Thursday, 25 November 2010

End of Kibbutz, First week at KARMIEL

I haven’t written in a week so this is a particularly long one. I don't really expect you to read the whole thing but just have a glance over.

Our Thursday afternoon Ulpan session on Kibbutz Lotan consisted of translating some rather bizarre Israeli songs into English and eating the BEST peanut butter and chocolate chip home baked cookies and banana and chocolate chip cake. It may have been slightly to do with our extreme lack of home cooked food but, I kid you not, it truly felt like the most amazing food ever. We hopped on the bus back to Yahel to do some last minute preparation and planning for the Sikkum Seminar that Tamara, Rio, Alexa and I were running. Just to explain, during orientation we each had to sign up in fours or fives to run one of the various communal weekends throughout the year. I signed up for the sikkum of the kibbutz period which was just before we split up into our option groups for the next 3 months. It was intended to be a reflection on what we had learnt/done during our month of kibbutz and also a lot of mushy stuff about the group splitting up. As Mitzvah day nearly corresponded with our weekend we really wanted to and pushed to do a project to be involved but the Israeli version of it was running something in the north and we were in the south and for various other tochnit-esque reasons we unfortunately decided It wasn't feasible. On Thursday evening we did a communal country themed cook-off. Using vastly limited resources each room had to cook something in the theme of Cuba, Ireland, Mexico, England, USA, Morocco, Italy, China, Japan &Israel. It was a surprisingly successful evening with some truly fantastic cooking, we had everything from sushi and stir fry to cheesy chips and felafel. It was kind of amazing to look at the massive spread of food we made laid out across three picnic tables and everyone sitting together or the grass dressed up according to their country. The evening ended with another game of the infamous lap tag. In case I haven’t explained before, lap-tag basically consists of sitting in a circle in pairs one behind another. One person doesn't have a partner and calls the name of two other people on the inner circle. Those two people have to try and each be the first the touch the callers foot. The problem is that their partners behind have to physically try and stop them. It has more complicated rules but that is the basic gist of this rather amusing, NFTY born game.

Sushi makers

Rachel Elf

My Room

Me and fellow Sikkum Sem organisers; Tamara, Rio and Alexa
Friday November 19th / יום ו' י"ג כסלוSIKKUM SEMINAR:
8:30              Wake up and Communal Breakfast
9:00              Hagar’s Ma’amad Hagar
9:30              Feedback Haim
11:00            Intro to the seminar Haim
11:30            What have we learnt in the last month? Grabiner, Tamara, Rio, Alexa
13:00            Lunch
14:00            What is Jewish identity for us????  Haim
15:00            Shabbat Prep/ Chill Out
17:15            Hagar Session Hagar
18:00            Kabbalat Shabbat – Grabiner, Tamara, Elf, Miriam
19:30            Aruhat Erev Shabbat- Rosh Meal: Leo, Tanya
21:00            Oneg Shabbat – Gavi, Emily D, Laurence, Dan
22:30            Star-Gazing (Optional)/ Scary Stories

Shabbat 20th November / יום שבת י"ד כסלו
09:45            Shabbat Shacharit w/ Torah Reading: Alexa, Sofi, Flora, Lizzie > Torah Reading: Aaron, Rio
11:15            Kiddush
11:30            Parashat Hashavua Zara, Rio
12:15            Lunch (bagels) - Rosh Meal: Ethan, Rebecca
13:15            How do we take our Jewish Identity onwards – what do we do with it? How do we become "Shlichim" and turn our Jewishness into Leadership? Haim
14:45            Free time
17:15            Seudah Shlishit – Josh, Ayla, Sarah, Rachel Stock
18:00            Havdallah – Grabiner, Tamara, Rio, Alexa
18:20            Sikum of Shabbat Shlichut – Grabiner, Tamara, Rio, Alexa
19:00            Closing Ceremony/Evening Surprise - Grabiner,  Tamara, Rio, Alexa

Although I don't want to say much about the weekend, there are a few events I feel I should mention. I hope my brothers notice the lovely optimum timed gap on Saturday afternoon...that's all I’m going to say. I would also like to write up the poem I wrote with the other organisers of the weekend that we read at kabbalat shabbat. It was inspired by the American's 'To be a NFTY-ite' which we found out later was inspired by a different poem 'To be a Jew'.

