Embrace Foundation is a non-profit, educational foundation set up to create better understanding between people of different religions, cultures, traditions and world philosophies.
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TRAVELING IN GEORGIA Georgia is beautiful, soulful and captures both the heart and imagination. . .Anyone that can visit it, should definitely do so. It is a microcosm of what is developing worldwide. Those who read this may gain a clearer insight into aspects of what may be happening in their own countries, even in some parts of Africa. There are many human interactions and real dichotomies occuring in Georgia at this time in history and they should all be addressed; Very Old Communities of Georgians - Christians and Jews, Russians, Iranians buying property, Saudi tourists in large numbers . . . Georgia could be a meeting place and a new hope for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. A major world event of music, dance, food, arts, crafts could bring people around the world to Georgia for glimpse of a new age. Such an event would enable people within the country to have the opportunity to learn about each other in an open and joyful exchange. Georgians - Their Land and Jobs Many Georgians have waited a long time to be able to buy property and have private businesses. The economy like most economies world-wide including the United States is trying to cope. (Remember that the Stock Exchange does not represent the millions of American’s unemployed or greatly under-employed or homeless) In 2017 there was a large demonstration against illegal immigrants and there is a feeling of resentment when some Georgians bid on property and are outbid by foreigners, such as Iranians, who we are told, are buying large amounts of real estate in Georgia. (The Georgian government has allowed foreigners to buy real estate in order to bring in much needed capital.) The Georgian people have a strong identity and have waited many years to be able to express their independence and sovereignty so feelings can run strong with regard to this issue. We met a young man who has lived and worked in Germany ostensibly so that he could save money to return to Georgia and buy property. By the time he has enough money, he worries whether there will be property to purchase. The question has to be asked; how do the Germans feel about a Georgian taking jobs away from Germans? Will he stay in Germany and buy property there? He already has a sister and her family living in Germany permanently.
A Few Questions: The worries and concerns of people in every country come full circle. 1.) Who do governments represent? a. The tax payers within a border? 2.) Can a government exist without a border? 3.)Who are the taxes collected within a border for: a. the people within the border, b. the government officials, c.or anyone from anywhere whether they pay taxes or not? (The above is not refering to refugees, especially ones that a government has been complicit in bombing out of their homes.) Georgia & Georgian-Russian Citizens Given that Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union from 1921 -1991, there are Russians who became Georgians during that time period. There are also young people of Russian descent who were born in Georgia and know only a Georgian way of life. Are There Really Russians in Georgia? “Some in Georgia's prevailing political and intellectual elites seem to deny the existence of ethnic Russians altogether . . . On the one hand, these denials may simply reflect political expedience. Acknowledging the presence of naturalised or native-born ethnic Russians in Georgia might risk lending credence to the “compatriots policy” introduced by the Russian government in recent years to justify intervention in defense of its kin - ambiguously defined by ethnicity, citizenship or language - in the near abroad.” opendemocracy.net - Jason Strakes Russians & The Georgian Orthodox Church Previous Czarist and Soviet governments that either interfered with or oppressed the Georgian Orthodox Church, have never reflected the values of thegrassrootsRussianpeople and so it was hardly surprising that the Embrace Founders saw devout Russians (especially women) praying in many Georgian Orthodox Churches. For younger people of Russian descent, the Georgian churches are the only ones they’ve ever known. In general, there is very little difference between Georgian and Russian Orthodox traditions. Language and national founding saints being the exception.
What The Embrace Founders Saw - In the central park of Kutaisi, retired Russian men seemed jovial and kind-hearted. Sharing a park bench four of them somehow managed to fit in a fifth friend, talking and laughing and smiling helpfully to anyone that might need their assistance. They ran interference for Ajata and Virginia sitting across from them from a disturbed women who wanted something, but we could not understand. They seemed to try to make themselves available when we were lost. In short they were just nice people. Kutaisi - Downtown - What is Going On? There are two restaurants in Kutaisi that are especially popular with Westerners; Palaty and Baraqa. One day while eating lunch at Palaty Restaurant, the Founders saw their petite waitress looking extremely distressed as she gazed out the front window. There they saw a man who definitely was menacing and built something like compact tank. The waitress fled to the kitchen and wouldn’t come back out. A young man vigilantly keeping an eye on the window, replaced her. A day or so later Ajata and Virginia went for a second time to Baraqa Restaurant. The Founders saw a notice on the entrance door to Baraqa. A notice they had not seen previously, The notice stated something about Russians not being welcomed in Georgia. In the corner of the restaurant was a group of men similar to the one who terrified our waitress at Palaty Restaurant. In fact, Virginia thought one of the men was the same one standing outside the Palaty Restaurant when the waitress became frightened. Ajata and Virginia ruminated over this notice and the group of men. This was a puzzle. Was there a connection between the men and the new notice on the door? Which Russians did the notice mean? 1.) The ones born in Georgia 2.) The ones that spent their whole lives in Georgia? 3.) Military incursions from Russia? Were the owners of Baraqa, Abkhazians who have fled from Russia’s recent dominance in the area? And who were these guys in black tee shirts that looked like what the Irish call “Hard” men. The waitress at Baraqa didn’t seem to like them either. The Embrace Founders don’t know who these men were or why they terrified waitresses, but since leaving Georgia we’ve discovered that Georgia has one of the most violent mafias in the world and the Kutaisi branch is the worst of the worst. At one time the Georgian mafia was in control of paramilitary groups in Abkhazians, so we’ll leave this episode for others to ponder. One last note on Kutaisi, mafias aside, it is a wonderful city and area and missing it and the Gelati Monastery would be a tremendous loss.
The Georgian Jewish Community The Founders were delighted to find a dynamic and very, very old Jewish Community in Tbilisi (of Gurjim or Ebraeli Jews) who some scholars believe came to Georgia after 586 B.C. (in the 6th century B.C.) This of course,is even earlier than Christianity. Much later Ashkenazi Jews came from Russia. Ajata and Virginia were particularly touched to see the respect that the “The Tblisi Great Synagogue” shows it’s past orthodox rabbis, rebbes (if they had Hassidim among them) and scholars and in additiion, the fact that it has been able to embrace both Ashkenazi and Sephardic sensiblities. People who choose a life time of dedication to the “spiritual” and are willing to endure poverty for the sake of wisdom, are people that the Embrace Founders believe have understood one of the things that is truly important in life. Learning, whether it is scholarly like those who continually study the Tanaka , Mishnah and Kabbalah or whether it is experiental like the Hassidic practises is a continual process. All people that are learned may not agree but it is important to pursue that which may lead to wisdom. GEORGIAN CHRISTIANITY The Christian Churches and Monasteries in Georgia will erase time and transport you into another world. They are magic. Not because they are perfect, but because they perfectly reflect the exuberance and pathos of trying to express faith, keep faith and enjoy faith against the odds in an ever changing political environment. It is more than anything, the chipped, scraped and defaced colored painting that tell the story best. Anyone, who is a Christian that wants to go on a pilgrimmage, should include Georgia because Georgia was one of the earliest countries to become Christian and it can not help but touch you.
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