The retreat focused on telling our individual Israel histories, our stories. Each participant had the opportunity to share his or her experiences regarding Israel, whether it was anecdotes, personal opinions or political views. All of this occurred in a respectful space where all opinions were tolerated. This is where all of our personal views met each other and helped morph and form one another. Instead of the typical heated debates, we learned through sharing our personal, unique opinions. We learned that we were not expected to blindly love Israel, but instead we could “hug and wrestle” with Israel. In fact, the reason why we wrestle with Israel is because we love it.
The retreat also taught us how to engage in productive conversations back on grounds. The leaders gave us the tools to be respectful yet impactful when discussing Israel with others on Grounds. We considered how can we portray our “hug and wrestle” stories to other UVa students, faculty and administrators? How can we tell people that we love something, yet struggle with it as well? How can we tell them that the reason we struggle with something is because we love it? And, how can we tell people that, although something may be flawed, it still deserves to BE? This is what the Hillel Israel Retreat of 2015 taught me to do, or at least helped me figure out the steps of how to do it.
Back on grounds I now wonder, how will we exhibit what we learned at the retreat? We will create constructive dialogue and move carefully and productively. The best way to continue to learn about Israel is to keep on telling our “hug and wrestle” stories.
WaJew Class of 2017
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,800 Jewish students on Grounds.