27 Mar

Shalom! I write to you from the Mador stream night camp. (Not so much a stream here so I just took my first ever hose shower…it was amazing.) We started this week in Mitzpe Ramon and we have walked around 45 kilometers over the past three days. Sunday I was on volunteering duty so I didn’t walk but I did load the trucks, clean up the campsite, and enjoyed a few gas station mini marts. Oh and I helped to make dinner…I was in charge of the mashed potatoes or purée as everyone who wasn’t American was calling it.

So this brings me to something I think I haven’t shared so much about which is the experience of being an American and a female reform rabbi. I’ve never felt “exotic” before in my life until this trip. I would say for the first two weeks and whenever new people join our group they say they have never met a woman rabbi and then want to know if I do “rabbing” for a living and how does this all work. Also, I have been called “rabbey” “rabbit” and “rabbah.” Obviously, rabbit is my favorite. Sharing my identity and how it all works has gotten a little repetitive, but I know it’s important teachable moment each time.

In Israel there is often two categories of people religious and not religious (hiloni and daati.) I’ve come to see these as two poles on a continuum that I definitely fall in the middle of. I feel like I have the most in common with the Israelis who were once religious and are now secular. They know the language of faith and also modernity.

I’ve also been very aware of my Americanness. Out of a group of around 40 I am one of three Americans. It’s amazing how when I’m home in American I think I am in the center of the world, but the truth is the world is huge and wherever anyone resides that is their center. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about American arrogance.

In so many ways though, current context dictates identity and right now we are all “shvilists” or “shvilistim.” This means we are walking the Israel trail, we share our water, we help each other down mountains, and we listen to each other’s stories. Some of my favorite moments with my fellow shvilists these last few days have been:

1. Jaco from Mexico City reminding me that when we are going downhill you don’t have to do it with style, you just have to do it.

2. On Friday night I sang Kabbalat Shabbat songs with fellow shvilists on the top of a big camel lookout.

3. Walking back to our nightcamp 12 ibex surrounded us and we thought this was the best Shabbat gift.

4. And yesterday me and my fellow shvilists walked to ein akev, a gorgeous spring with lots of water. A true desert oasis!

Tomorrow is supposed to be the hardest day of the entire trail when we hike Mt. Karbolet. Wish me luck! I am amping myself up to conquer it and write about it on the other side!

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