Workshop is winding down. I’m starting to fall asleep, so I’m going to try to stay awake by writing. I’m sitting in a circular room with a round table in the front, then circular tables surrounding. The people presenting in each session sit in front, with the rest of us in comfortable chairs behind the tables. It’s a very, very nice room for presentations. Light from below and above—very nice.
A real variety of people attending, although all Israeli but me. Almost all of the senior scholars are male. The junior scholars are much more female. So the presentations are 9 women and 6 men (actually 10 women, but two presented together, so maybe ½ each). The commenters are the reverse—2 women and six men. Men also moderate—only one of moderators was a woman. And the opening and closing program, too, is almost entirely male. Different levels of observance. A man who spoke on the different meanings of laying t’fillin is wearing a kippan and tzitzit. A number of man are wearing kippot and one woman has her head covered with a token scarf.
I begin the day by attempting to follow the Hebrew, with some success, although not enough to write home about. By this time, I’m just trying to keep my eyes open. The Hebrew goes by like a lullaby—the rhythms and words become a soothing background. I can tell that everyone else is enjoying it—but I am listening to sounds, like music, and watching faces and bodies. Very interesting, but quite isolating. Erez, my translator, is taking notes and filling me in on the sessions during the breaks. So I get the social dynamics and people, then the content in a delayed way.
I read a paper as part of my work on the place of Hebrew and the way it acts to connect or distance. I’m feeling both at the moment. I can’t understand enough, but I’m not feeling excluded exactly, largely because everyone has been so nice.