Monday, April 2, 2007

ulpan trip

here' a tiny blurb about the last ulpan trip, february 28th

after the desert, i returned to Jerusalem to join the ulpan for one final tiul (trip). we met at yad v'shem , the holocaust memorial museum. all of Mt. Herzl is a remembrance to the holocaust, and the architecture of the museum itself is amazing, basically a suspended triangle that looks out over jerusalem. the museum is a long hallway with rooms on either side so that you sort of snake your way through, deeper and deeper into the horror. at the first end, there was video of pre-holocaust jews, celebrating, dancing, etc. i was very moved by seeing cross-gender dancing (a bunch of young women and men in a big circle, dancing to tunes that the VB's play!) from the early 20th century--the gender separation for dancing among religious people is pretty intense.

needless to say, the whole experience was totally overwhelming. the replica of a train car and the mini model of the body-burning set up were most striking to me. but room after room contained countless heartwrenching stories and many small objects that had been recovered or found.

for now i'm going to move on, there's more to say but its all a bit overwhelming.

from the museum, we went into the old city of jerusalem for a quick bite before entering the tunnels to go underneath the western wall. descending below street level, we walked through tunnels of ancient rock, covered up by later construction. clear windows below our feet showed through to more down below. it was pretty stunning.

Kibbutz Tzora

March 5

so--thanks to valerie, i got in touch with sol etzioni, the secretary of the international communes desk. Sol is a sweet old man who lives at kibbutz tzora. as she predicted, he was absolutely thrilled to be able to play host to a real live twin oaker, and pulled out the red carpet for me. between him and gideon (another member of tsora who did a viz period at TO), i got an incredibly extensive tour of the kibbutz. everywhere we went, he introduced me with immense pleasure and pride as "kassia, from the american kibbutz!"

the kibbutz was started by habonim (jewish zionist socialist youth movement) folks from south africa and Australia. its not religious, i found it very interesting that sol appreciated habonim for providing a way to be Jewish without being religious. there are about 300 members at tzora, and a couple hundred other folks living there. they've even built housing for people's parents, since many people wanted their parents nearby as they get older. recently, the kibbutz gave money for everyone to build a little expansion on their apartment, so there's massive construction going on everywhere.

tzora is between jersualem and tel aviv, near the town of bet shemesh. the views are beautiful of course, its in a little valley at the foot of some hills and mountains. the kibbutz went through their decentralization process a few years back, going the way of most of the other kibbutzim towards privatization. the dining hall now only makes lunch for the kibbutz, and it was a pretty sparse crowd. the facility is used mainly for cooking for other nearby establishments.

tzora has tons of businesses, now mostly privatized. there's a silk screening factory, a furniture factory, a go cart factory ("erasing the stigma of wheel chairs!"), a little zoo, a small grocery, a hair salon, a winery, a pub (open friday nights), and a dyalisis center. some of those have been around for awhile, others are recent ventures of current kibbutzniks. there's also a high school there that serves the whole area, mainly other kibbutzim.

the bureaucratic structure hasn't changed much, there are many committees of course, and there's a rotating "secretary", basically the job of planners except its only one person!! it sounds like people have a pretty similar attitude towards the position too, any little thing to complain about goes to the secretary, and then if nothing happens, more complaining ensues.

sol set up a little event in the evening, meeting with some of the kibbutz teens to chat. that was really great, it was a small group and they were all bright, interesting kids. they asked questions about TO, and i asked them about growing up at tzora. they all had very positive experiences there, and even agreed that if tzora hadn't undergone the privatizing changes, they would have liked to move back there after they finished with the military and school.

we also talked about some of the differences between the kibbutzim and TO. the biggest one in my eyes is the ideology. they were setting up these communities in order to hold the land. many were strategically placed near borders in order to hold that border and defend the country. another big difference is the kibbutz approach to kids. sol was shocked to hear that some folks at twin oaks would rather there weren’t' kids, or that the numbers be kept low. as he said, there kids are their best crop--they have amazing child programs and its just heaven for kids, there's so much to see and do. There were some sililarities too--as we walked by the piles of old computers, defunct ovens etc. in the yard of the kids’ houses, he explained about their special method of using this stuff educationally.

stay tuned (hopefully) for the holocaust museum and the western wall tunnels. and of course the madness of purim! suffice to say, when i came to israel, i never guessed i'd be standing on stage in a golem costume next to a similarlly outfitted kabbalistic rabbi.
i'll be here in tsfat for the next 3 weeks, house and pet sitting and reading harry potter.