Weekly Interview: Tamar

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I have only just discovered Tamar’s blog; when I posted QuietusLeo’s interview a few weeks ago, Tamar put a comment on this blog. Since she was someone I didn’t know, I had a look at her blog and was immediately intrigued by her life story. Thank you Tamar for accepting so readily to be interviewed by a blogger you didn’t know. I hope my readers enjoy what you share about yourself.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

A writer, editor, content developer, and blogging enthusiast, I live in two hemispheres (USA and Israel) — one at a time, where I help organizations (big and small, publicly-traded and nonprofit) to communicate online. In the USA (Atlanta), I am an active volunteer with the Atlanta Bhutanese Refugee Support Group helping our new neighbors resettle in the USA. They came from United Nations-run Nepalese refugee camps where they were living nearly two decades — victims of ethnic cleansing in Bhutan. In Israel (Tel Aviv), I volunteer at the Beit Avot [Home for the Aged] on Yavne and Allenby Streets. In my visits with residents, I ask them to tell me their stories.

What is your religious background (if any)?

I am an educated Jew who is at home in any denominational setting. My formal Jewish education was in New York City at Beth Hayeled (a pluralistic bilingual, bicultural primary school), Ramaz (a Modern Orthodox, coeducational yeshiva day school, and, while a student at New York’s public Music and Art High School, I attended after school programs at Herzliah Hebrew Teachers Institute (a pluralistic program that merged with the Division of Judaic Studies, Touro College, NYC) and the Jewish Theological Seminary Prozdor, now the Ivry Prozdor High School. I summered at Camp Massad (a pluralistic Hebrew-speaking Zionist camp) in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. My family belonged to the (Reconstructionist) Society for the Advancement of Judaism. In Tel Aviv, I attend services and events at the liberal Beit Tfilah Israeli .

Jewish sacred texts and literature remain a focus of my studies. The past dozen years in Atlanta, I have been learning one-on-one in havruta (Aramaic: study partner) with Torah Mitzion Israeli Religious Zionist graduates of a Hesder yeshiva ‎‏(combining religious studies with army service‏), a Bnei Akiva (Religious Zionist youth movement) Ethiopian-born Israeli volunteer, and now, an American Conservative rabbi. In Tel Aviv, I learn with a Religious Zionist settler who travels 3.5 hours each way to meet. I have blogged about several of my learning partners.

When and why did you decide to make aliyah?

In late 2002, as the curtain rose on act three, I was hoping to shape a dramatic work that would incorporate meaningful new experiences and establish a sense of belonging to a land I where I was born yet barely knew. Details here.

Where in Israel do you live and is there a special reason you live there?

Tel Aviv is a wonderful fit for me — a living museum of the first modern Hebrew city now 101 years old. The Big Orange is cosmopolitan, dynamic, home to people of all religions and none, and rich in resources I love: the sea, the Carmel shuk, the Cinemateque, and green boulevards and parks. I enjoy the close proximity to ancient Jaffa with a vibrant Arab-Israeli population, cultural centers, and amazing neighborhoods and eateries.

When and why did you start blogging?

When I made aliya, an Atlanta colleague urged me to start a blog to connect with friends this way instead of sending individual emails. I resisted several years. Then, I went BlogHer 06, in San Jose, CA, and I “got it.” Last year, I began blogging, too, for the Atlanta Bhutanese Refugee Support Group.

Have you been surprised by the way your blogging activity has evolved over the years?

I am not surprised because in any venture, changes are inevitable. Some changes since my early blogging years are shorter posts are with fewer images, and including more of my videos to support or tell my stories. I am always striving to be less of a citizen journalist and more open about my views and myself.

To what extent do you feel your blogging activity reflects on the global perception of Israel?

I experience Israel as quite different from reports generated from afar or close up by naïve, black-and-white opinionated people. And so what I blog about — the people I meet, the places I go, the events I participate in often surprises my readers, whether in Israel or abroad.

I do not discuss politics though I have preferences, biases, and blind spots, and these are apparent in my posts and videos.

What post(s) are you most proud of?

Tough question. Almost all! Some popular ones —

Atlanta’s Bhutanese refugees and their new neighbors
Knowing Hebrew is no help in learning Arabic
Dear Israeli Soldier, Dear Aviah
Mt. Tabor, Israel — lessons and gifts

Would you care to share a blog or two you enjoy?

Time Goes By
One in 8 Million
East Med Sea Peace
The Magnes Zionist
Green Prophet

Last week’s interview: Ruti

Turnabout’s Fair Play: Israel interviews France, Ruti interviews yours truly