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ShnUpdate - Tzuf 29.04.21


Welcome to Shnupdate number 3. We’re halfway through week two and we all have more colour since the last update even our token ginger (Josh). Since we last spoke, we met the Shinshinim. They are the group of Israelis, our age, who volunteer for a year after school and before their army service. It was really lovely to meet fellow gap year participants who are also having such a corona’fied time. They ran an exciting session for us on Thursday evening that ended up being a mixture of stuck in the mud, football and capture the flag, however, most of us wore sandals or were barefoot so got attacked by thorns in the grass, which led us to quickly escaping and roasting marshmallows together on a bonfire.

Our first Shabbat on Kibbutz Lotan began with a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service, based on the theme of Earth Day, run by Amir (our madrichs youngest son), who has grown up on Kibbutz Lotan and is a member of Noar Telem (the Israeli branch of Netzer). We joined the Shinshinim afterwards and made vegetarian sushi for Friday night dinner. Cycling between both of our houses, with cups of oil and other random ingredients we needed, made for an interesting few journeys. We explored the Kibbutz Lotan pub later that evening and made lots new friends from the region. We spent Shabbat morning catching up on sleep we had lost throughout the week, with all the 6:30am starts and spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool.

Back to a bright and early start on Sunday morning - it’s definitely going to take some time to adjust to starting the week on Sunday and only have one day off instead of our usual two. Many of us, however, have started to adjust to the extreme heat; as proven by the wearing jumpers in 36 degree heat.

We added a third layer of mud to our bench that we’ve been fixing with Yuval, and the Shinshinim leant a helping hand, making it go by a lot faster. What began as a lovely morning session, led to a mud fight breaking out 20 minutes before breakfast, so we all ended up with mud being in places mud should not be… It was very messy but definitely helped with the bonding of the groups.

Later on that day, we did a little bit of Physics with Mark after breakfast, before getting interrupted by swarms of locusts flying in from Saudi Arabia. We hid in the bomb shelter (the green room) with Yuval and learnt about solar ovens and stoves and their positive contribution to the environment, before getting to see some in action!

Monday morning - we packed our bags, filled our water bottles up and watched the sun rise, as we hiked up to the army bunker overlooking the border between Israel and Jordan, that lies 280 meters from Kibbutz Lotan. Although it's empty at the moment, the bunker is sometimes used for IDF training and we found some old tins of tuna, where the underground tunnels meet in the middle. The hour and a half hike meant we had hearty appetites in time for our packed breakfast overlooking multiple kibbutzim and their date fields. We’ve been spoilt with Debby’s delicious breakfast in the tea house that consists of fresh pesto, fresh kale salad, omelettes and more. Some of us even enjoyed the cottage cheese, which makes it pretty memorable; it was something we all refused to touch in our quarantine breakfast (apart from Julian with the strongest stomach).

After lunch we met with Mike, a founding member (1983) and a new personal hero for some. He shared his story and unlike others we’ve met with didn’t beat around the bush and told us why he wants us to make Aliyah and join not only as residents, but members of Kibbutz Lotan.

Having had the opportunity to meet such key people in the community, both pioneers and newer members, allows us to piece the puzzle together and start to understand the future vision of the Kibbutz more holistically.

At 8pm on Monday, we reunited with the ShinShinim for our second Israeli dance class with the enthusiastic Eli. Although we’re pretty sure he makes the moves up on the spot, we’re all hoping for a final class before we leave next week.

We went back to our morning mud building with Yuval on Tuesday, and another delicious breakfast with Debby. Even though its been less than two weeks it’s nice to have a routine to fall into. We embraced the midday heat and picked our lunch from the community vegetable garden. Splitting into two groups, one getting the leaves, herbs and the other picking fresh onions, carrots, garlic, broccoli, kale, lettuce and more. We had the help of Doron, who was living in India before Coronavirus broke out and she shared her knowledge of food with us, enabling us to create a delicious lunch and bring forward with us new skills, for the rest of our lives.

We spent the afternoon by the pool, before a group dynamics session with Debby. Even though we have spent the past three weeks attached at the hip, we’ve noticed the importance of putting extra time and effort into bonding and really appreciating the time we have together. Since the session, we have all recognised a huge improvement within the group. With a 10 minute turnover we had our first venture out of Kibbutz Lotan, 2 minutes down the road to Kibbutz Ketura. A previous RSY leader who our a few of us know well, has been volunteering for the past year and gave us a tour and broadened our perspective of life in the Arvah. Kibbutz Ketura is cooperative, unlike Lotan which began the process of privatisation 6 years ago. Ketura is also a much bigger kibbutz and many of us were more than happy to be ‘home’ on Lotan, which truly holds the feeling of community and warmth for us, immediately after entering the gates.

Yuval met with us again on Wednesday morning, in the Eco-Kef amphitheatre and he taught us about the Dos and Don’ts of container gardens before giving us our power tools and the creative freedom to create our own. We planted, cinnamon sunflowers and basil and we’ll definitely take them with us to Jerusalem, but I doubt they’ll get through the airport unfortunately. We cooled off by having a quick water fight in the greenhouse to help us and the plants! After breakfast, we made our mark on some walls in the Eco Kef using clay, natural paints and our own creativity (lots of pictures of the shnattzuf Instagram account).

Later that day we met with Tess. She is a newer member of the Kibbutz, with two young daughters and she has been in charge of absorption and recruitment of the Kibbutzand for around six months now. She is also a madricha for the ShinShinim, supporting them during their time volunteering on Lotan. She discussed her travel stories and personal relationship with Kibbutz Lotan as well as with Israel and answered all of our burning questions.

Whilst it’s only been a week and a half, it is safe to say that many of us are already thinking about when we can return and how long for.

- Lily, LJY-Netzer

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