacher in Manhattan.