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This is one in a series of entries about my recent trip to Israel. I was there from July 17-29, 2012; these entries are being posted a few weeks after the experience. Everything is transfered directly from my notebook and is only edited for grammar and spelling. All words that appear on the blog were written on the trip. More Israel entries are available here.

20 July 2012 — Tel Aviv; Ein Gedi

6:45 a.m. run with Katie (Las Vegas 2011) by the water on the boardwalk right by where we went out the night before. Still as lively, but at this hour with coffee drinkers and runners and bicyclists. She made me do crunches.

Spent all morning in a movie theater listening to three speakers. First was in Israeli parliament—Knesset. She advocates that teachers be “allowed to teach” and should be evaluated only after they’re allowed to do it in a way that works for them. She is a hard-line capitalist and fiscally conservative but with health and education, she says higher outcomes across the world are in public systems.

Next speaker was the founder of a school in Tel Aviv about which we watched a film in Chappaqua. She was very animated and frequently called Hebrew words for their English versions. She talked for an hour about how great the school was and when asked if she sent her kids there, she said she never would have—too geographically far and still, it was poor kids and not all Jewish. She noted (in response to my question) that while many Israeli-born 18-year-olds want out of military service, the non-Israeli-born students in her school desperately want to graduate and join because in Israeli culture, that’s what makes them legitimately feel part of Israel’s fabric.

Final speaker was our tour guide, Idan. She has, several times, apologized for sharing her opinions on the bus when she is supposed to be simply relating facts. We’ve told her we encourage it. She gave her talk about the protests she leads (in her spare time) against unfair housing laws and related police actions. She is one of the protest organizers you see on TV or read about in the New York Times and it was very impressive to know her. People were hot and tired after a long day of lectures and hangovers, so in the Q&A, I took time to point out how awesome she is and how lucky we were. She got an impromptu round of applause.

During that time, twelve people were murdered in Aurora, CO, in a movie theater much like the one we sat in. It would change the day, and in some way, the trip for me. I shared the news with my bus on our trip to Ein Gedi (a two-hour drive) after a lunch at a local food and beer festival.

Arrived, checked in, and had a quick group meeting. Then got ready for first Shabbat, which we began by placing coins in a bucket in a traditional way. A girl didn’t have a coin so I gave her a .10-shekel one to use (2 cents in USD). She gave it back right before we walked to put in the bucket. I insisted she have it and suggested she walk together to the bucket with me. She cried. Not sure if I touched her or if it was unrelated but later, during Shabbat service, when I thanked all for thinking of me and CO residents, I noticed her crying across the room. Crying is not uncommon for folks on the trip.

Heard first of two lectures from Avraham Infeld after Shabbat dinner, which was actually fairly unremarkable. Maybe due to lack of expected wine.

His speaking style (he touches and talks to the eyes of those in the front rows) is amazing. His most-repeated line, from his father: “You are a Jewish youngster. There is a Jewish state. Goodbye!” His speech touched on Jewish religion vs. culture and how his atheist father was culturally a Jew and provided him opportunities to explore the religious side too.

Talked with Ilana and Annie until 12:30 a.m. and passed out!