Saturday, January 26, 2008

100 Days in Israel

Tomorrow is my 100th Day in Israel.

In 100 days I've seen so much and realized how much I love this place and how much I haven't yet seen.

I've seen factories, kibbutzim, cities, holy sites, archaeological digs, sunrises, sunsets, and so many other things. My blog could not appropriately contain all of these experiences. I know that I have tried, but only by being here with me could you understand the power this place has.

I'm reminded of a song by one of my favorite artists: John Mayer....

I'm writing you to
catch you up on places I've been
And you have this letter
you probably got excited, but there's nothing else inside it
didn't have a camera by my side this time
hoping I would see the world through both my eyes
maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm
in the mood to lose my way with words
TODAY skies are painted colors of a cowboy cliche'
And its strange how clouds that look like mountains in the sky
are next to mountains anyway
Didn't have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world through both my eyes
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm
in the mood to lose my way
but let me say
You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
it brought me back to life
You'll be with me next time I go outside
NO more 3x5's
I Guess you had to be there
I Guess you had to be with me
Today I finally overcame
tryin' to fit the world inside a picture frame
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm in the mood to
lose my way but let me say
You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
it brought me back to life
You'll be with me next time I go outside
no more 3x5's
just no more 3x5's

One day I hope you all get to experience Israel in some way....its truly an amazing place. No words can adequately describe it or its effects on a person, especially a Jewish person.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ט"ו בשבת ועוד

So there have been a few minor developments in my life here on the kibbutz recently. As always I'm here to update you.

So life here is generally boring, but every once an awhile something interesting comes along that makes everything seem happier. For instance, a few days ago I figured out how to put my computer into Hebrew. Unfortunately for the first few days I was unable to type in Hebrew because the keyboard is not phonetic to the standard English QWERTY. No matter, for twenty shekels (20 ₪) I purchased a set of glow in the dark stickers with both English and Hebrew keys. Its pretty cool looking and now I have to learn a second keyboard. Switching between the two is fairly easy, I just hold down alt+shift to switch between the two. Quite nice if I do say so myself. I'm still searching for a freeware Hebrew keyboard teaching program, but no such luck yet. Meh, this is still a significant source of joy to me...a testament to how boring Kibbutz life can be sometimes.

This week was ט"ו בשבת (Tu B'shvat.) I'm sure most of you knew this because Phyllis' various blogs have all be discussing both the holiday and a greener lifestyle. Well being in Israel I thought that I would be able to get the upper hand on her by taking pictures of myself planting trees in the Negev and helping to fulfill the dream of David Ben Gurion to establish both Jewish settlements here and making the desert bloom. However, sadly Jewish law has interceeded on my sister's behalf and I was not able to plant a tree here. This year is the seventh year of the cycle of planting and according to Jewish Law, this is the year of rest for the land. No planting of trees, crops or anything else for that matter. No pictures of me helping to fulfill Ben Gurion's dream....that will all have to wait until next year. Unfortunate, but a reality of life.

Another interesting thing about life here on Revivim is the placement of holidays. While ט"ו בשבת was actually on the 22rd of January or Tuesday, the Kibbutz does not celebrate any holidays that may interfere with work. Work here is paramount. So any holiday during the week is shifted to the next Friday evening or Saturday afternoon. Thus we will be having a Tu B'shvat Seder (שדר ט"ו בשבת) on Friday evening after dinner and before the bar opens. It seems strange to me, but it is simply the way of things here. I suppose it says a lot about the priorities of this Kibbutz. Work always comes before anything else...even Jewish holidays.

This weekend I'm staying here on the Kibbutz, for the Tu B'shvat seder. However, next weekend I'll be heading back to Kibbutz Ein Hashofet to visit some old friends from my days of volunteering. After that Mom and Phyllis will be here! I'm so excited to spend a few days in Jerusalem and see some family.

I've uploaded a few new pictures so you should all check them out.

Till next time!

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Brief History of Kibbutz Revivim

This Last week my Hebrew class took a trip to the Kibbutz's museum. In this museum is the history of Kibbutz Revivim...I'll briefly summarize.

Kibbutz Revivim grew out of the Youth Aliyah Movement during the time of the British Mandate. The British Mandate Authority allowed Jews to purchase land, but not create settlements. The group that was to become Kibbutz Revivim was just a small group living in Rishon LeZion, a small suburb of Tel-Aviv. The group was finally granted a small parcel of land in 1943. They were to fulfill the dream of settling the Negev. However, because permanent settlements were illegal...Revivim was established as a Agricultural Research Station. Its formal name was Mitzpeh Revivim or Watch tower Revivim.

With no actual roads to it and only a small desert piece of land, it took 5 hours to make the trip to the new land. Today it takes about 2 hours. The first settlement was only three men. The station grew slowly and eventually some of the women were allowed to come. The growth of the new settlement was stopped by the War of Independence in 1948.

During the War Revivim was the center of Israel's defense of the Negev. Kibbutz Revivim had many purposes during the War. An airstrip was built to bring in supplies. The caves which were once home to the settlers became the field hospital and main base. Many brave men and one woman of Revivim fell during the war. However, after the dust settled and Israel's position became clear...Revivim became the heart of the Negev. Revivim now has moved about a kilometer away and the original kibbutz has now become the museum.

Check out my pictures of the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tragedy Strikes in Israel

Every week I read the Israeli newspaper in Hebrew and I have very quickly learned the words for rocket, casualty, killed, and terrorist. It is unfortunate that I've had to learn such phrases, but they are part of Israeli culture. Every week more rockets fall from the sky onto unsuspecting Israeli communities that just happen to border the Gaza Strip. Israel's responses are always swift. It is a cycle of violent actions which beget more violent actions. My heart weeps for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. I weep because neither side has know peace, ever in their lives.

