Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Typical Kibbutz Day

Since life around here has gotten fairly routine I thought I'd share exactly how I fill the hours of the day I'm awake with you...

Every morning I awaken to the same familiar sound I have been waking up to for the last 4 years: " It's been one week since you looked at me
Cocked your head to the side and said 'I'm angry'
Five days since you laughed at me saying
"Get that together come back and see me"
Three days since the living room
I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you
Yesterday you'd forgiven me
but it'll still be two days till I say I'm sorry"
Its a song by the Barenaked Ladies and if you've never heard it before I suggest trying to find a copy. It starts out loud and stays that way which is why it has been my alarm clock song for so long. Anyway I digress...

I wake up every morning at 6:15 AM. From there I generally do my morning routine. I get dressed in true work clothing provided by the kibbutz. Since its blue collar work we do they issue blue t-shirts and blue work pants. Work boots are also provided, but they're not blue.

By the time I'm ready for work I grab my ipod and walk the 15 or so minutes it takes to get to the factory. There I really wake up as I get my first cup of coffee. We stand around for awhile waiting for the foreman to come in and tell us what to do. Then its time work. We work from around 7:00 AM until 8:30ish when we stop for a break.

Between 8:30 and 9:15 we eat breakfast in the factory's own cafeteria. I usually eat hardboiled eggs, cheese, toast, yogurt (different fruit flavor everyday), and some more coffee. They serve all kinds of what Israelis call breakfast salads, but seriously when was the last time you saw me eat a salad?

After breakfast we head back to work, but its not long before its 11:15 and we take a break for about 10 minutes. I'm not entirely sure why we take this break, but then again I've spent the last 3 and a half years working in Minnesota where the protestant work ethic is king.

Anyway the break is quickly followed by the lunch break at 12:30. We get a whole hour break, but we have to eat in the main dining hall on the other side of the Kibbutz. Lunch is different everyday. Today I had schnitzel, with rice, chickpeas, jello, and water. Who knows what they'll have tomorrow. The food's not been terrible, but it is strange to see a completely non-kosher dining hall in Israel. They even serve pork here...seems weird to me, but secular kibbutznikim don't seem to care.

After lunch its back to the grind. Speaking of which its time to tell you exactly what I do at this crazy screw factory. I essentially box screws for shipping. We use some pretty sophisticated scales to measure out numbers of screws. Every box is packed and then labeled with all of the important information. Every time I refill the hopper on my machine it offers a new challenge. Will these be the screws that well...screw me? Anyway today the hopper actually was filled with nuts, which was a nice change of pace. (Commence with the jokes here.)

From the end of lunch to the end of the work day we have one more break coming usually around 2:45. Once again it seems like a strange time for me to break because we close up shop at 4:00 PM.

After work I generally shower an hangout with my friends. I usually help them study their ulpan materials, which in turn helps me study a bit too. Sometimes we smoke hookah, sometimes we play futbol. (No one calls it soccer.)

Dinner is at 6:45 but it is by far the worst meal of the day at the dining hall. It is the leftovers from lunch and the previous day's lunch. Its usually way over cooked from sitting in under the heat lamps. I usually opt for a sandwich and some yogurt. Many people in the kibbutz take extra from lunch home to eat for dinner.

After dinner is when the day varies. Being a socialist institution, the kibbutz dictates what goes on and when to everyone. For the Volunteers and Ulpanists, the schedule is especially strict.

Monday Night: 8-9PM Gym time. Its only one hour and no chance of getting more time.

Tuesday Night: 9:30PM-? Pub is open to all Kibbutz residents, volunteers, and Ulpanists. Its a halfway decent bar, but strange hours.

Wednesday Night: has nothing special during it. This is because the volunteer trips happen on Wednesdays. They're not every week, but this week we do have one. We're going into Tel-Aviv and for what I'm not entirely sure yet.

Thursday Night: 8-9PM Gym time. Its only one hour and no chance of getting more time. That's right only two nights a week are gym nights...good luck staying in shape or lifting weights if you are a volunteer or ulpan member.

Friday Night: 9:30PM Movie is played in the cinema. Just one showing and just one choice for movies. The pub is also open on Friday nights, same story, but a few more people come on Fridays.

Saturday Night: With the end of Shabbat, the factories start up again and work resumes. Strange, but the weekend here is only one day. This means that the factories are closed from around 1pm on Friday until about 6-7pm on Saturday. The same movie from Friday is also shown on Saturday, but at 8:30 not 9:30.

