Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
This week was a meaningful one- Shnat M'ayan ended and most of our now ex-shnattim left Israel to tour the world a bit before returning home. Some of them are already back home, and we wish them and their families the best of luck! For our Northern Shnat Nof it means they are now the only shnattim around. To read more about their experiences on Kibbutz Lotan, read the corner below! To add to this, this week the last member of the group- Eve Phillips, arrived to Israel, and here is the post published by RSY- Netzer on Facebook:
"Today, we were delighted to see Eve Phillips head to the Promised Land and join the rest of Shnat Nof 5777 at Kibbutz Lotan.
We send her on her way with the same blessing as we offered the others...
May the One who blessed our ancestors, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, Bilhah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless and keep our chavera, Eve Phillips of Shnat Nof 5777, as she starts this new journey. May she face all the challenges that lie ahead with courage in her heart. May there be blessings on everything she does this year from the encounters she has with new people and new ideas to the hikes she does and the plans she creates.
Let us all support her this year- be it with an ear to listen to frustrations or with a finger to offer frequent Facebook likes.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!
Weekly update by Sara Conway and Jess Mindel
It's been another busy week on Lotan.
So in the morning on Thursday we did landscape gardening with Daniel and that was a very fulfilling experience. We worked really hard at it and we all felt like we accomplished something in that session. After lunch we had a processing session on the US election, and a discussion on what we can do to ensure issues we feel passionate about aren't disregarded. It was a interesting to hear other peoples opinions on that topic. After that we had potluck preparation and we all cooked a dish together to bring and it was very enjoyable to cook as a group and have a communal experience in the kitchen.
On Friday we had a session with Alex on the lunar and solar calendar. Tom said "it was his favourite session of the week" because it was very eye opening and how all the Jewish festivals are linked together. The LJY shin shin from last year popped in for a visit and Eve arrived to Lotan so finally northern Shnat Nof was complete. We had a session on this weeks parashat. Elinor said "it was interesting discussing how Sarai's rights were abused in the Lecha l'cha portion, in light of Trump's victory despite his blatant sexist opinions". We then had Shabbat dinner and Sara, Ilan and Jess did toranit and it was a very fun experience.
Saturday we just relaxed in the bustan and some people went to host families and others cooked communally in the bustan kitchen and it was very a lovely day and evening.
On Sunday Sara and Emma ran a ma'mad and that was successful. We had a fun theatre workshop with Debbie which included us being blindfolded and someone leading us around the Eco kef space. We also had our second talk we Michael Livni about intentional communities v a community. In addition we had our regular Sunday Hebrew lesson with Leah. To finish the day we cooked dinner for the kibbutz and that was very a rewarding experience.
So on Monday we started with our usual ma’amad and chores. We then had a very interesting session with Adam on the theoretical side of mud building; why we build with mud; the key steps involved and we were shown multiple images of buildings made entirely of natural resources. We then smoothed out the final coat of mud on the nursery wall which was extremely satisfying as we have now completed building up a wall which will permanently be a part of the kibbutz. After lunch we had a permaculture session with Alex. “It was so fascinating how a topic about ecology and the creation of community can be related to such important topics, including feminism.” – Elinor Knox. After dinner that night, the boys had a mens’ sharing circle run by Adam. “being sceptical at first, it ended up being a really warm and friendly . environment for us to talk in.” – Dan Apter. Whilst the mens’ sharing circle was happening, the girls had a talk altogether about any issues we were having and general women talk.
Tuesday was not a good day for Jess as she woke up with very painful tonsillitis…….
after our morning ma’amad, we had another session with Mark on community, this time talking about paradigms. “Mark made us look at global events, break them down, and look at how it’s possible to shift alternative paradigms into new ones. I thought it was really interesting.” – Tom Smith.
Tuesday afternoon we had free time so we all decided to go to Eilat together on the bus. Some people got piercings, some went to the beach. We all went to the shopping centre to have a nose around which was great fun. Small groups went off to get different dinners before everyone went to get ice cream and go off to the market in Eilat to buy nice jewellery and Israeli clothing. We left Eilat at 9:00 and everyone went to bed as soon as they got back…big day tomorrow!!
