It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Live from Be'er Sheva 2 - Nationality and Identity

Our first session this afternoon focused on a historical look at the concept of nationality (לאום) and religion, and how there tendency in Israel to confuse the two.  Since this was a short introduction to a very broad concept, I'll try to get back to it in a later post.

We just finished a workshop run by two group leaders from the Merchavim Institute, an organization I was not familiar with until today.  They have developed a model for shared citizenship which I plan to peruse soon.

In our group of 25 women from different cultures, working in two hospital schools here in Israel, we met in groups of two, and later four, to share personal answers to focus questions such as,
As a child, what did you want to be "when you grow up?"
What family customs do you remember growing up, that are important for you to continue observing even now?

Which women in your life have inspired your identity as a woman today?

What are some the traditional ways a woman in your culture prepares for her wedding?
The conversations that arose brought forth some fascinating interchanges, and in the group discussion afterwards we came to the conclusion that as women, we had a unique ability to identify with one another and find similarities while simultaneously making note of the differences.  We reviewed the idea that each of us comes with our own home-grown assumptions that we take for granted as the way to do things, and only when we meet someone with a different approach, can we begin to examine our own from a more removed perspective.

Toward the end of our recap, one of the group leaders posed a question:  Did you hear about anyone's family traditions that you wish you could adopt (or adapt) for your own?  

I was pretty surprised by some of the answers.  A couple of the Muslim participants said that they really liked the idea of Shabbat dinner, and that they wished they had a weekly event that would bring their families together for a meal.

Later in the afternoon we started out with a game, where we had to make our way down a path, occasionally collecting chocolate and drafting laws that would affect the entire group.  Some of us were given a head start.

The group dynamic waffled from excitement to wavering enthusiasm, as we all waited for certain groups to effect laws that might benefit all of us, or only the "majority."  There were other blatant discrepancies in the rights of various group members.  See the die?  It only goes up to three.  Note that two of its sides are completely blacked out, meaning that a third of the time, certain players weren't allowed to advance at all.

The day has completely tired me out, so for now you'll have to come up with your own societal metaphor for what took place here.  More tomorrow...

Keep the balance,


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