Sunday is the first day of the week and back to work. Not much happens Sunday night...its sorta like Monday night in the states...everyone's tired from work and the previous weekend.

So that's my day and week in a nutshell. Hope to have pictures soon for you all...the camera is not cooperating with me right now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

First Full Day/Second Shabbat

So I have had my first full day on the Kibbutz. While its only 11:54 AM here my day is theoretically already complete. I've been assigned a job in one of the kibbutz three factories. The one I work in is owned by the kibbutz company called Mivrag (מיברג.) There they make screws of all different kinds. My job is in the packaging part of the factory. I sort screws into boxes using pretty sophisticated scales. The whole process is quite fascinating to me as I have never worked in a factory before. Today I sorted and packed three different types types of screws. The piece of the factory I work in is quite small for how much work we accomplished in today's half day of work. I also learned how to say a few new words in Hebrew. Most notably the word for screw (בורג.)

On another note...The people here are from so many different backgrounds and places. Its so interesting to see who is here and why. The girl sitting next to me is named Ofri (עפרי) and she's from California. She decided to put off school for a semester at Berkley to live on a kibbutz with some distant relatives. She proclaimed to me last night that she was Ein HaShofet's dairy maid. Which of course sparked a heated debate about whether or not cows actually are happier in California. It ended with me reminding her that while they (California) make more we (Wisconsin) make it better.

There are also two brothers from South Africa. While they're not exactly refugees, their story reminds me that all is not well in Africa. Even what we think of as the 'civilized' parts. Apparently it is a horrible place to live right now. Rampant crime and little job prospects have forced many South African Jews to make עלייה (Aliyah). There is a guy here from Amsterdam who is just looking for new experiences and figured Ulpan was a great way to see Israel.

In the factory today one of my co-workers is a recent repatriate of Israel. While he grew up in Brooklyn and even served in the US military, his heart has always been with Israel (ארץ ישראל.) His family originally is a hybrid of two very distinct Jewish communities off the beaten path. His mother is and Indian Jew and his Father an Iraqi. He and I discussed the state of Israel's current foreign affairs and the possibilities of the future. I can only describe his views as ardently Zionist. To him it is always Israel first.

I don't work tomorrow as it is Shabbat (יום שבת.) On Sunday (יום רישון) I hope to take some pictures inside the factory to show you where I am working. Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Life on the Kibbutz

Well I'm not actually sure of what life on the kibbutz is like yet...so far its pretty boring.

This morning I woke early and went to the Tel-Aviv bus station and caught a bus to Yokneam (יקנעם.) It was my first time riding a bus alone, let alone a regional bus! Anyway the ride was pretty boring. I quite frankly was so bored by the scenery that I fell asleep. When I reached Yokneam I called the volunteer coordinator at Ein Hashofet and he came to pick me up. After about a half hour of rules and what not they basically told me to go hangout for the day. No work today because I'm new.

The kibbutz is very modern. Along with my keys, work cloths, and sheets they issued me a swipe card. No money is used on the kibbutz. Its all done on a credit based system. The volunteers are given 400 NIS to use in the dining hall. The prices in the dining hall are so low its almost funny that they charge. My large plate of cous cous, chickpeas, schnitzel, bread and jello was only 2.50 NIS. Crazy to think because that meal in Tel-Aviv was probably 25-30 NIS! There is a small market here and the only way to purchase anything is with the swipe card. However, the money to buy from the market must come from me. You deposit a certain number of shekels and then you spend. There is also a pub here but its only open on Tuesday and Friday nights. The pub requires a third system of payment called a pub card. I was only told this after I had already deposited my last 100 NIS into the market account. I guess I'll have to go to Yokneam and get more money if I want to go to the pub.

The people here are very different from Tel-Aviv. First of all I haven't met a single Israeli yet. That is not including the ones who work with the volunteers. I am the only volunteer from America and most of the others are from Mexico. I never knew there was a significant Jewish population in Mexico City. After a large group of Mexicans there are a few from South Africa, Ecuador, and Russia. The ulpan group has a handful of Americans and they've been helpful in showing me around. I'll post up some pictures as soon as I have a chance to take some.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here We Go

Today I was finally placed on a Kibbutz for volunteering. It took some string pulling but I'm finally on my way. I will be on Kibbutz Ein Hashofet (עין השופט) until December 16th. The Kibbutz is located about 30 minutes south east of Haifa. They are known for their manufacturing of electronics but also have a significant amount of agriculture. I'm very excited to get my grand adventure past the waiting step.

