We are in the midst of a difficult period – the Corona period. This year, when we sit around the Pesach Seder table and ask: “Why is this night different from all other nights”, there will be no shortage of answers because much has changed.
For me personally, a great deal is different. My dear father and teacher, Prof. Ma’aravi Peretz, a renowned scholar of bible studies and medieval bible commentary, passed away a month ago. This week, on the 8th of Nisan, he would have celebrated his 80th birthday.
Aside from my private sorrow and grief, we are confronted with many other questions:
How is it that in the season when nature appears in all its beauty, with its blossoming flowers, spring atmosphere and a sense of renewal that all call on us to leave our winter hibernation and take in the beauty outside, we must now each confine ourselves to our own homes?
How is it that on the Seder night, the night when we all sit together around the same table, when we are specifically commanded to tell our children the story of the Jewish People, we will this year sit alone in our own homes, our family atmosphere divided into separate units, and not together as one “tribe”?
How is it that the holiday born out of haste, when the Children of Israel were in such a hurry to leave Egypt that their dough didn’t rise in time, we are now sitting at home, not hurrying anywhere? The pace of our lives has slowed dramatically, and our Pesach preparations are being done at a leisurely pace.
Here at the Institute we are also asking what has changed this year – and a great deal has changed.
Last Pesach, we had one Hebrew studies class in East Jerusalem and a single civil rights center in a one East Jerusalem neighborhood.
This year on Pesach, we have 10 Hebrew studies classes and 2 civil rights centers in 7 East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Although we too have reduced the scope of our activity due to the Corona crisis, we are still trying to continue with the help of technology. We are helping people exercise their rights as part of the crisis, teaching Hebrew online, and preparing for the period after the crisis. We invite you to read further details about our activities in this newsletter.
Chag Sameach – Happy Pesach and wishes for better times.
Meet our Students!
This year’s internship program enables us to continue leveraging the Institute’s activity. Our students accompany us throughout the academic year, each in his own field of expertise. They come from different academic institutions (The Hebrew University, Shalem College, Haifa University, Herzog College and others). Most of them are presented here – we wish to express our gratitude for their valuable work in research, at the security crossings, and in education of IDF values, civil rights and Hebrew courses.
We would also like to take this opportunity to share with you tour map of this year’s field-activity as part of our East Jerusalem ‘OptimEAST – Sovereignty with Responsibility’ projects. Our interns conduct 10 Hebrew studies classes in Tzur Baher, Silwan, The Mount of Olives, Issawiya, Shuafat, and Bayt Hanina. They also help to provide a response for bureaucratic issues and connect the local population to relevant government bodies in Tzur Baher and Abu Tor. And finally, as in previous years, we are continuing our activity at the security crossings on the outskirts of Jerusalem (Rachel/300 and Kalandia).
IZS Activities under the Cloud of the COVID-19 Virus
Like the rest of the economy, we are currently contending with the ramifications of the Corona epidemic. If researchers and scholars are relatively immune to the restrictions on movement and social gatherings, we have made great effort to limit the damage to the scope of our field activities by transferring as much as possible to online platforms. Zoom, WhatsApp and Google Drive have proven their efficiency in assisting effective remote learning.
There is another aspect to the Corona crisis. Effective governance difficulties are heightened during periods of emergency. There are already reports indicating that East Jerusalem may be one of the epicenters of the outbreak due to the combination of suspicion towards the authorities and a lack of awareness.
We view the present crisis as a classic challenge of “sovereignty with responsibility” and are therefore also taking part in efforts to raise awareness among the local residents. Among others, we helped a ‘Magen David Adom’ team to translate and edit an explanatory video clip about the drive-in Corona testing stations.
In the News
* CBN News on the importance of our Hebrew courses
* Ritual immersion and Corona: The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel and Israel Hayom surveyed the debate over the halakhic opinion that recommends women to refrain from immersing in most of the mikvaot in Israel due to fears of infection. The ruling was based on, and quotes, our 2015 study that surveys the deficiencies in sanitary supervision of the mikvaot in Israel.