To Be a Shnattie

To be a Shnattie
To have felt like 8months was a really long time
To have felt like 8 months wasn't nearly long enough
To refuse to believe that one month has already passed

To be a Shnattie
To be constantly eating some kind of cereal
To find yourself in the markoleet even when you're not hungry
To spend your room budget and not even care

To be a Shnattie
To have never felt this happy before
To have wanted to bottle a moment and make it last forever
To have fallen in love with 32 amazing individuals

To be a Shnattie
To have cried because even Shnatties have ups and downs
To talk to that one person who can give you hope again
To have been both the crier and the shoulder to cry on

To be a Shnattie
To be really excited about getting pizzur
To get pizzur and be underwhelmed because its newt actually enough to buy you lunch
To talk about it for days afterward

To be a Shnattie
To now that you should go to bed because you need to be awake tomorrow
To stay up late chatting on the grass anyway
To know that you can always sleep next year

To be a Shnattie
To have been really excited for your first 'egged' bus journey
To have had the worst four hours of your life
To have missed the Yahel bus stop

To be a Shnattie
To have formed opinions about people before shnat properly began
To have made a great friend in someone you never thought you’d get on with
To have changed your opinions

To be a Shnattie
To love Ma'amadim, even though you're not quite sure of your own beliefs
To well up during Hariyu
To feel a sense of community like never before

To be a Shnattie
To have not known what a Pomello was before we got to Yahel
To still not know if you like them one month later
To be facebook friends with Pablo the Pomello

To be a Shnattie
To dance the night away to Hebrew songs you don't even know
To have the best nights out and the worst mornings after
To find yourself in crazy situations

To be a Shnattie
To have first dreaded folding the 7000 date bags
To have finished the pile and felt like we won a war
To have come together and worked as one

To be a Shnattie
To have chanted ASEPHA at every possible occasion
To have hated the reality of three in one day
To have secretly loved the controversy

To be a Shnattie
To have been unsure what Netzer meant to you before Keshet Seminar
To have realised why you came on Shnat
To have never been so proud

To be a Shnattie
To have argued, talked, laughed and sung more in one month than you have in a lifetime
To be passionate about things you didn't realise you had an opinion about
To have lived every day to the full

To be a Shnattie
To realise that this is your family
To realised that this is only the beginning
To realise this is where you belong

Sunday morning we rolled out of our beds, did a final room and kibbutz sweep for belongings, piled EVERYTHING onto the coach (including all the leftover food) and headed off to options. There was a slightly sticky moment when it was debatable as to whether everyone’s accumulated belongings would actually fit onto the bus but luckily...and did. We dropped the two kibutzniks off at their new home Kibbutz Lotan and departed for Jerusalem. Four and a half hours later we arrived in Jerusalem. We had forty five minutes for a final lunch together before some extremely tearful farewells and the Karmiel bunch climbing back onto the bus. Before you decide to think we are pathetic, please consider for a moment that we went from spending twenty four hours and day, seven days a week with each other, to not seeing some people for two weeks, it wasn't exactly an easy adjustment. We arrived in Karmiel to discover we had a (surprisingly) lovely house with a little garden and 5 different size bedrooms for the 15 of us. We had already decided to keep a kosher house (although the definition of that was, as we discovered later, a little shaky in some peoples minds) so we had a brief meeting, ordered pizza and went to bed.