Over the last few days I've been staying with my friend Gali and she has mostly been at work during the days. This has given me time to wander around Tel-Aviv and get a feel for the city myself. Its been fun but boring at the same time. I've spent a lot of time at the beautiful beach and in and around Rabin Square (כיכר רבין.) Tel-Aviv is a gorgeous city with lots of interesting things going on. While its not tourist season here there are still plenty to be found at the beach.

On another note, I met up with a somewhat long lost friends from my NFTY days. Last night we hung out for awhile and talked about old times. Its a small Jewish world and it only gets smaller here in Israel.

Tomorrow onto the Kibbutz and the next phase of this adventure. More pictures will be posted as soon as there's some time away from work on the Kibbutz. L'hitraot.

Monday, October 22, 2007

First Post Here

Well I'm finally here. I've now been in Israel since Friday at around 9am but today is the first day I found internet for free. Trying to write a blog from an Internet cafe was not really on my mind...

The last few days have been a whirl but I'll try to catch everyone up.

Friday night-

After checking into the Hostel Brett and I hit the beach and relaxed until shabbos started. We had dinner at an American style pub called Mike's place which was just off the beach. It was nice to see familiar food but even better to see a familiar face.

Later that evening we went to a pool hall in Tel-Aviv with our friend Gali Hefetz. She was the Shlecha of St. Paul last year and now lives back in Tel-Aviv. Its nice to know an Israeli around the area so well. She's been helping me a lot with my hebrew by forcing me to listen to her and order food in hebrew.


Shabbat in Israel and i truly made it one to remember. The beach in Tel-Aviv is gorgeous and so are all the people who congregate there. It was crowded, but not too much so. It was great to just relax, people watch, and tan. The water was cool and even more relaxing than laying on the beach.

That night Gali decided not to come out with us but brett and I managed to make it a decent night. Our conversation over beers mostly focused on Israeli politics. Apparently Brett is one day going to be Prime Minister and will need me to be Minister of the Foreign Ministry. Who knows that just might be possible for Brett. Me, probably not, but you never know what life will bring!


A day in Jerusalem, the city which Brett seems to hate greatly. I finally went to the HUC campus and saw first hand where and how nice my school is. I met a few people, but Sunday's are 12-14 hour days of classes for the students so I couldn't even talk to the dean who was teaching a class.

Brett and I went through the old city and I got a decent tour from his knowledge of Israeli archeology. My second visit to the Kotel was just as breathtaking as the first but this time i saw and learned much more than the first. Pictures will be up soon of this amazing trip.

In the late afternoon, tired and thirsty Brett and I invested 50 NIS in three and half hours of hookah and a few glasses of Tea. The hookah bar was in a small back alley and was a great way to kill some time before the HUC students finished up with classes. Brett and I had dinner with a few students at a lovely little pasta restaurant in Jerusalem. Don't remember the name but they had amazing salmon ravioli in a white wine cream sauce.

After an exhausting bus ride back to Tel-Aviv we had lemonade and smoothies with Gali near her apartment. It capped an end to a very satisfying day in both the old and the new pieces of Israel.


Today has been eventful to say the least. After a few days of being incommunicado, I have buckled under and got a sim card for my cell phone. Call me anytime the incoming minutes are free: 052-500-1947 (From the states you must dial 011 before the number.) I bought the phone on my first trip to an Israeli mall. Very different from their American cousins, but still a capitalistic shopping extravaganza. Brett was less successful in finding what he needed, namely red shoe polish for his army boots.

After the mall Brett went back north to the kibbutz and I'm here in a coffee shop in Tel-Aviv. I can't go to where I am staying until about 8pm because Gali is at work until late tonight. The kibbutz office hasn't been able to place me quite yet but I'm confident that it will happen in a few days. Till then I'm trying not to spend too much money and still learning about how things work.

Delayed Part II (Leaving)

Written from the plane 10.18.2007 (8:04 pm CST)

After getting to the airport I found myself almost in a daze. Here it was, its really happening. I’m leaving my comfort zone big time. I’m venturing off into the unknown with nothing but some clothing and a guitar. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by m situation. I’m really doing it…I’m really going to make this happen.

I’m sitting on the plane bound for Israel. The little screens on the plane tell me where somewhere over the South of France. We’re into our third movie of the voyage and I’m not interested in this one. Sorry Jack Black but Nacho Libre…I’ll pass.