Just a few days after President George W. Bush left Israel a violent tragedy has occurred. An Ecuadorian volunteer was gunned down by an Palestinian sniper while he was working in the fields of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha (עין השלושה). He was only 20 years old and only was looking to get away from home for awhile. Its terribly sad, especially for the Ecuadorian volunteers on my kibbutz. I can't imagine a life where going to work in your farm fields requires a bullet proof vest.

As if this scene weren't bad enough the Israeli's responded quickly to the attack. The IDF killed 15 Palestinians in a raid near Gaza City. Attack and and defense, attack and counter attack. This is the life here in Israel. While in the past, the United States of America has taken interest in fixing the situation, the current administration seems to be interested in other endeavors in the Middle East. I have been reading the Dennis Ross book called "The Missing Peace." It describes the great lengths which the George HW Bush (Bush I) and Clinton went to to attempt to broker peace deals in the region. By comparison George W Bush (Bush II) has barely lifted a finger. He has only visited Israel twice while in office. He has made outrageous claims that he hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian deal by the end of his term. This is clearly not even close to possible while rockets fly from Gaza on a daily basis and Israeli planes bomb Gaza right back.

Living on a Kibbutz so far away from either Gaza or the West Bank puts me in a unique position to view the conflict. Be'er Sheva and Revivm are possibly some of the safest places in Israel. The view isn't always pretty from the highest and safest perch. Neighboring regional councils are in quite real danger and there seems to be no end in sight. I pray for peace, but I don't know if that has ever been enough. I'm at a complete loss...its just hard to fathom such hatred.

Please pray for peace and pray for comfort for an Ecuadorian family who didn't know when the kissed their son goodbye, a few months ago, it would be the last time they saw him.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


So today I went to Be'er Sheva on the 3pm bus from Revivm. Normally taking this bus is a happy occasion as I'm getting off the Kibbutz for a nice change of pace. For some reason its nice to walk around a city once and awhile. Today I went for a different reason. My phone broke about a week ago and I had to go back to Be'er Sheva to retrieve it from the store. Don't worry about the phone as the problem was apparently fairly minor to fix. Since it was my problem and no one really had business in Be'er Sheva I happened to go alone this time.

On the bus today was a group of my Israeli friends who are members of this Kibbutz's Nahal Garin. A Garin is a group of Israeli's not from a Kibbutz who agree to live on a Kibbutz and do a whole mess of other programing. After their army service they are eligible for full Kibbutz membership, something not generally available to the general public of Israel. Anyway, the Garin members get one weekend off a month and it generally starts on Thursday and goes till Sunday. They all tend to go back to their parents houses wherever they may be.

Seeing all of them happy and excited to go home and see their parents reminded me of just how far away from home I am. Its funny to think about how long I've been here. At this point I've been here for over 80 days. (83.5 to be exact.) I know that I was away from home for the last 4.5 years, but its different being in Minneapolis than it is being in Israel. Having no family here is difficult even with so many friends here. Friends are great, but family is priceless. So this weekend I'm going to Tel-Aviv to see my brother...I know he's not my real brother, but Brett is probably the closest thing I have to family here in Israel. There's no firm plans, but I do know that it will be nice to see him.

I know I haven't been the best at communicating with family and friends this past two and a half months, but I'm going to try and change that. However, with that said I'd really like to here from my loyal readers, especially the family. Anything would be great...emails...comments on the blogs...and phone calls. I love all of you guys and want to thank you greatly for all the support you've sent my way. I'm just having having a tough day today...

Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Another Week

So its been another week of Ulpan and I thought I'd update you all on the happenings around the Kibbutz.

Class is going quite well. We're going over verb forms...which is review for me, but its great to review. Every class I learn new words and read more and more fluently. I've been reading the back page of the new immigrant newspaper. Its the easy page with only abbreviated articles, but its very cool that I'm reading the news in Hebrew.

As for speaking...I've managed to put myself into the only job where English is absolutely not spoken. So every day in the kitchen I get barked at in Hebrew and I'm starting to bark back. Not really interesting work, but at least its work I know and easy to do.

Not much else has happened this week...New Years was the highlight. There is a party in the Kibbutz tonight for Sylvester. It should be a fun time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My First New Years in Israel

So Israel is a very strange country. While living in the modern world and mostly doing business in it, there are a few exceptions. New Years in Israel is not really a holiday. My Kibbutz doesn't take the day off of work and even goes so far as to change the date of New Years to this Friday...we don't work Saturdays so its easier to have a party.

Israelis call New Years Sylvester. After some quick research to find out why I feel that it is only an Israeli sense of humor which could spawn such a name. Check out his article on wikiepedia to understand more. He was a huge anti-Semite, but his Papacy ended on the 31st of January 335. The 31st is also his saint day. All kinds of strange going on with the holiday here.

Anyways...we decided to head to Tel-Aviv for some fun. By we I mean almost the entire Ulpan group and most of the volunteers as well. It was quite a good time. We went to a club called Concha which is in the old Port area of Tel-Aviv. We essentially danced the night into the morning. We finally made it to the Kibbutz we were staying at, in Rehovot, at around 5:30am. We slept the day and meandered back to Be'er Sheva. We finally made it back to Revivim around 6:30pm. It was quite a wild night and quite an amazing way to spend New Years.

Pictures will be coming as soon as I can gather all the cameras that were in the club with us.

One New Years in Israel down...One more to go on this great adventure of mine.