On Monday morning we had a 'treasure hunt' in the area around where we live to get to know it before ending up at the ….... for a meeting with the Mayor of Karmiel and one of the security advisers. Later that afternoon we had a meeting discussing our hike in two weeks time and discovered unfortunately that we are visiting pretty much all the same places we visited on trip days at Yahel. We also discussed our host families as originally we had decided to all be with different families but as there weren't enough it ended up that only three people could be by themselves and everyone else was to go in pairs. Knowing myself I realised there was no way I would learn any ivrit if I had another English speaking person to rely on so I thankfully managed to get put with a family by myself. As it turned out, my host 'sister', Noy, went on one of the RSY tours this year and is absolutely lovely. On Monday evening I met her and her mother who were both extremely welcoming and friendly and arranged to go with her mother and sister to see the Ga'adna ceremony she would be in on Wednesday night. Ga'adna is a week long army training session that the 16-year-olds do several of before they actually go into the army.

On Tuesday we visited the children's village. This was an amazing place where something like 22o foster children live with foster families. They are families from Karmiel, most with their own children, who decided to move to the village just to look after the children. Our madricha Galit's family had four kids of their own and did exactly this. There is also a school for children in the village to help them 'close the gap' between what they know and what a child their age should know before they join the main schools. Following this we visited the Muslim school in the village across the road from Karmiel, 'Majd el Krum'. We sat in a meeting with the principal and teachers to discuss ideas for the four days that we will be volunteering there and the various sessions we would be running. Some people decided they weren't entirely comfortable at the school or with the idea of volunteering there and so are choosing to do other things when the rest of the group goes there. After lunch we went to meet the Selah group. This Is a group of Russian teenagers between the ages of 16 and 20 who have made Aliyah and are on a program at the absorption center in karmiel. It was a slightly odd meeting of forced conversation and singing together but was an interesting experience and will hopefully be slightly easier at our next organised event together.

On Wednesday morning we visited some of the various places we might be volunteering. We briefly looked at a club for young people with disabilities and at the Eco farm. We had a proper session at the center which provides for and allows people between the ages of 18 and 30 to do work appropriate to their ability and get paid for it. It was an amazing place and quite humbling to visit. The idea that as teenagers we spend such a significant amount of time wanting to look pretty and buy clothes and arguing about the most ridiculous things when in reality- and as much of a cliché as this is I am still going to say it because it was one of the first times I fully appreciated what it means- we very rarely appreciate how ridiculously lucky we are. After this rather sobering experience we went for a very brief training session on teaching English at the high schools and elementary schools. At 4.30 that afternoon I was picked up by my host mother. I went with her, her daughter and her mother and father to the watch Noy, my host sister in the Ga'adna ceremony. It was a totally different side of the army to see hundreds of mothers and fathers of these 15/16 year olds, already waiting for their time to come. Although we spend a lot of time (especially on Netzer) discussing the relevance and importance of the conflict surrounding the army, it really highlighted to me how diverse the emotions of the families are. My host mother tried to explain to me that although what they had done was hard, it was really a nice thing. They face the reality of what is to come with such understanding and so little resentment. After the ceremony, Noy still had one more night of her session so my host family decided to take me home for dinner anyway. On the way back we drove passed some of the Arab villages which my host mum pointed out. When I asked her if they ever went there she actually responded that they rarely did and that there had been a recent incident which meant relations were particularly bad at the moment. I found this extremely interesting because only days before we had been led to believe that the situation between the villages was vastly improved. At home I chopped salad and made toasted cheese sandwiches with Noy's nine year old sister who has far better English than I do Hebrew. At the very least if I learn no ivrit I will help her improve her English. I must add that I was only allowed to help make dinner when it was made clear that I should feel completely and utterly at home in there house and feel free to do as I pleased. They really are such a lovely family and it is so nice to spend some time in a pleasant family environment.

This morning we had a three hour chinuch session on 'Makum ba Galil' with American Reform Rabbi, Mark Rosenstein. We discussed what Zionism was, what a Jewish state was and what being Jewish was.