We woke up at 5:30 this morning to be ready to be taken to the date plantation at 6. We spent the whole morning in the date fields, giving back to the kibbutz. Up until now it has almost felt like we have been breezing through and not really giving anything back. After today however, it definitely feels like we are doing something for the community. We spent the whole 8 hours putting the cut off date branches into two columns in each row so that the tractor could come along and shred it all up, making it usable to protect the ground from the suns heat and to stop weeds growing around the date trees.
After a very well needed lunch at 2, once we got back to the kibbutz, we had a good couple of hours of free time in which people showered and napped before we went to have dinner with some of the younger kibbutz members.
All in all another GREAT week on Kibbutz Lotan. Signing off, Jess and Sara.
A Holiday is Born: Diaspora Israel Day Featured in Times of Israel
On November 8, 2016, the Hebrew date of Cheshvan 7, dozens of Reform communities, rabbis, educators, and lay leaders around the world celebrated Diaspora Israel Day, a new Jewish date on the calendar honoring the relationships and strength among our people despite being scattered around the globe.
Diaspora Day in Israel
Now in its second year, DOMIM is a partnership platform of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) together with the government of Israel, led by Rabbi Nir Barkin and Smadar Bilik, that strives to create an open group of progressive Jewish communities around the world, linked to each other and to Israel. Rabbi Barkin and Diaspora Israel Day were featured in this Times of Israel article, “A Holiday is Born!” highlighting initiatives on 7th Cheshvan that honor aliyah, Israel-Diaspora relations and more.
Connect with Diaspora Israel Day online to learn more about this new holiday, including resources and materials for you to download and introduce to your communities.
Opinion // Diaspora Teens Won't Commit to Israel or Zionism? Don't Panic
We need to stop rose-tinting the past. Serious Israel engagement has always been a minority pursuit, not least for Diaspora Jewish teens
By Robin Moss, Netzer Boger
Narratives matter. The stories we choose to tell ourselves about what is happening in our communities profoundly affect, and effect, policy-makers. Funding, content, preferred frameworks – all are the product of narratives framing the perceived challenges.
Sara Hirschhorn’s recent important article (“Liberal Zionists, We Lost the Kids,” Haaretz, Oct. 31), which has already generated significant debate, presents just such a narrative about the attenuating connection of young British Jews to Israel. In her telling, they have little emotional, ideological or intellectual connection to Israel. Israel is just one tiny part of the vast mosaic that makes up their worldviews.
At certain times in their day-to-day lives, perhaps when they're 16 and deciding what to do during the summer after their GCSE national exams (their sophomore year), it might come to the fore (over 50 percent of British Jewish 16 year-olds go on a UJIA-supported youth movement tour of Israel each year). But, ultimately, she posits, Zionism is largely irrelevant to them. Israel really is just another foreign country.
In my experience, there is some truth to this. Having engaged with thousands of young British Jews, it's clear that partisans of the opposite narrative (that young British Jews are card-carrying, flag-waving, ultra-engaged Zionists) are wrong.
The hyper-engagement of a small core of families, whose teenage children are involved in youth movement leadership, left- or right-wing Israel activism, activism on university campuses, can't mask the reality that the vast bulk of young British Jews are just not that invested in Zionism. They engage with Israel on their own terms, and without the passion or fervour of their youth leaders' and Jewish educators’ dreams.
Furthermore, Dr Hirschhorn is right to say that when educators think about what a strong connection to Israel should entail (such as the particularism inherent in Zionism as nationalism) this does indeed go against general Western teenage sociological trends.
However, there is more going on in terms of British Jewish identification with Israel than Hirschhorn’s narrative suggests.
Firstly, context. The Israel today’s Jewish Diaspora teenagers are growing up with is radically different to previous generations.
