Thursday, January 12, 2012

Experiencing the technology and religion of Israel

We will be posting a picture blog tomorrow to show our first few days here in Israel. 

  Yesterday morning we left the north and headed toward the heart of Israel.  After sitting in several hours of traffic on the way out of the Golan Heights, we finally reached Haifa, an industrial, technologically advanced city.  All but one of the Israelis on our trip grew up in Haifa, and they gushed with pride talking about the city’s unique features, including a major port, the country’s only underground metro that takes them to Tel Aviv, and a tunnel built into a mountain that connects Haifa with the south of Israel.  When we got off the bus, we got an overhead view of the city and the beautiful Bahai’i Gardens.  Unfortunately, because it was raining we were unable to walk around the gardens, but the view was breathtaking nonetheless.
            Next we went to the Technion, an engineering university often called “the MIT of Israel.”  It was fun to spend a few hours on an Israeli college campus, meeting Israeli college kids and eating Israeli dining hall food.  After that we headed to “Better Place,” a company that’s working to make electric cars the norm in Israel and eventually throughout the world.  This was my favorite part of the day.  We got to take a car for a test drive and learn about Better Place’s idea of how to make electric cars a viable option in the future.  We also spoke with Mike Granoff, one of the top executives at Better Place, and a Tufts alum. The experience provided a sense of both Tufts and Israeli pride – an unstoppable combination.
Now it’s a day and a half after the Better Place visit, and while we’ve done a lot since then, all I can think about is tonight’s visit to the Western Wall.  It was unbelievably powerful just to be there and to consider how many people – Jews in particular – have been there before me.  Putting my head against the Wall gave me chills, and I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.  At the same time, I wasn’t sure how I fit in personally with it all.  Most of the people there were orthodox, and as a reform Jew I didn’t quite feel as if I was among my own people.  Still, it was powerful.  I felt like I was part of something bigger – even if I don’t yet understand exactly what that something is.   

Aaron Leibowitz

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