Living in a house with 12 other girls and 2 boys has been an interesting experience to begin with. Although originally agreeing on a kosher house (with a separate set of plastic dishes for those who really had to mix milk and meat) people have had a bizarre amount of trouble with understanding this and apparently would like to revisit the idea at the next asefah. Given that we don't have a dishwasher that works, I am extremely adverse to eating of the plates people who clearly don't wash up properly have used to eat meat on. My view is that if people do decide they can't cope with keeping kosher (which I have to say I think is pretty ridiculous) then the fallback has to be keeping a vegetarian household. If this isn't the case it will mean that at least four people will be unable to eat anything in the house. Another interesting aspect of this living arrangement is the two showers for 15 people and the lack of bathroom space in the morning. I have resorted to going to the downstairs loo to brush my teeth and put my contact lenses in the the morning, it's such a trek!.

Pretty much everything of what I have seen of Karmiel tells me it is a truly incredible place. It is almost a model city. They do so much good here everywhere and everywhere we go people are leading by example. If only people in other countries could see the way these people deal with difficult situations and help those in need every day, they really could learn a lot. 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Last Trip day on Yahel

Yesterday we went on our final Wednesday trip day. We were told the day before that it would consist of a 'hike' and a surprise. On questioning how serious a hike this would be we were told to wear closed shoes but hiking boots wouldn't be necessary and it would be more of a walk. Following this advice I hopped on the bus at 8:00 yesterday morning wearing rather short denim shorts and plimsolls without laces. Two hours later we arrived at (Ein Boket?) and were taken to our surprise. We were going to be abseiling down a cliff face. At this point I looked down in dismay at what I was wearing. I wasn't entirely convinced how comfortable the oh-so-uncomfortable harness was going to be in shorts and my shoes would definitely not be allowed for abseiling in almost any other country. Nonetheless I strapped on the helmet, stepped into the harness and rather ungracefully I must add, stumbled down the cliff face.

After this we visited Ben-Gurion's grave and learnt about him and the things he achieved in his life. We placed stones on his grave and then went for a hike in the mountains/hills surrounding. This hike however, was not what we had expected in terms of footwear. I could literally feel every stone I stood on! Aside from that it really was a lovely hike. It was only 2/3 hours and wasn't particularly difficult so you had plenty of time to look at and appreciate the surrounding scenery. My geography obsessed boyfriend even gave me a lesson on the way different things had been formed, it was educational to say the least :)

The day itself was really lovely, only slightly tainted but the constant bickering going on between all the girls going to Karmiel. We had the unfortunate and rather uncomfortable (it shouldn't have been but that’s how it turned out) issue of choosing our rooms. Obviously this involved people being upset and a ridiculous amount of drama. The rooms have now been messed around and caused so much bitchiness that I'm slightly concerned about how it will play out in Karmiel but I guess I will just have to see.

This morning has been a packing morning and shortly I’m off to have my final Ulpan lesson on Kibbutz Lotan.

Love to all

S x

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

penultimate week on kibbutz-almost

Lots and lots of photos to come ...please check back later

Tuesday- Volunteering, Chinuch?
Day on Lotan-making seed balls, making bricks, building bridges, tikkun olam peula, tea time, ma'omadim
-machon prep in the eve
Thursday-Machon interview in Jeru
Saturday-Sunbathing, other people hike
Sunday-Chinuch (reform Judaism), Ulpan
Monday-Ulpan, volunteering

Last Wednesday we spent the day on Kibbutz Lotan which is the other reform kibbutz about 20 minutes from Yahel. We spent the day being bitten by flies and constructing various things. Firstly we were introduced to the compost toilets and given a detailed description of the way they work.

We then made little seed balls which basically involved mixing some dry clay with soil and water until you had a paste and then mixing in a random variety of seeds. The clay dries and the seed balls become solid making them quick and easy to put in the fields without being easy for the birds and wind to destroy.

Following this we learnt out to mix and form clay bricks using clay, water and straw to strengthen them.
Then we had to construct bridges out of clay bricks. Admittedly our first bridge wasn’t a massive success but our second one was truly epic and our entire group was able to stands on it.

