Weekly Updates – Tel Aviv October 27, 2019
What a week! two days of the holiday of Simchat Torah and a three-day seminar in the desert full of activities, and workshops, it’s been a busy and exciting week.
Ready to hear all about it? Here we go!
The highlight of the week was our 3-day Ketura Seminar.
On Tuesday morning, bright and early at 6:00 am, we departed to Kibbutz Ketura which is in the south of Israel in the Arava desert – 30 min from Eilat (the southernmost city in Israel). Click here to see exactly where the kibbutz is located. It took us nearly 4 hours to get there and from an Israeli perspective, that is a lot!!
We began with a walking tour around the Kibbutz followed by a delicious lunch in the Kibbutz dining room. Then we gathered altogether (both the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Aardvark groups) for a glimpse of what life is really like for a member of a communal kibbutz. The students were split into small groups, and each group was appointed as a committee with a scenario they needed to discuss and come up with a solution to. Communal life on the kibbutz is governed by committees which may include committees such as Education, Finance, Culture, Food, and Ritual. The scenarios the students were given were based on actual situations that happened at Ketura and neighboring kibbutzim. The discussions were interesting to hear and several of the groups came to the same conclusions that the kibbutzim did.
Our next session was a panel discussion with students from Ketura’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Aside from being a top-notch place of learning, the Institute is unique because their student body includes Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans, and students from other countries as well. It was enlightening to hear about the dialogue between them not related to politics.
After the sunset, the Kibbutz staff arranged a BBQ for all of us next to the pool. We had good meat (and also good options for vegetarians), great music playing, amazing people to hang out with. After the BBQ we all gathered for a nice bonfire and smores. For entertainment, we arrange an amazing sing along with a couple of guitars. it was lovely to see how the combination of a bonfire, music, and singing brings everyone together.
Wednesday morning, we all started our day bright and early, at 6 o’clock!, for different Kibbutz activities.
There was a choice of desert art options including a hike up the mountains neighboring the kibbutz, and enjoying a nice view of the kibbutz from above, mud building, decoupage, candle making, oil painting, or a tour/volunteering in the experimental orchards.
Wednesday afternoon, after having time to relax and chill out together, we headed out to the Kasui Sand Dunes. The students went crazy when they saw the opportunity waiting for them in the sand! They were jumping, digging, wrestling, rolling, and running in the soft sand. Some of the group did backflips and surfing – it was fun to watch.
After everyone used up their energy, some of the students had time to pick a spot to be alone and reflect on our experience in the desert. Every student was given a pencil and a piece of paper with some text to read with a few questions to answer about their experience. At the end of twenty minutes of complete silence in the sandy wilderness, the Madrichim gathered their students to share together some of their writings and reflections.
Olivia Cohen Said” during the Ketura seminar we had the opportunity to go and explore the desert by having fun in the sand dunes. after we had all our fun in the dunes the counselors gave us an activity to take in just where we are. over 100 of us were given a piece of paper that contained a quote and were told to go by ourselves and sit in the desert alone. as I read the quote i noticed that I was sitting over 50 feet away from the closest person. in that moment I finally had the chance to think, I thought about how at peace I am, how judged free I am, how relaxed I am, how connected I feel, and how I could just be myself without having to worry about anything. I felt at peace and as I sat there for 30 minutes I couldn’t have been happier.
Back at the Kibbutz, we have treated to a fun Middle Eastern dinner, where we even had the opportunity to make our own pita bread.
This was followed by a memorial ceremony for Aardvark’s founder and former director, Keith Berman z’’l. Keith passed away suddenly and tragically four years ago immediately after the Ketura seminar. Keith loved Israeli dancing and so we continued by having an evening of Rikudei Am (Israeli folk dancing) as a fitting tribute to Keith’s memory and legacy
We danced and danced until it was so late that we had to shut down the music so people could sleep!
On Thursday, we again were given the option between Yoga or a bike ride. The bike ride was around the kibbutz and through the date orchards. One of the highlights was being able to stop along the Jordanian Border. The yoga group was able to meditate in the fields of the Kibbutz and really be in tune with their feelings and emotions and enjoy the peacefulness of the early morning.
We finished out the seminar with a fun game that focused on knowledge about Israel called ‘Schnitzelborscht’. The competition was intense but everyone had a great time whether they won or lost.
To finish our three days together, we held a ‘Mensch Ceremony.’ About a couple of weeks ago each counselor held a session with the students where they discussed what it truly means to be a mensch, how it can help influence the community, society, and all the people around us. A mensch is not only a person who has a good character, but also a person who uses their character to positively influence their surroundings.
Each city (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) chose 4 students, who over the last month have shown these qualities and have contributed to the community as a whole. From Tel Aviv, we had Eliana Okin, Michael Leesfield, Zoe Braunstein, and Issac Schwarz These four students, arrange different activities and brought good vibes and energy to the program. We couldn’t be more proud of our students!!
Next week we can finally get back to our routine after all the holidays. We will also be attending the Masa opening event. there, we will have plenty of activities alongside other Masa programs, and a show by Netta Barzilai the Eurovision winner. it’s is going to be very excited for all of us!
Until next week