Welcome to Mo-Drash ... the weird confluence of the Jewish tradition of Midrash and me!

What is Midrash? Literally, the word derives from the Hebrew root that expresses interpretation. Figuratively, it is the process by which Jews read between the lines of our sacred stories and seek insight from what we discover from each story, verse, word, letter and stroke of the pen.

Who am I? My name is Adam Morris, but known by many as Rabbi Mo. I spend a lot of my time serving in the role of rabbi, but I am also a husband, a dad, a runner and a 'weekend' craftsman (among other things). I try to move like Abraham to find my Place ... to wrestle like Jacob to know my Place ... and to snicker like Sarah to keep me in my Place.

B'makom she-ani omayd (from The Place where I stand),
Rabbi Mo

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Checking Out the Scene

It is late at night and the lot of us are wiped out from jet lag and eating when our bodies are not hungry and not sleeping when our bodies are tired and yet none of us are asleep in bed just yet. Our Israeli Arab friends are putting on a mock Bedouin wedding for us … looks a little like the hora – lots of people trying to dance but not really knowing what they are doing – but with a slightly different musical accompaniment. It is an end to an interesting first full day.

We are staying at an eco lodge in Mitzpei Ramon that sits on the edge of Machtesh Ramon – a gorgeous ‘inverted mountain’ – okay a huge crater found below ground level. While it is not the Front Range, it is still pretty spectacular. The Eco Lodge is run by an Israeli named Ziv who uses environmental education to teach leadership and stewardship for the land to those communities in the Negev region of Israel who may or may not have the financial resources of simply the awareness of the need to spend time doing such things. The place and Ziv are great examples of Israelis who envision an Israel that embraces all of the diverse communities and cultures. Ziv spends his time giving such opportunities and education to those in Israel who may not have access to them.

A few of us fell asleep (well at least we tried) under the spectacular starry sky and woke up (much to our chagrin) to an equally spectacular sunset over the crater, the Machtesh. Our first day in the Negev, Israel’s desert, we spent trying to stay cool in the desert heat and on the bus traveling around the desert’s different spots. We actually began the day with a local Israeli leading a session of hand in fist tai chi – part of the eco lodge’s mission of opening hearts and minds to different ways of thinking about the world. And then off to a local climbing wall with the Arab group sharing the lodge with us. Unfortunately, our entire group as of yet does not include contemporary Israeli Jews (they will join us next week in Mar Elias) … so we spent a bit of our afternoon at the historic Sde Boker kibbutz at Ben Gurion Environmental School meeting a few of its Jewish students. The time that we and the group of Israel Arabs spent with them was short, but provided a little taste of the kind of encounter we may expect next week. We met Israeli students who presented the extremes of attitudes towards their country and their impending military service – some were eager and some expressed (well, let’s call it) reticence about what lay ahead for them.

From Sde Boker we came to Arad the largest Bedouin city in Israel (and possibly the world – you may have to Google that one and check my facts). Ziv brought to the house of some friends of his who had the ENTIRE group of us in their home (some 40 people whom they have never met). As I mentioned I do not think any of us were really hungry, but the plates of eshtanor (bread), rice and roasted chickens that were placed on the floor before us were too good to pass up. Besides, Bedouins are famous for their hospitality and we would have certainly been rude and not in the spirit of our trip not to indulge – so we did.

We continue to try and get to know our Arab counterparts … struggling with the language barrier, cultural differences and our groups’ desire to both get to know these individuals as people AND get in their heads and hear how they think about this place and their relationship to it. Some are wary to talk politics, others are not so confident with their English (and with the exception of one of us, our Arabic is less than stellar) and hey, we have only been here ONE day. We are trying to pace ourselves and understand not simply the challenges of dialogue in this situation, but of dialogue in general. Speaking of pacing ourselves – who knows what time it is – but the starry sky is calling me … Lilah Tov!
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Welcome to Israel

There was no easing into the experience that we were all looking for … we all arrived safe and sound at Ben Gurion airport, but Israel greeted us with her fullness and complexity. Fifteen of us walked off the plane and through customs without any much of a second look from Israeli security, while four of us – those with Muslim names and/or non-Caucasian features garnered a little more attention from Israeli security. Almost two hours after we arrived at the airport, the group saw second and first hand the reality on the ground in Israel. The group - particularly the four who drew all of the attention – was angry, frustrated, tired and wishing for a smoother arrival into the Holy Land. It is the reality of being here and of those who live here … everyone must deal with the long standing wariness of those who may or may not have connections to others with a nefarious agenda. It was one of those educational moments that cannot be found within the walls of a classroom, and yet one of those moments for which one does not wish.

We boarded a bus at the airport waiting to take us on the two and half hour trip to the Desert Shade Eco Lodge at Mitzpei Ramon. Not only was the bus waiting, but about ten Arab students who will part of our group these first few days. Hello, Arab students … I would like you to meet this group of bleary-eyed, unkempt and a bit smelly Americans. Hello, American students … I would like you to meet this group of energetic, mostly female, dancing, singing and eager Arab students. Fortunately, the international teen language of goofiness prevailed … as all it took was one of us to enthusiastically shotgun a can of the Israeli version of Red Bull to break the ice and send us off to the Negev desert.

Arriving on Friday night in Israel … on any other trip I have been a part … would have included some measure of Shabbat. After all, Israel is one of the two places (with camp being the other) where I experiences the fullness and completeness of Shabbat. This trip is another animal, however. I sat in the bus and watched the landscape and soaked all of it in … muttering to myself, I am back, I am here and trying to feel whatever it was I was feeling. As the sun set – and what a spectacular sun set it was – I palpably felt the call of Shabbat in this place. As our new bus mates serenaded us with Arabic pop songs (as least that is what they sounded like to me) … I was reminded, once again, that I am about to encounter an Israel that I have not experienced before. And so while I lamented the missed opportunity for a Shabbat in Israel – at least of the ones that I have come to know – I worked to open my mind and heart to seeing this place, that even after sixteen years still touches me, in a different light. So, I gazed at the sunset … setting over a large Bedouin town that the bus was passing, and nudged one of those four who got to spend some extra time answering some questions from Israeli security. He looked out the window and thought it was the most beautiful sunset he had seen in his entire life. Perhaps the light of that sunset, will part of the new light with which I get to look at this magical, frustrating and complex place.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Airport Musings

In a way it is not a new scene for me, making my way through airports with a group of teens heading somewhere. While I am just getting to know this group, the familiarity of the setting is both comforting and invigorating. And yet, there is a sense of something different … awaiting the group this morning at DIA was a professional photographer who was, well, uh ‘donated’ to the trip, and will be traveling with us and documenting what we do and where we go. He assures me that it will take no time for us to forget he is there snapping photos or taking video of us. Then there is the phone call to my co-chaperone from a news anchor from Channel 1 IN Israel who would like to do a story about the group and the trip after we arrive. So, beyond the familiarity there is a sense of something unique and possibly even extraordinary.

I sense the group, too, is a bit unsure about what will transpire in the next 13 days. They have been studying, analyzing and discussion the situation in Israel for the past school year. They are familiar with one another, some more than others, but perhaps more in the way of sharing a ‘class’ and less so in the way of sharing ‘experience.’ So, between being on the cusp of sharing an ‘experience’ AND then taking the theoretical, abstract, intellectual and even emotional discourse that they have shared in the past year about Israel, Palestine, Jews, Arabs and Christians and putting themselves WITHIN all of it … is an unknown, but provocative variable.

I think we are all excited to see what encounters and experiences the trip holds for us.