Then they took us on a tour around Lotan and showed us the little clay domes some of the volunteers live in and the solar powered grill and ovens they have outside. As you can probably guess and in case you don't know Kibbutz Lotan is massively into Eco-friendly everything

The afternoon consisted of a Tikkun Olam peula, some discussions with various kibbutzniks and a final closing ma'amad.

Thursday was my machon interview, the less said about that the better. Luckily I think it went well, but I’m going to leave it at that.

Both Friday and Saturday consisted of chilling on the kibbutz, sunbathing and reading for the vast majority of the weekend. We went to a 'Texan style' kabbalat shabbat service at the kibbutz as there was a wedding or something going on during the weekend. The service was nice but a little bizarre. There appeared to be a lot of -what I associate with orthodox services- rapid ivrit rambling tailing off into silence. The boys went for what was meant to be a gentle ambling 'hike' but turned into a Hike up a cliff face on Saturday. Was quite satisfied I stayed on kibbutz.

Monday consisted of a fairly productive Ulpan session in which we started translating the phone conversations out teacher was having-turned out we actually knew a lot more than we thought we did. Volunteering was pretty standard followed by hours and hours and hours of Sikkum Seminar planning as I’m roshing this weekend (our last weekend) with three other girls. We also did a peula focused on the Israel 'bumper sticker' song which developed into a massive debate about hebron and the Israeli's right to be there etc

So today we FINALLY FINISHED ALL THE DATE BAGS. We have officially arranged, rolled and tied 7000 date bags in the last month and we finished with a day to spare. If you’d seen us in the date fields today you probably would've thought we'd won a war. We were literally euphoric. It was truly epic. After all the ridiculous arguments and discussions we had about folding these stupid date bags (and when I say arguments I mean properly heated fights) we are finally FINALLY finished. I don't think you can quite understand this feeling without being here. It really was no mean feat.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The past week

Wednesday-hike, sleep
Thursday- volunteering + ulpan + tel aviv bus
Friday + nemal in tel aviv
Saturday – beach and back to kibbutz
Sunday – Chinuch session (rabbi benji), asefah, lunch, asefah, ulpan, dinner, peula, asefah
Monday – ulpan, volunteering (ill), progressive Judaism peula

Wednesday was our most epic hike yet. What began as a gentle amble along a mountain turned into an epic 7 hour hike. I’m not going to lie, mountains can only be beautiful for so many hours, then they just become boring (clearly it was a good decision for me not to do shvil). Having said that it was an exhausting but rewarding day which ended with a potter around Eilat and me accompanying (someone else!) to the doctor that evening. On returning from the hike I literally collapsed into bed (at about 8.30) and slept solidly till the next morning.
Kyla, Sophie and I

From left clockwise: Emily, Relf, Sofi, Zara, Tamara, Ayla, Rachel, Tanya, Sarah, Lizzie, Fred, Me

Thursday was a somewhat more stressful volunteering experience. Not only did I wake up in the foulest mood known to man, we arrived at the date bag site to discover half the group wasn't coming. This was apparently due to a decision made by our madricha because the kibbutz said it needed some volunteers in the kitchen and in the tourism area. On discovering this we were naturally, as is the way on shnat, livid. We decided it was totally undemocratic and contradictory of the long and heated debate we had had at a previous asefah about peoples commitment and slacking in volunteering. Particularly interestingly that some of the people who had taken up other jobs were the specific people who had been so adamant that working on the date bags wasn’t that bad and even if it was we were doing it as a group experience and it was important for the moral of the group that we all did it together. We struggled through and by the end of Ulpan that afternoon we couldn’t wait to get on the bus to Tel Aviv just to get a bit of a break and relax. We had the interesting experience of having five shirut drivers almost having a fist fight over who got to take us to herzliya pituach. We arrived at the house exhausted and promptly conked out for the night.

