Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
This week, Orit, the Netzer Olami Rosh Chinuch (Head of Education) and I went to visit our shnattim on Kibbutz Lotan. We arrived just in time to meet them on their communal tasks around the eco-neighborhood (ASA The Bustan)- cleaning the kitchen, dealing with compost, cleaning the bathrooms, creating bio-gas (!), watering the plants with recycled water, and later finding their way to their air-conditioned domes, for a quick rest before their Hebrew lesson.
After Hebrew and dinner at the Cheder Ochel (dining hall), we spent a couple of hours with the shnattim, starting with a lovely Ma'amad (creative prayer) ran by Bec and Nancye. Later, we ran a peula (session) called "The mailman", during which they write each other short notes about things they appreciate in others, what they are sorry for, their hopes for the coming year etc.
The next morning Orit and I went to see them in their work branches- during breakfast we saw Rosa and Mia, who had a toranut (shift) there; we visited in the Refet (working with cows) where Ayanda and Judith work; we joined the "roof team"- Ben, Bec, Maxine and Henry, as they were removing stones and things from roofs, so they could be remade before the winter; lastly, we drove to the date fields, where we met Nancye, Jordon, Tamara, Rochelle and Noa, removing sacks off the date trees before the date season ends. Mikaela was on a day off, Olivia went to travel with her brother who came to visit her, and Ella was overseas.
This visit showed me how much this group grown and matured- I saw it in the gentle way they helped each other; in the meaningful looks they have between themselves- saying what they need without words; in the fact that they ran a Ma'amad two days in a row, so one community member can say the Kaddish; in the comments I heard after they each read what the others wrote to them; in how they integrated into the Kibbutz- it was really great seeing that.
In a week today, the new Northern group- Shnat Nof North, will arrive to Israel. After a few days of orientation in Jerusalem, they will join the old- experienced and cool Southerners on Kibbutz and will have two weeks to learn some important things about Shnat. This is quite an exciting and frightening period for our group, as it also means their Shnat is about to end. One can only wish that they accomplish everything they hoped for and more, and that everything they gained this year will remain with them for years to come.
Here is a video we made after our visit on Kibbutz Lotan this week, to give you a glimpse into a Shnatti's day on Kibbutz Lotan-
This week we will have a different corner, written by Ady Blum, the Etgar director and a project manager in Netzer Olami-
Road no. 1 (from a Yerushalmi point of view)
More than I know Jerusalem, Jerusalem knows me. Jerusalem knows me in the sense that people in the street are less strangers, we saw each other so many times, in daily life, in random shabbat dinners at a friend's house, in protests, in festivals at the old city, as well as in times of sorrow and fear.
When the stabbing attacks were at their pick, people walked with others, allegedly strangers, at night so they won't walk by themselves. When I get out of my flat I bump into aquaitances who ask me "how's your project going?" and I ask them how was their vacation in greece and so on. My life echoes in my neighboers' lives. Jerusalem has lots of walls, but has no walls at the same time. You cannot isolate yourself from what happens in the public sphere.
Tel Aviv is sexy and shiny. The summer is eternal there. Tel Aviv offers you lots of pleasure, amusement and entertainment. It has delicious food, good beverages, beutiful ladies and gentlemen. But Tel Aviv doesn't know you, and doesn't particulary care about you. My life doesn't echo in others' lives, in the city. And there is some kind of a distance, a gap, between one's personal life and the social occurance or society as such. Tel Aviv has no walls but almost no solidarity. It idoles the capitalist way of life. Success and wealth are the organaisng guidelines of the social and public landscape.
Tel Aviv faces London, New York and Berlin. Jerusalem faces the sky above and the communities down to earth. Tel Aviv teaches me that success is in your own hand. Jerusalem teaches me that "we're all in this together" for good and for bad. That's why I live in Jerusalem.
How are you all doing?
"And so it continues" continues, as I write to you from the vibrant Udaipur, Rajasthan.
My time in India has been ultimate for reflection and thinking about the future. My own personal future as well as the future of the movement, Etgar, and where I hope to see Israel develop.
There's a calm sensation that covers this land. A natural slowness and gratitude that helps people notice the little things and from which they can wash off the dust of daily life.
