Monthly Archives: June 2012

C.B.S. Newsletter

Shabbat on the Kibbutz

We Jews are lucky enough to have a holiday every single week. The Sabbath is a time for rest and relaxation, a time for friends and family, and a time to pause and reflect. We certainly get all that here on Kibbutz Lotan. Shabbat starts just like in most places: families gather together in their homes, light the candles and say the prayers together. Maybe the children are blessed as well or a song or two sung. Then, some of the families come down to the moadon, the kibbutz’s synagogue. The all Hebrew service is a typical reform service lasting about one hour. Some melodies are familiar and some are new to me.

After services, you can really feel the festive atmosphere of the Sabbath. The whole community has gathered in the main square, children are running around on the large lawn and the air is full of conversations. We all enter the chadar ochel together and take our seats around the tables. As a community, we sing ha’motzi and ha’gafen. Then, each week, a festive meal is had. Bread, salad, rice, beans, vegetables, chicken (or vegi alternative), not to mention the ‘excellent‘ wine (you know it is excellent because it says so in its name – think manischewitz wine in the ‘States). The table is full of food and if by some chance a plate runs out, there is always more in the kitchen. There is something special in the air when the whole community is gathered together for one meal a week.

Once the dinner is over, the moadon is opened again for tea, coffee, and cake. More conversations are had, more lounging out in the chairs with a stuffed belly, more kids running around, just like after any holiday meal. Then, one by one, people start to head home. No alarms are set, no last-minute touch ups on the reports due soon. And almost the whole community sleeps in on Saturday morning, thankful for the day of rest given us every week. How lucky are we?

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Life on Hold

For the next few blog posts, I’m going to focus on kibbutz life a bit more. Today, I want to talk about this “life on hold” feeling. That phrase has been tossed around a few times by many different walks of life here in this tiny community.

I was talking to Matan, my host-family brother, during one of the holiday ceremonies. He is currently in the military performing his required service and only gets to come home on the occasional weekend or holiday. So we briefly talked about his service, a little bit about the kibbutz and then I moved onto the holiday we were celebrating. I mentioned to him that it was nice to have life on hold, meaning only that I was happy not to have to worry about my coursework or much of anything else during that particular moment in time. But his first reaction was something like life on the kibbutz – life on hold – wasn’t a good thing for him. I got the feeling of a kid who grew up in a small town (understatement for this community of about 150), that is still tethered to this place. He is excited to see the world, to explore, to experience new things. But he is also still brought back by his love for his family. I don’t think he would be happy moving back here and starting his life within the gates.

Life on hold isn’t always a negative thing though. I’ve heard that many people who come through the kibbutz or Bustan neighborhood (other than the hippies/eco-freak-os) are people who are lost and searching for themselves. This place offers a refuge for them. They can put a pause button on life, take a deep breathe or two, and figure out where to go next. And what a great place to do just that! They can reconnect to the earth, put in an honest day’s worth of labor, keep their belly full and, with just a little effort, make some good friendships. Once they figure out their next step in life, they can leave the kibbutz and not be any worse off, more confident with their plans in life.

For me, I can see clearly both the cons and pros of a life on hold. I can’t count how many times I have thought about the night I sat on the railroad tracks with my high school friends and said, “When I get out of Brandon, I will NEVER come back to this place! I’m going to hit the road and never look in the mirror.” I wanted nothing to due with having a life on hold. But I also recognize that, to some degree, I came here to figure out my next steps. I wasn’t going to stay in Tampa forever and the sunsets here beat out Dale Mabry Highway any day. I hope I can use this time to figure things out.

Starting life back up can be hard too. The goodbyes here are tough. Your whole life revolves around mostly the same people day in and day out. When someone leaves, you can’t help but think about them and the hole that is missing in the community fabric. The volunteers and people who pass through are easy to relate to and easy to build lasting bonds with. I know for sure I’m missing two friends who have both left in the past month more than I thought I would.

With all that said, it is important to say (or me at least) that for some, life isn’t on hold. This is life. Families are raised here; spouses have passed on; children grow, learn, graduate and move away. Careers blossom and change. Vacations are had and adventures are shared. I guess it is all just a matter of perspective.

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