I moved to a different dome in the eco-neighborhood this weekend. I freaking love living in these things. They are geodesic domes, with three feet of insulating hay bales coated in at least 10cm of mud (5cm on the outside, 5 on the inside). The temperatures in here so far range between 23-30 Celsius without any AC.
New front door:
This is my favorite though. I took an old storage bag that the kibbutz has and made a cut down one side. Then hung it up on the hooks that were built into this dome. Bam! New hammock!
Happy birthday Israel! 64 years young and still kickin. It is almost 2am so this is going to be a short, poorly written post. Highlights of Independence day in Israel: BBQ all day long, adults dancing like they were school children again (and yes, they were at times dancing in a circle, all holding hands, interspersing with everyone rushing into the center and then back out again), great concert at the regional council, Lotan kibbutznics starting and owning the dancing at said concert, random people still BBQing at 11pm.
All politics aside, it is an amazing and extremely special thing to have this Jewish state among the nations. A people millennia old; conquered, despised, dispersed, killed, robbed, tortured, almost whipped out by genocide. And yet here we are, a nation smaller in land mass than the US state of New Jersey. A place for a people the world has time and again turned their backs on, a home to reestablish roots in.
It’s a crazy idea, this place I’m in. Crazy beautiful.
Today is Yom HaZikaron. This is the time that Israel honors its fallen soldiers and the civilians whose lives were cut short by terrorism. It is described as the saddest day of the year (followed by the happiest day tomorrow, Independence day). The ceremony here on the kibbutz last night was striking.
I wish I had a picture to show you. The picture would be of the mother with her young son. The boy, just 4 or 5 years old, stands at the best attention pose his tiny body can muster. The mother holds him close in her arms. No – she doesn’t hold him in her arms, she wraps him even with her body as if her arms were not enough. You can almost see all the troubles going threw her head, the troubles that only a parent thinks of when they know their child will face military service in a hostile environment.
I wish I had a video to show you. The video would show you the community singing together in a solemn tone, all voices together as they remember the fallen. Then the Israeli flag would be lowered to half mast; each time the string yanked down the national emblem, the hearts and faces of those gathered would follow down as well. The video would then pan over to the grandmother sitting next to her grand-daughter. The communal singing continues and the grandmother reaches out to the child to draw her close as if the child was acting up. But then you see that the grandmother wasn’t worried about the child, she simply needed a body, anybody to hold as she began to weep. All the while she still continues in a somewhat communal moan of pain.
I wish you were here. You would have felt that the wind that blows every night from the north blew just a bit colder last night as the ceremony began. You would have felt the hairs on your neck stand on edge as the siren rang out all across the nation for 60 seconds. Those hairs were on edge not because of the ear-splitting noise but because you suddenly came face to face with the realization that more than 23,000 people have died for this country of only 64 years. Your hair stands on edge because you realize that, unlike in the ‘States, every single person has a personal connection to the military. You realize that by chance, by skill, or by the grace of G-d, they are not among those remembered this memorial day.
But then again, I wish we weren’t here. I wish we had never know this strange concept of war and terrorism. I wish all nations had beaten the swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. I wish we loved our neighbor as our own and were loved in return. I wish we had no occasion for this somber gathering. Because in the end, photographs, videos and memories will never convey a life lost. They can’t bring in new experiences with lovers or family. They can only serve as reminders of what is gone, never to return.
Just north of the eco-neighborhood sits the kibbutz’s goat area. I think it has just under 200 heads. Since this is a kibbutz, we in the G.A. are also expected to help the rest of the members one Shabbat a month with the necessities that have to be done on the day of rest. Milking the goats is my toranut and I really enjoy it.
Usually, I just milk the goats and leave since that is all that is required. If a lactating animal isn’t milked regularly, it starts to hurt as the process of the body shutting down milk production begins. Since we don’t want animals to go through pain at our expense (we are using them for milk production), we have to milk the goats twice a day (the cows get milked three times a day).
A couple of weeks back, on one of my Saturday milkings, one kid (baby goat) in particular was doing very bad. Only a day or two old, he was weak and unable to stand on his own. The first milker (guy in charge during the shift), started bottle feeding him right away but said that the kid would probably be dead before we finished our shift. Amazingly, as we finished the last group of hairy ladies, the kid was still breathing. This time, I got to feed him. I could feel every breath he took as he lay almost totally limp in my arms. His head had to be supported in just the right way to make sure he could drink the milk but not choke when he tried to breathe. His eyes were such a beautiful pale blue – the kind most young animals seem to have. When he looked at me, the eyes were so longing, yearning for something; for life, for death, for the strength to carry on, for something. The tiny baby drank almost an entire bottle before he had had enough. Things started to look up. We placed him back in the pin of newborns and his mother started to clean him – another great sign. I thought for sure the little guy was going to pull through.
