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June 19, 2009

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 19, 2009 Summer vacation: J-Tours and detours into Jewish geography By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)--As the end of the school year looms, Jewish geography awaits. Not the Jewish geogra- phy in which you thunderingly discover thatyour third cousin who lives in Milwaukee actu- ally lives on the same block as your neighbor's nephew. No, this is real geography where you travel to places with Jewish history and people. In a land of cultural diversity, it's good to know where and what our contributions have been. With three pilgrimage holidays, travel is built into Judaism. We love travel, and as a group we are drawn to Jewish cultural tourism, look- ing for a little bit of ourselves wherever we go. Perhaps the most famous Jewish tourist was Benjamin of Tudela, who in 1159 began a trip from Spain to Jerusalem and beyond, visiting Jewish communities, taking note of their size and number of schol- ars in his "Book of Travels." This summer, here in the United States, you can take your own Jewish trip, chew up a little of your own Jewish geography. Besides, Jewish life can seem so much more inter- esting in someone else's town. Your school-age children, who are studying the Colo- nial period or the Civil War, will always benefit from a trip to Colonial Williams- burg or Gettysburg. Identity-wise, kids also will benefit from trips to historic Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, in Charleston, S.C., or the Gold Rush-era Pioneer Jewish Cemetery in Marysville, Calif., to learn about the roles Jews played in American life. In our own cities and towns, signs of Jewish life may become pedestrian, even invisible, disappeared by our routines. On vacation, our eyes come alive with new signs of Jewish life in the streets, shops, even in the faces and speech patterns of fellow travelers. Who while eating an egg in ek velt hasn't shot a glance at someone at the next table and said to themselves, "There's another MOT?" Organizations in America have become more aware of Jewish cultural tourism, of- fering Jewish film festivals, museum shows and kosher food guides. Local Jewish papers are a great source of Jewish happenings and places to eat, as well as Jewish guides published for specific cities such as Chicago or entire states like Washington. In several cities, including Los Angeles and New York, you can take a tour of Jewish sites. The self-guided ones are free; the others have a fee. Be sure to make arrangements ahead of time. In Los Angeles, the Jewish Historical Society sponsors a tour of Boyle Heights. In New York, the Lower East Side Conservancy offers several of the area. The National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia offers for fifth-graders and up the "Philly J-tour," an explora- tion of the "Colonial Jewish experience." Boston has a series of self-guided Jewish Friendship Trails for walkers and some for bicyclists too that are offered online. On the West Coast, a Jewish walking tour of Balboa Park in San Diego is available. When we visit other cities on our family trips, some- times we tour the syna- gogues. Hearing new melo- dies and approaches to old texts gives a fresh perspective on Jewish life. On a trip to Berkeley, Calif., we visited a temple where the reader's table, via adjustable plastic legs, could be lowered quickly to accommodate a reader in a wheelchair. In Chicago, while riding a packed train to Wrigley Field, we were chatted up by a rabbi who di- rected us to a downtown shul. "They have the best kosher Shabbat lunch in Chicago," he said, "and the service is not bad either." We attended, connectedwith the new nusachand the congre- gation's wonderful hospitality. How do you find a syna- gogue to visit? Your car GPS isn't going to tell you "turn here for a Jewish experience"--at least not yet. Until then, a trip to your hotel computer can turn your stay into a J-cation. Or you can get creatively resourceful. An extended family cruise of the Mexican Riviera gave our family an opportunity to express our Jewish identity at sea. I asked the maitre d' Edmon Rodman Wheel around the country to find your own Jewish pleasures this summer. if the ship's kitchen could bake special twisted bread for Friday night dinner, a challah. "What's that?" he asked. Using one of the ship's PCs, I downloaded a recipe and photo. That Shabbat, the tables where my family sat were presentedwith baskets of freshly baked twisted challot. Jewish geography includes the outdoors, of course. You know: mountains, rivers, trees and their inhabitants. Brush up on your summer camp repertoire; try a Shabbat under the stars. The outdoors will give you a chance to cel- ebrate a day of rest together, away from the city's bright lights, where you can peace- fully see the heavens. Since before Rabbi Benja- min's time, Jews have been hitting the road, dealing with its uncertainties and unpredictability. So it's not surprising that there is a traveler's prayer for a safe journey: The Tefilat haDerech asks that "you lead us toward peace, emplace our footsteps towards peace .... " Thinking back on a family trip we took to Ellis Island, I wonder now how many great- grandparents and grandpar- ents said the prayer and to what effect. On that trip, walking through the exhibit in the grand hall, our kids learned that coming to America, the "goldene medina," was Can Bibi and Obama make it work? Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama speaks by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan- yahu from the Oval Office on June 8. into a Neville Chamberlain- style appeaser--drew a stern rebuke from the White House. Only after several high-level phone calls, a public apology and heaps of praise did Sharon succeed in smoothing Bush's ruffled feathers. And even then it took several years for their governments to hammer out a joint approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Bush eventually granted Israel wide latitude to fight terrorism and signed on to Sharon'sviewthatYasserArafat needed to be sidelined. Sharon signed on to the internationally backed "mad map" peace plan, delivered on the clause calling for Israel to endorse the goal of a Palestinian state and ac- cepted Bush's calculation that Mahmoud Abbas, who went on their respective first terms in office had already overlapped for seven months when they had their first major blowup. In reality, it took several years-- and several spats--before they found their groove. In the early months, both before and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there were reports that the Bush admin- istration was preparing to apply some pressure on Israel as part ofawider effort to short-circuit the second intifada and kick- start the stalled peace process. Sharon didn't like what he was hearing and declared in a public speech: "Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. This is unacceptable to us. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism." The outburst--widelY inter- Over time, Sharon and Bush evenworked out an approach to the thorny issue of settlements: Israeldismantledallofits settle- ments in Gaza and four in the West Bank; Bush responded to Sharon's disengagement plan by issuing a public let- ter acknowledging that Israel would end up with some of the territory it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War; and Bush offered abehind-the-scenes green light to limited Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, despite the road map's call for a full settlement freeze, including "natural growth." Now Netanyahu and Obama are seeing how far each can go in adjusting the terms without jettisoning the entire road map framework or creating a deep frost between Washington and Jerusalem. The Israelis made the first adjustment, with Netanyahu refusing to affirm Sharon's endorsement of a Palestin- ian state, even though one of Israel's first obligations under the road map is to issue an "unequivocal statement af- firming [Israel's] commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel." Next, Obama and his team made their adjustment, in- sisting through a series of escalating statements that not only does the administration stand by the goal of creating a Palestinian state, it also wants a full Israeli settlement freeze. U.S. Secretary of State Hill- ary Rodham Clinton delivered the firm public message last month that there was no wink- wink in the president's position. "He wants to see a stop to settlements," she said. "Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions." Then, twice in recent days, Clinton delivered the of- ficial Obama rejection of Israeli claims on Bush-era understandings about allow- ing natural growth in some settlements. "There is no memorializa- tion of any informal and oral agreements," she said last week. "If they did occur, which of course, people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government. And there are contrary documents that suggest that they were not to be viewed as in any way con- tradicting the obligations that Israel undertook pursuant to the road map. And those obli- gations are very clear." Clinton struck the same note in an interview that aired last weekendonABC's"ThisWeek." Obama, meanwhile, has played the good cop in several media interviews, stressing that the Palestinians also have obligations they need to meet--including fighting ter- rorism and stopping anti-Israel incitement--and stressing that Israel would continue to enjoy a "special" relation- ship with the United States. The president repeatedly has brushed aside questions about sanctioning Israel over the settlement issue, insisting that diplomacy takes time. Obama's Middle East envoy, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, sought to articulate both halves of the tough love message in meetings pretedasS~on~ingBush toleadthe ~stinianAuthor- ~a~ndanger ofturning kq~er, i : : By Ami Eden NEW YORK (JTA)--Did you hearthe latest? Bibi called June 1 and said that he had some important things he wanted to get off his chest that week. Is he ready to commit or just beingatease?Will Obamashow enough flexibility to make this thing work? Those rushing to declare the fix-up between President Obama and Israeli Prime Min- ister Benjamin Netanyahu a flop after just one date should remember thatagood relation- ship takes time. It's been less than five months since Obama's inauguration, and Netanyahu has been on the job for only two months. Compare that to George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. Nowadays everyone talks about their wonderful marriage, but a trip of uncertainty and some danger. If your papers weren't in order, they sent you back. If you were sick, they sent you back. Outside, on a gray day, we found a memorial display listing the names of some who entered the United States there. Inscribed on a stone wall, we found the names of my grandparents. They traveled here without GPS and sunscreen; defi- nitely without a meal plan. They came here as teens and twentysomethings with bags full of hope. For many of us, this iswhere Jewish geography begins, Edmon J. Rodman is a Los Angeles writer and designer. June 2 with Israeli officials. He told President Shimon Peres that the U.S. commitment to the security of Israel "remains .......... unshakeable," and insisted that "my meetings today with the president and other Israeli :: officials are discussions among friends who share a common : set ofobjectives: peace, security and prosperity to all the people of this region.' ............. But there was no pub- i lic backpedaling from what Obama has framed as a c0m; ; mitment to telling both sicfeS~: :. : publicly what he thinks needs; ::~ to be done. :i!:~: !: :' : The president and the:se~: : :( retary of state have made:6ur/ :-: policy clear: IsraelisandPa~i~7.~-/:::;::i tinians have a responsibilityt~ ~:;~ ./~ ~ meet their ob!igations unde~~ :i:'~: the road map, Mitchellsaidl, : Against this backdrop;N~ :: ~ :: ::' tanyahuwasto delivera maj~ ~ : diplomatic speech this w~ ::: - to outline his government's:if: :~ "principles for achieVihg peace:~ and security." "I would like to make it clear: We want to achieve peace with the Palestinians and with the countries of the Arab world while attempting to reach maximum understandingwith the U.S. and our friends around the world," the prime minister said June 7 at the beginning of his weekly Cabinet meeting. "My aspiration is to achieve a stable peace that rests onasolid foundation of security for the State of Israel and its citizens." It will be the most impor- tant speech of his second stint as prime minister and the defining moment in his relationship with the popular U.S. president. That is, until the next one.