This is the part of a series of live dispatches from our Write On For Israel students during their trip to Israel. Write On For Israel is a leadership training program for high school students. You can find out more about the program here, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for live updates throughout the trip and here for the daily roundups.
Today, we were privileged to meet with former Member of Knesset Dr. Ruth Calderon at the Peres Center For Peace in Jaffa. Our discussion with Dr. Calderon focused on the dynamic between the secular and religious populations of Israel and how, in the view of Dr. Calderon, Jewish text learning can help bridge the religious divide. We learned about the journey of Dr. Calderon, a secular Jew, whose life was deeply impacted through her study of Jewish texts and Talmud. Although she grew up in a secular environment, by the age of bat mitzvah she discovered an inner desire to explore her Jewish identity. Dr. Calderon described her Jewish education as having focused on the period of King David and David Ben-Gurion, but little between the periods of “the Tanach and the Palmach.” Her search to become literate in Judaism eventually lead to her founding of Elul, a co-ed Beit Midrash for secular adults. According to Dr. Calderon, being learned in historic Jewish texts does not contradict living a secular life and the knowledge of one’s heritage ought not to be reserved to orthodox men. Her story serves as a model of the new Israeli culture developing in Tel Aviv, a city she described as “one of the great successes of the Zionist people.”
Following our discussion, we took a tour of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. First, we walked around and viewed various groundbreaking innovations in the medical, military and technological sectors of Israeli culture. We stood astounded by an invention that would allow electric cars to charge as they drive along the road and a device that would allow a blind person with retinal damage to see again. We then entered Peres’ office, where we watched a video on the history and achievements of Shimon Peres. Afterward, we went to a futuristic room where we put on virtual reality goggles and got to experience a future civilization envisioned by Israeli innovators (including 3D printed food and bones, flying cars and the future of flying planes).
Although necessity has been the cause of many of the innovations we learned about today, it is the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam (making the world a better place) that has inspired so many Israeli start-ups to take their dreams and make them life-changing realities. We are filled with so much pride knowing that Israel breeds trailblazing innovators and thinkers that make our world a more advanced and a kinder place.