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ShnUpdate - Perach 14.02.20

In our second week of Shnat Netzer together as a Kvutsah we have continued to learn together and get to know each other through communal living in Jerusalem as well as a 3 day tiyul in the north of Israel.

At the end of last week, we shared our first Shabbat together of Shnat Netzer as a kehilla, coming together through the beauty of Jewish ritual. Four Shnatties prepared and ran a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service together for the Kvutsah at ‘Beit Dennis’ (the home of half the Kvutsah), those who led the t'filah took time before each prayer to share their thoughts or knowledge about it with everyone; since it was our first Kabbalat Shabbat together it felt important to put into context the prayer narrative of Kabbalat Shabbat. A Shabbat meal and joyous Birkat Hamazon followed. The rest of Shabbat continued communally with Shabbat lunch, ending Shabbat with a majority of the Kvutsah attending a beautiful, musical and spiritual Debbie Freidman tribute Havdalah ceremony at the HUC. I (Noam) found the Havdallah particularly joyful and uplifting, singing a whole range of Debbie’s music ranging from t'filah that I didn’t know to those that I learnt and sung at primary school - bringing back the joy of those memories. A particular highlight for many of us was singing ‘And the Youth Shall See Visions’.

After sharing a beautiful Shabat together, we packed our bags and left early Sunday morning on Tiyul, hiking in Beit Lechem Hagallalit, a short drive out of Haifa. Together with our tour guide Guy, the Kutzah walked through the area which has a rich historical past. Ancient ruins were abundant, a sharp contrast to life in Australia where the oldest ‘buildings’ date back to the early 19th century. The most striking thing to me (Isaac) was the ancient nature of the area. The modern Moshav was originally known as Behtlehem of Zebulun, an ancient Israelite settlement. The site has endured both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires before becoming an Israeli Moshav in 1948. Rich in history and culture, the experience allowed us to connect with the ancient roots of the modern State of Israel.

A visit to an Arab village on the way back to camp was a sobering experience for many. While not true for all Arab citizens of Israel, in many cases there is a distinct difference in how Jewish Israeli’s and Arab Israeli’s are treated. There was a feeling of tension in the air during our visit, which perhaps unintentionally provoked thought about the ongoing struggles in Israel.

Upon return to base camp each night the group weathered the cold conditions at night. With only each other for warmth, the group bonded together, taking another step closer to discovering the true meaning of kvutzah. Despite only being together for two weeks we feel like lifelong friends.

On return to Jerusalem from tiyul, all tired and in need of some warmth, we began a stretching two days of programming on ‘community building’. Wednesday began with an interesting ma’amad led by Orit which included readings from Eric Fromm’s “The Art of Loving”. These readings enabled us to be stretched about our perceptions of Love, aiding us to begin to think about love as the central basis for our way of communal living, through the framework of t’filah.

A perfect way to explore the concept of t’filah was a visit to the Kotel. For some this was their first experience. Together, the group visited the egalitarian section of the wall. Usually, a measly five square metre platform sits away from the main section of the wall where the public is able to pray, however the area is currently under construction and one cannot even touch the only remaining wall of Herod’s temple. For many in the group, this visit was soured by the ongoing fight to egalitarian rights at the most holy site in Judaism.

Netzer wholly rejects the current binary dichotomy that exists (in the eyes of many observant Jews) that Judaism and gender equality do not go hand in hand. It is this that prevents Women from wearing Tallitot, T’fillin, and from reading Torah at the wall, as well as from praying with the Men. The group plans to attend the Rosh Chodesh service with the organisation Women of the Wall. Further along, in the main section of the Kotel the Women’s section is a quarter the size of the Men’s section, which many of us found shocking and extremely uncomfortable. This was an important visit for the kvutzah and provoked thought among the group. Hopefully, the kvutzah finds future visits to the Kotel to be more fulfilling.

Both sessions on Wednesday afternoon focussed on the values behind communal living and the tension between stated intentions and actualised reality. Nicki (Mazkira of Netzer) led us through 18 years of Netzer Veidot motions that passed, and a pattern emerged that as time has progressed the motions have become less purely ideological and more focussed on practical motions - this may be simply due to our satisfaction with our existing ideology meaning constant change is redundant, or a warning that we are straying from our ideological foundations and need to return to them.

One early motion (in the 2000s) encouraged madrichim in all sniffim to engage their chanichim in conversations about Aliyah Nimshechet, something that although still present in our movements - embodied by Nicki( Netzer Australia), Dan Apter (RSY-Netzer) and Tom Smith (LJY-Netzer) who will both make Aliyah later this year - perhaps in more recent years has become less central in the culture of our sniffim. We hope to continue to explore Aliyah Nimshechet as an important option for Hagshama whilst on Shnat, and to evaluate where and how this can sit within our sniffim’s cultures when we return back home.

Our second session on the values of communal living with Rabbi Tamara (Tati) Schagas focussed on the concept of the Minyian and the responsibility of the ‘9 to the 1’ and the ‘1 to the 9’. This was really thought provoking because she really challenged us on whether we want to commit to being an inherently progressive Jewish group or whether our values align more with ‘good universal human values’.

Thursday saw us turn to more localised actualisations of our values with the establishment of several Va’adot (committees) to facilitate opportunities for the Kvutsah and the creation of house Ktubot, beginning our process of intentional communal living.

Tonight, the kvutzah is planning a Kabbalat Shabbat service. Prayer on Shnat has already been a very beautiful space for the group to connect to each other and we hope tonight will be just as beautiful as any night.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.

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