Unfortunately, foxes are a problem even here. The kid, along with one other, were visited by Death under the cover of darkness that night. Who knows what would have happened if he lived to see another day. But the experience of nursing a limp, almost lifeless being back from near death was a profound one.
This week, I have had some free time in the afternoon and got to head over to the goat area to help bottle feed the new babies that are not quiet connecting to their mothers utters. It is really enjoyable and as I milk these goats that are only days old, I can’t help but think of my brother and sister-in-law as they expect their own offspring soon. The beauty of new life is just so … beautiful.
Does it grab your attention? What is going on around me? Is there an ambulance behind me? Is there a police officer near by? Is the fire department is racing towards a raging inferno? A siren gets your attention.
Is it a warning? Maybe danger is lurking around. Maybe a bomb is flying towards a city. Maybe an 18 wheeler can’t stop in time to avoid hitting something or someone. Maybe a tsunami or flood is racing up from the depths. A siren warns you.
Is it compromise? You can have your quiet day tomorrow if you take warning today. You can make it to your dinner plans if you change your path at lunch. You will have tranquility soon, but not right now. A siren requires you to compromise from the norm.
Today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. At 10:00am, all across Israel, for two complete minutes, sirens rang out. School children put their pencils down. Officer works stopped typing. Tractors in the fields and cars on the highway all stopped exactly where they were. City buses and taxis froze. And for 120 seconds, a nation remembered the 6 million Jews who were whipped out by hatred. They remembered to the sound of the siren.
A siren is a promise. A promise to mourn. A promise to remember. A promise to honor. A promise to survive. A promise to praise. A promise to believe. A promise to live. A promise of “never again.”
Shalom from Israel! The topic that has been on my mind for the past week is community. I live on a kibbutz of just about 200 people. I don’t know everyone’s names just yet but I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out the family trees, knowing which face works in which area of the kibbutz and remembering who I ate lunch with last week.
I don’t have to get to know these people at all – I could simply stay in my eco-neighborhood, talk only to the other students or my professors and maintain this bubble. But that would make the communal interactions in the dinning hall a little less filling, the pleasantries exchanged on the walking path a little less meaningful, this whole experience would be lacking.
The same could be said for life at a synagogue. I could show up on Friday, pray my prayers to G-d, eat some challah and head back home. But what if we brought the communal life of a kibbutz into our congregation? What if we could utilize the space between? The space between the services and the oneg, the space between each Shabbat or committee meetings, the space between which we could use to get to know each other on a deeper level. This space between is for connecting to one another, connecting to shared experiences, connecting to G-d … just connecting.
It is wonderful to see my host mother pick up a child that is not her own and gaze in pure wonder and amazement into the infants eyes. How often do we connect in that way with other people? Maybe American culture lends itself to personal isolationism. Maybe our travel patterns keep us from others. Maybe these moments of connection can only be found in the small experience of a kibbutz.
But wouldn’t it be grand if we could change that? What if we made more time to get to know our congregational community outside of the congregation. How would that start, “I really loved the rabbi’s spiel, and by the way, would you like to have lunch on Wednesday?” Wouldn’t it be grand?
I’m not sure where I read or heard this bit of wisdom but I really hope I learn to live it:
It doesn’t matter what you are saying, it only matters how the people listening hear what you are saying.
What does that mean? I’ll give my take of it in a story. I was reading ABC News yesterday and came across a story on the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign (pretty basic from my interpretation – just go to Palestine to see what’s up. But I haven’t researched it further yet). The story went on to talk about how Israeli authorities were promising to deport any foreigners who flew in this weekend with plans on going to Palestine for the campaign.
I didn’t like that part about deporting people who want to visit Palestine. As someone who is opinionated, I mentioned it to some people who were sitting near me. We got into a conversation that started with “I turn my brain off when I hear things like that.” I couldn’t believe that a well educated person whom I respect would say such a thing. And that is the first example. I heard ‘I have no opinion on occupation.’ But, as I found out later, he was really saying ‘people on both sides aren’t really talking to each other, there are no meaningful outcomes coming from dialogue, so why waste the time in talking about it?’ (although, this is me paraphrasing what I heard so I might have it wrong again).
We have to learn how to say things that will be heard in a way we want them to be heard.
We also talked about abortion. How the pro-choice people are not talking TO the pro-life people (and vis-a-versa), but rather each are talking to the ‘moveable middle’ and trying to convince those in the middle to join one side or the other. They do this instead of talking to each other, trying to convey their fears and convictions to each other in a way that the other side will HEAR in order to find common ground.
We have to learn to keep communicating in ways that will allow us to come together – especially over such important issues like abortion and apartheid.
I know this is something I have to learn to do. When I first hear someone who disagrees with me on something as important as self-rule and self-determination, I have to remember to HEAR what they are saying and to say what I want to convey in a way that they themselves will hear. And to continue a dialogue where we all hear each others concerns.