We just finished our first day of what is going to be an extraordinary study tour in Israel with a dozen national progressive women leaders from all over the country. Represented are women who are activists in LGBT issues, unions, legal assistance for immigrants, reproductive justice, and preventing violence against women — including trafficking and empowerment programs for women and girls.
The group arrived today tired but very happy and thankful to be part of this special trip. We began the day at the port in Caesaria where we had an introductory session and a brief tour of the ruins. We then headed for Akko, a city north of Haifa that has a mix of Jewish and Arab residents. Here we are staying in a beautiful old building, once a courthouse. It became a small hotel with only 16 rooms — and we have them all!
After walking through the back alleys of the beautiful old city, we were treated to a wonderful traditional Middle Eastern dinner with salads galore and choice of fish or meat. We were joined by some of my former Haifa colleagues and had a lecture by Lily Galili, a journalist at Haaretz. Lily spoke about the complexities facing Israeli society. These include the challenges posed by one million Russian immigrants and a growing number of ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women who are not in the work force but have very large families. She is not yet sure what the elections mean for Israel other than change is afoot. She says Israelis are tired of a peace process that they feel is going nowhere while the middle class continues to be economically squeezed.
The group is beginning to bond and is full of anticipation, excitement, and many questions!
Read Choice USA CEO and Washington Institute panelist Kierra Johnson’s first two blog posts about this exciting Israel trip at the ChoiceWords blog “Making New Friends for a Progressive Peace Mission” and “Aliyah.”