Saturday, July 23, 2016

Midwest Meets Mideast #5: Partners in Crime

Partnership is not necessarily about equality, at least not entirely. True partnership is about understanding one another's strengths, weaknesses, needs, and abilities, and coming together with a mutually acceptable plan of attack. In a true partnership, both sides contribute to the best of their abilities and know the other side has their back.

When my wife and I drive through a strange geography, be it Eastern Tennessee, Chicago, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Yokne'am, or some backwater segment of Parke County, Indiana (where traditional maps do not ever work), it is well established that I drive and she navigates. In Israel, we continued this partnership with me maneuvering our vehicle around crazy Sabra drivers and she translating Google Maps into useful instructions such as, "Ok, wiggle left at the next roundabout and then make an abrupt right. Then get in the right left lane because you will need to make a right after the next left turn." And she knows that I will understand and follow these instructions to a tee because we are a partnership.

Last Sunday morning (day 4), we left Jerusalem and drove to Akko in northern Israel. I drove, Morticia navigated, and Lurch back-up navigated when my phone lost its Google Maps connection partway through the trip. Sometimes even a good partnership needs a back up plan. Things I like about Israeli driving: good road signs with reasonably unambiguous markings, well-placed speed limit signs, traffic circles that make U-turns possible when you make a wrong turn, well marked lanes. Things I don't like about Israeli driving: yellow dotted lines that mean something completely different from the US, lack of ability to correct wrong turns without adding 10-15 minutes to your trip, Israeli drivers. All in all, driving in Israel when you don't speak the language could be a lot more challenging than it is, which doesn't mean that it's not a constant mental drain even with a good partner. But we made it to Akko safe and sound and mostly talking to each other.

Our trip to Akko came about through my role as (now ex-) president of the Indianapolis Bureau of Jewish Education. Indianapolis is part of Partnership2Gether, a program from the Jewish Agency for Israel that connects central cities in the US with cities in northern and southern Israel. P2G has programs related to the arts, youth education, medical education, and community resource development. A teacher from our Hebrew School connected me with representatives in Akko who were incredibly gracious hosts. They took us to a local grade school that "twinned" with various American school classes (and we were serenaded by a 1st/2nd grade summer school class). They took us to a shop that sells wonderful crafts made by physically handicapped children, as part of a program that helps them achieve more independence. They took us to lunch at Kibbutz Shomrat, a nearby kibbutz that specializes in goats milk products, where we had one of the best meals of our entire trip (my sweet potato ravioli in goats milk cheese sauce and the goats milk ice cream may become MY happy place). And finally, they sent us on a walking tour of the Old City of Akko.

My gift to them (really to the school) was an educational care package from Indiana: books of Mad Libs, pencils from IU and Purdue, and a box of Orville Redenbacher microwave kettle corn (Redenbacher being a Hoosier after all). After all they did for us, I felt my gifts were pretty paltry until I realized that this was all partly a sales pitch on their part to get me to drum of money and support for P2G in Indiana. You know, in my role as (now ex-) president of the BJE. In addition, one of their volunteers recruited Lurch to help her create an electronic music version of Yerushalayim Shel Zachav for Jerusalem Day, and she then set upon recruiting me to become the leader of the American Education Task Force.

My wife smirked through the entire lunch. Even halfway around the world, people are pulling me onto their committees.

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