September 3, 2010
Friday (writing this on Saturday) we woke up, had our first Kibbutz breakfast, and then headed over to our first program. First we learned more about the Kibbutz, and kibbutzim (plural) in general from David, the New York Israeli with the squeakiest voice and the funniest way of talking in the whole wide world. He told us that all kibbutzim in Israel are (to certain extents) JSADS: Jewish, socialist, agricultural, democratic, and small. Ketura is apparently one of the most socialist ones still in existence. Ketura makes its money from dates, milk from their cows, and this red algae they grow that is used for medicinal purposes. They make about $5 million a year, and spend almost all of it. His personal stipend is $200 a month. The kibbutz pays for his rent, food, healthcare, education (through college!) for his four children, and just about all of his needs. Sounds pretty cool.
Ketura is special because it houses this academy, The Arava Institute, that is doing environmental work in the region, across geopolitical borders. They have students from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and around the world come and study together. The program is super successful, and they are hoping to expand it. It is a really great example of coexistence work that is actually working; their alums are still friends, and many are high up in their respective governments’ environmental agencies. The man who runs it is actually my volunteer placement coordinator’s father – turns out she grew up on this kibbutz. It also turns out that guy with the gun on our bus was her brother, coming home on break from the army. Oops!
Then we had a delicious lunch, and then our coveted POOL TIME. It is literally a billion degrees here, so I LOVE THE POOL. SO MUCH. We stayed in there for about 3 hours, just talking and hanging out. Awesome.
Then we broke into our separate coexistence and community groups and did some bonding activities, which was really nice. I like all the people, but it was good to get to be just the people who will be living together.
After that, we all gathered and talked about Shabbat, and the idea that Judiasm is centered on time, not space. Then we lit candles, and then went to the kibbutz’s Shabbat service. Going to the service was optional, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go, but I decided to go. When else would I get the chance to see Shabbat on a kibbutz? My friend Hannah told me she was wary too, being from a reform temple, so we agreed to sit in the back corner together. The prayer books were only in Hebrew, so I generally had zero idea what was going on, but when she knew she explained to me, so that was awesome. The first part was all singing, community wide. It was not at all what I expected from a service. I thought it was more rabbi-led, but this first part was very communal. About halfway through, the rabbi took over from the young woman with a beautiful voice who was leading, and then it was more of what I expected. It wasn’t too long though, and I never felt really uncomfortable. It was interesting, but I didn’t feel bad at all being there, so that was excellent. Once again, thanks to my NewGround experience, I knew more of what to expect and I was less fearful of coming clean to my friends here about never having been to services, so it was not nearly as scary as it could have been. I know if I hadn’t gone to NewGround, I never would have stepped foot in that place.
The service was really nice because it was such a community feel. People were getting up and hugging each other all over the place, and the kids were running around. It wasn’t super serious and formal like I worried it would be.
After services was dinner, which was super delish. It was our first meal here with meat…our guess is that during the week it’s a dairy kosher kitchen and for Shabbat it’s a meat kosher kitchen. There was a crap ton of food, and wine, and it was really nice. OH, I forgot to mention that during the day we made challah! Or, technically, challot (plural.) They told us we could make any shape we wanted (the dough was prepared for us) and we really ran with that. I made two beautiful braided challot – so proud of myself! – and a sailboat, and, my personal favorite, a camel. And someone else made a unicorn and Justin made fun of me for telling her (very matter of factly) that she needed to add a tail because unicorns have tails. But I’m right. They do have tails. Take that, Justin. There was also a turtle, a hotdog, hamburger, bear, star fish, etc. Awesome. HOWEVER, when we got to Shabbat dinner, NONE OF OUR BEATIFUL CHALLOT WERE IN SIGHT. They totally censored our beautiful challah making, and it was very sad.
After dinner we hung out around our rooms for the rest of the night. Since it’s so hot during the day, it’s super nice during the evening. We can just hang out in tank tops and shorts until midnight and it’s really really nice. So we spent hours just out on the grass. Bonding times. I feel like I’m really getting along with all the people, so it’s been a lot of fun hanging out. Then, after some truly fun conversation, I went to bed.