For those born around 1948, the teenage of the 1960s knew a pioneering, socialist, idealistic Israel of Eichmann trials and heroic Six Day War miracles. For those born in 1978, the teenager of the 1990s saw an Israel making peace, absorbing vast numbers of Russian and Ethiopian olim and winning Eurovision with a transgender performer. For those born at the end of the 1990s, the picture is very different. The teenager of the 2010s sees an Israel enmeshed in a cycle of seemingly endless violence with no meaningful peace process with the Palestinians, great wealth next to staggering inequality and religious/secular and Arab/Jewish tensions laid bare for all to see.
This is not to say that the changing reality is “Israel’s fault” (the oft-heard cry that “Israel makes itself hard to love” is a rather cheap way out for educators unwilling to do the hard conceptual work to understand why young people don’t want to engage. Blaming Israel is easier). But it is to say that the educational challenge of engaging today’s teens with Israel is contextually different than it was in the past and simply rebranding old educational messages won't wash with this generation.
Secondly, the elite and the mass
It’s time to take off the rose-tinted glasses. Judged by certain criteria, things really were better in the good ol’ days – for instance, British Jewish high school graduates routinely used to spend a year in Israel before university, and these numbers have fallen precipitously, and U.K. Jewish communal unanimity over Israel has decisively broken down.
But the truth is that serious Israel engagement has always been a minority pursuit. Was there ever a time when a large percentage of British Jewish teenagers could converse fluently in modern Hebrew? Were there ever thousands of teens eagerly debating the finer points of Herzlian Zionism? At the mythical peak of our community’s engagement with Israel (let’s say immediately post-1967), what actual proportion of the community could articulate in a meaningful sense Zionism as Pinsker-eque auto-emancipation?
Like much in Jewish life, we overestimate the glories of the past and underestimate the successes of the present. Today, more young British Jews than ever, in a wider range of frameworks and hearing a broader set of voices, are spending time in Israel. Your average British Jewish teen will go to Israel at least once on a serious, well-thought-out educational program. Israeli culture is increasingly accessible, offering an alternative to the American Jewish milieu. Low cost airlines like Easyjet really do allow Israel, less than five hours' flying time away, to be a “hostel/hotel”, and even if it is not the “home/homeland” of our educational dreams, the normalization of spending time in Israel is a positive trend.
Israel is open to young Jews like never before, and they are grasping it. That they cannot fully articulate this connection is a challenge, for sure, but also an opportunity.
Finally, identity is complex and identity-formation is changing
Research shows that young Jews are getting married, making major life decisions and choosing their fundamental values commitments later. For many, it is the mid-to-late-twenties when values are fixed and life paths set. Therefore it's hardly surprising that Hirschhorn’s teenagers were not particularly committed to Israel or Zionism. Commitment comes later.
Many Jewish teens are running as fast as they can just to stand still as academic pressures, the struggle to fit in (made more complex by social media) and adolescence weigh them down. To put it bluntly, there is so much else going on in teenage identity that comparatively abstract concepts such as Jewish peoplehood are just not that high on the agenda.
But the research also tells us not to worry. A few years later, things will be different. Eventually, Jewish, Zionist and other identities will emerge, and will be shaped by a whole raft of experiences. Educators can provide a bedrock of knowledge, understanding and emotional connection during this emerging adulthood phase. None of this takes away from the scope and diversity of programs in Israel aimed at teenagers. But whereas once they were enough, now they are just the start.
Sara Hirschhorn has performed an important service by forcefully expressing a particular, and challenging, narrative. And narrative matters. But we should nuance her narrative a little, without swinging between panic or rose-tinted glasses, and work together – to respond to young people’s questions, ideas and enthusiasm with inspiring programs allowing them to come to their own conclusions around Israel and Zionism. But not to our timetable. In their own time.
Robin Moss is a Netzer Boger (graduate) and was a Youth Worker at LJY- Netzer. He is currently Head of the U.K.-based UJIA Centre for Israel Engagement, established to address the contemporary challenges of Israel education. Follow him on Twitter: @robinmoss86
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-
Without a doubt, the best Shnat confession I heard in many years- one with a strong and meaningful statement. Well done Mikaela Webb.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
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