People are present in every moment. And feel that moment with all their senses - the type of lifestyle I feel we should all learn from. And I definitely feel that all this puts me in a peaceful enough mindset to think about the good, the bad and the change that needs to happen.
My encounters with locals have caused me to reach many important realizations about communities, Tikun olam/globalization and especially gender and feminism. I've come across several women who have stated things such as "It's bad luck to be born an Indian woman" or, "If I wore what you were wearing, my brother, father and husband would *thrusts fist upon hand to demonstrate the outcome*..." Intense and heartbreaking at times.
It challenges the idea of western people traveling in third world countries. Am I selfish in what I am doing? In coming here to India to collect some spirituality and yoga lessons, am I enhancing the differences between the women of this country and myself, a privileged white woman who is free (relatively) in this world?
Perhaps. I am yet to have come to a final answer. But I hope that meeting these women and having confused conversations with them in half Hindlish (Hindi and English) and half sign language will, maybe, allow them to break out of the box they're trapped in that is part of their culture, that is often as painful as it is beautiful. (At least from the lens of my Israeli eye.)
Not that I'm saying I can cause such a thing...but possibly the tourist culture in this area as a whole will lead to some change in how women are perceived here.
Which brings me to globalization and Tikun Olam. I can't for the life of me understand why there are so many people who couldn't care less about the horrors going on in our world. How do they not feel any obligation to work towards a better future for all of the people who fill this planet? We all consume products that are originally made in sweatshops in these countries. We all eat food that's been imported from these countries. Some of us even visit these countries for our own cultural and adventurous pleasure.
I know I'm guilty of all three and many more.
So how can we stand aside and watch the capitalist patriarchy rule not only our society, in our counties, but rule an order of slavery, poverty and violence? And if we stand aside and do nothing, are we part of that capitalism, even if we don't agree with it? If Netzer believes in equality, maybe we should start talking about the larger society, and not just our friendships, our communities, our cities.
Of course there's still a lot of work to be done there, and that's not to be belittled. I even think this perspective on my life, understanding the power I do have in my hands, has given me even more motivation to fight for gender equality, religious equality and of course ending the occupation in my home.
When I think about the upcoming Etgar, and the question of communal effort Ady brought up today, I find it hard to find a balance between an ethical interaction with another people, and an influential interaction. Of course western travelers in India create a much larger cultural gap than Netzerniks in Israel, and one could claim that Israelis are the same people as Netzerniks on the basis of religion (of course that then rules out the Yachad school) but there are still differences, language being the most critical in my opinion. And since I know how passionate Netzerniks are about Israel and bettering it, because they do (hopefully) feel an obligation towards Israel (#Reform Zionism!!!) I am trying to think of a way for there to be as much doing as talking on Etgar when it comes to these things.
Your thoughts on this will be incredibly helpful. If I put it into pointers, I would like to hear your ideas on Hebrew, communal effort (to continue our conversation from earlier today) and Tikkun Olam lessons. Ideologically, I know we are completely there - Reform Zionism, socialism, feminism etc.. But if you have any new ideas about how to put those three lessons into action, I believe the next Etgar will have greater potential to be a living, learning and doing community, like you were.
And now to bring it back to Etgar Ma'ayan. I hope that as lech lecha develops and as you all become more involved in your bogrim forums in these next years, we can all engage in important conversations that four months on Etgar just don't allow us enough time to cover. With that said, what is being discussed in your mazkirot and veida this year in the different sniffim? Southerners, how is the socialism agenda coming along? Northerners, how is uni/college? I'd love to hear about your courses and this new chapter in your lives. Sharon, how is Aliya nimshechet going?
Being away from the office, Ady, the southerners on Lotan and the box of sweets, is very strange for me. This time has led me to realize even more how important community is in my own life. How much the values we speak of at Netzer are the ones I'd like to constantly live by, and well, yet again, how amazing the last Etgar was. As time goes by, my appreciation for your kvutza only grows and I'm so excited to see what the years bring for you all as individuals and together.
Please share your thoughts about the lessons and stories from your day to day lives.
With love and a poorly Delhi belly,
In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion-
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
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