Sophie, Me, Tamara, Miriam and Kyla at Herzliya Beach

Sophie, Kyla, Me, Tamara and Miriam before going out

Friday morning disappeared as we all blissfully slept through the morning due to the miracle shutters on the windows in the house. We spent the day at the beach and pottering round the mall a bit before heading into Tel-Aviv for a rather chilled night out. On Saturday we chilled at the beach again (very producitve I know) and then heading into tel aviv for the 4 and a half hour coach ride home. We did make a feeble attempt to go to a kab shab service on Friday night but it involved too many taxis for our poor shnat budgets.

Sunday started with a Chinuch session that was actually fairly interesting but I don't have my notes on me/can't really be bothered to write about it. Our day pretty much consisted of 3 veryveryvery long asephot as nothing got decided and everyone got very agitated with lots of heated discussions and debates. The topics ranged from one of the boys being intimidated by all the girls to where and the reason we were volunteering to people taking things too personally-it was epic.

Monday was very uneventful. It consisted of Ulpan, volunteering and a progressive Judaism peula but I slept through most of volunteering as i got a bit dizzy and headachy during Ulpan. Most of my evening consisted of planning the Sikkum Seminar which is the last weekend we are all together on Kibbutz. I got more than a little agitated to the say the least. I have also had an interesting evening of looking up Netzer and RSY fun facts and ideological choices. Riveting stuff.

Off to bed now as have got volunteering tomorrow morn.

Pictures to follow soon

Lots of love

S x

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A few photos

Girlies-viewpoint overlooking Jerusalem, final shabbat of Klita Sem
Tribal Face

Pomello Sophie

Outside the Old City

And so a new month in Israel begins. What, I wonder, will November bring?

Due to the currently poor internet connection this appears to be the only time I can actually get online.

Last Wednesday we had our first of 4 day trips/tiyul. We took a bus into the desert and continued onto two mini hikes to almost unreal sand dunes and a beautiful Red Stone Canyon. Our day continued with a potter around Eilat. It really was an incredible opportunity to see the peace and beauty of Israel in its element and we also had the opportunity to consider some of the religious and historical links about our land and the Torah. On our way home we made a stop off at a lookout point over Egypt. This particular viewpoint enabled us to see Jordan, Israel and Egypt all in simply one look. It was fascinating to see the remainder of the rock pillars that implied the immense advancement in security to what is now a high security border fence.

Last weekend we attended the first keshet seminar, a weekend intended to bring together almost two hundred, cross communal, year course participants and give them an opportunity to learn about and discuss each others views and practices. An interesting experience to say the least, full of debate, controversy and finally a mutual agreement within the group of their appreciation of being in Netzer. There were a couple of truly fascinating sessions about Zionism, highly controversial political issues, the Israeli army and Jewish Identity. Not so interesting was the lack of FZY attendance who, despite having the most people at the weekend, could easily have been mistaken for not being there at all. Another issue many of us had was that unlike the concept of keeping shabbat in public places to respect the more religious BA participants (which I was ok with), we were extremely taken aback to hear that BA had been banned from attending anyone else's services on shabbat despite the fact that three others were taking place and the entire point of the weekend was to learn about each others ways of practising Judaism. Saturday evening saw a bus full of weary Netzer-niks sleepily but happily returning to Kibbutz Yahel.

Sunday and Monday day time was a mish-mash of date bag folding, ulpan and chinuch sessions. The volunteering we are getting used to, the ulpan we are actually beginning to learn some useful stuff and the educational sessions continue to spark controversial debates. On Sunday night we had a great Halloween party with better costumes created in the middle of the desert from nothing than you see in most Halloween parties in London. Myself and the two other girls called Sophie dressed up as the tribe of Sophies.

The Tribe of Sophies
Having a truly incredible time, only slightly marred by the stress about getting onto machon and my interview next week. Other than that kibbutz feels like home and I already cannot imagine how weird its going to be to leave here in a few weeks.

Beginning to miss everyone a lot...come and visit me!

Love you all

S x