How do you walk the tightrope with your values in one hand, stretched out far into that rose-colored world and the reality of the world we live in pulling with all its might into the other direction? The balance is a precarious ballet with an audience of one for most of the time and a packed house at others.
Today I stumbled on that tightrope. I tried to run too fast to the other side and played politics in a vain hope of making it to the other side. I tried to uphold my values and bypass the real world we live in. And at the end of the day, both fell and was pushed from that rope.
I live in an intentional community. The founders came together 30+ years ago and decided to live a socialist lifestyle centered around Reform Judaism. While I do live and work here in this small community, I am not a member. A pseudo outsider (stranger in Jewish terms) and a pseudo piece of fabric in the mosaic that makes up this corner of the world. I have no vote in what happens here, I have no final say in the major decisions at work. But I do have opinions. And I do have experience. And I do have values which are purportedly shared by this community. But when I tried to live up to a value of treating the strangers among us with value and respect, I was knocked down and made to understand – in no unclear language – that it was not my place and that my opinions have no worth on the subject as I am not a member.
It is such a sobering experience and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am questioning many things now. I would not change the past, buy I wonder if I would repeat the attempt to live these values in the future. I am also questioning my place in this community. It is not the first time I have questioned if I am valued even as a human being led alone as a member of this community in the basic sense of the word. So I am going to look into what has always been my plan B: moving to the only other Reform kibbutz in the country. Luckily it is right down the road so I will still live in the Arava Valley.
Anyway, I know this was vague on the actual happenings of today but I wanted to vent a bit. But alas, I need to shower and go to dinner.
I found myself saying the same thing to three different people at three different times over the past week or so: “I work more here than I did in America.”
It is kinda interesting. On one hand, the traditional kibbutz lifestyle would lend itself to having that be a no-brainer. Kibbutz is hard. Kibbutz is long. Kibbutz is busy. But the modern ideas surrounding kibbutzim would have most believe that work days are short and the fun parts of life are the main focus.
It is definitely a mix of the two, I guess I just focus too much on the work aspect. I did not expect at all that working at a small guest house (24 rooms), managing a small team (one full time volunteer, 3 youth movement young adults who only work 4 of the 6 days) would be more taxing on me than at the Hampton in Ybor. Boy boy boy was I wrong. The administration here makes my job harder on a daily basis and needs to be … restructured? Yeah, we will leave the wording at restructured. The maintenance needs to have a dedicated, full time staff person instead of our current sharing with the ecokef branch (where he spends 90% of his time). And then there are the actual rooms themselves. Oh my.
But all in all, I do enjoy being here. When I venture out at night and the guest house is full of travelers and families, I am reminded why I love working in this industry. The German who is wanderlust and always wants to know more but is constantly afraid of the black and red elephant standing between Israelis and Germans. The family from the north that met up with their friends from the center for a weekend in the south. The ones who just wanted to get away and lie in a hammock for a weekend. It is nice.
And outside of work? My oh my. The birds are a constant soundtrack. And not like a spring day back in Florida. No, those birds sound like a 2 person talent show compared to the orchestra of chirping here. And the holidays! Last night we sang and SANG and danced and really really danced with the Torahs. Last week we prayed and fasted and prayed some more. The week before we had a New Years dinner that just couldn’t be beat.
Then there are the kibbutznikim themselves. The “crazy lady” who calls me in the middle of a work day to awkwardly ask if she could set me up with a gay friend of hers. The caring she had shining over the awkward translations into English and the tip-toeing around gay vs straight culture clashes. Then there are the … other guys? the cool guys? Not sure how they are classified, but they are my friends. One a dutch/arab who is firmly a part of this kibbutz’s societal fabric. The other a relatively new guy. Both named Jonathan, both with horribly un-P.C. yet always hilarious personalities.
And you have the families. Those who just take you in as if they were there on your first day of preschool and your high school graduation. It doesn’t matter that you have come here only recently, they have made you apart of the family and that is all there is to it. “Now pass the coffee and go wash the dishes.”