Before they made me close the shutter on my window I snapped one shot of the horizon over the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in a long time. I can only think of a song written by a good friend of mine Danny Nichols.

As I watch the sun start to rise

From my seat 5 miles in the sky

I’m starring into a brand new day

For you its already fading away

Dan wrote that song on his way to Israel, probably on a flight similar to the one I’m on now. Some songwriters are able to truly write amazing songs that speak to people. No where is the truer than in Dan’s song “My Heart is in the East.” I first heard the song before I had ever been to Israel. Now I’m about to live there for at least two years. I almost can’t contain my excitement.

My heart truly is in the east…and soon so will the rest of me.

L’hitraot family and friends…next post in Israel!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Delayed Part I

Written 10.15.2007 and completed 10.16.2007

I’m not blogging this in the normal way because I don’t seem to have a wifi connection right now. Its not a big deal, I’ll just post this later when I do find some internet.

Here I am in New York City. I’m staying with my cousin David he lives in a gorgeous apartment right off the Hudson river. Because David is at work till late tonight so I’m pretty much on my own in the City. I decided to go out for a walk and see a bit of the city. I wandered aimlessly around lower Manhattan and ended up at the South Street Seaport. I’ve been there once before, but it was during the summer before junior year of high school. It was fun to relive those memories for a little while. As I walked past the shops I vividly remembered all of my friends from Kutz camp. As I write this I wonder what they would think of me now. We were all young and seemingly on top of the world then. After all, most of us were on regional board in NFTY and having the summer of our lives. Anyway I have digressed…

After wandering aimlessly through the streets of New York City, I returned to David’s apartment where I promptly fell asleep. Long flight, not enough sleep, and a host of other factors caused my need for sleep. When I awoke I was hungry and I wandered my way back to a pub I had passed earlier in the day. There I had what were my last two beers on American soil. I also watched my last NHL hockey game. I met a few New Jersey Devils fans. Nice folks, but not to happy with me having no opinion about the game at hand. Devils vs Penguins wasn’t exactly one where I cared the outcome. “Pick a side,” they yelled at me over the din of drunken businessmen in suits. I was just there to watch the game for its own sake. Meh, no one likes the Devils anyway.

After finding my way back to David’s place, he returned from his meeting. We stayed up chatting about life. We managed to cover almost every topic that seemed important to us: Family, business, friends, love, New York, divorce, and his awesome son Jack. By the time we knew it midnight approached and we decided to go to sleep. In the morning David and I walked Jack to his preschool. While I would have loved to spend more time with both of them, Israel beckons me. I hopped a cab for JFK airport shortly after David left for work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Today is the day...

In about a half hour I will begin my long journey. The first stop on this trip into the unknown is actually a place I know quite well. Today my parents and I will spend the day in Highwood Illinois where my sister Phyllis lives. There I will get to say goodbye to my baby nice Yael (9 months old) and her two brothers Samuel (almost 2) and David (almost 6). I will also have to say goodbye to Jessica my girlfriend of almost a year. Needless to say today will probably be another day full of emotion. Who will it be most difficult to say goodbye to? I have no idea at this point, but I do know a few things. First, my niece Yael will be talking, walking, and so many other things. Samuel will be 4 and David will be 8. A lot will change in their lives while I'm off exploring the world. I will not only miss them, but also miss those events that will shape them. Who knows, maybe there will even be another kid crawling around my sister's house when I return. (Not that I know anything that you all don't.) It will be tough to say goodbye to Jessica. She and I have been practically attached at the hip for the last six months. I don't quite know how I'm going to stay in touch with everyone, but staying in touch with her will be more of a challenge because of how often we talk now. Its going to be difficult to say goodbye, that's pretty much the only thing I can say at this point.

My mom tells me its time to pack the car. I'll have my camera in a few hours so my words will no longer be the only thing to look at on this page.

Monday, October 15, 2007


After talking about it for a few months, I'm now in the final stage of packing for my great Israel Adventure. The number of emotions going through my head that its very hard to write what I feel, but that won't stop me from trying.

I'm sitting in my parents family room and watching what might be my last NHL hockey game for awhile. The Sabers and the Maple Leafs are deadlocked in a 4-4 tie. I should be zipping up my bags, but here I am. I'd love to show you the bags and the packing, but my camera is still not in my possession. I'll have it tomorrow and I'm sure there will be plenty of pictures.

I know this post isn't very long, but I really should be packing. I've got a little bit to go before I'm finally ready to get going.