– Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan
I was on my way to services on Friday evening when our group leader hushed us down. As a religious man, I had been nervously anticipating the opportunity to pray in Israel. When we quieted down, we heard the call of the Muezzin from a minaret nearby – the Muslim call to prayer. It was beginning to get dark outside, and I felt my feet slow down. For me, Shabbat begins with a feeling of relaxation and awe of the world, a feeling that had never before arrived so powerfully, nor in such a way.
Our kibbutz is very close to the Green Line, and is also uniquely diverse in terms of its Jewish population (other Kibbutzim are almost always entirely secular, or entirely religious). The struggles of coexisting in such a tiny land came into sharp focus. I did not feel drawn in to Muslim religion – I was brought into an acute awareness of how special this land is, for so many people.
Once again, my apologies for the poorly ordered photos - they go bottom up, chronologically.
Picture 1 - Yesterday (Sunday)
Mickey gave us a wonderfully spirited, honest, and personal tour of Kibbutz Shoval, where Mevu’ot Hanegev high school is located (this is where we are working – see other pictures). The kibbutz has a dairy farm, and she spoke about the frustrations of having to meet both health code and Kashrut regulations. Mickey also invited us to have the 3 day old calves suck on our fingers! It felt really wacky, and gooey… then we ate lunch. Yes, we washed our hands.
Picture 2 – Yesterday (Sunday)
Also on Mickey’s tour of Kibbutz Shoval, we visited kindergartens. They have incredible outside play areas! Children play with the things that are no longer needed inside. In America, we call it “trash” (it’s mostly in the background of this particular picture). Nothing here was bought new.
Picture 3 – Yesterday (Sunday)
Ido, the school’s principle, explains a prototype of a machine designed by a professor at Ben Gurion University. It converts chicken manure into liquid fertilizer, and is the first of its kind. The professor asked the school to test it out. Interested in investing? They’re looking for interested folks!
Picture 4 – Saturday
Dr. Clive Lipchin explains the Dead Sea Works and Red-Dead project; the former is behind him. The Works used to be the single largest contributor to Israel’s GDP, and produces vast amounts of minerals, mostly potash fertilizer. Behind the industrial expanse are evaporation ponds of the lower basin of the Dead Sea, and beyond the Sea is Jordan. Looking away from the industrial expanse was a breathtaking sunset.
Picture 5 – Saturday
Dr. Lipchin encouraged us to have a wonderful time floating in the sea and covering ourselves in the mud! Indeed, it is important to appreciate the sea’s wonders if we are going to preserve it for our children. This is an obligatory shot of me reading my Modern Hebrew text while floating in the Dead Sea! It was wonderful.
Picture 6 – Saturday
As you may know, the Dead Sea is tragically shrinking. This is because Israel diverts an unsustainable amount of water from a lake in the north (the Kineret). As the Sea shrinks, the saltwater-freshwater interface follows growing beaches and freshwater dissolves salt in the ground causing large sinkholes. This is incredibly dangerous, and drives home the shocking affects of Israel’s disastrous water policies. This is a place near several holy sites, including Jericho and Masada.
Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority are currently working together to address increasingly complex water scarcity, but their new projects may cause further damage. Hopefully, they can work together to achieve positive changes and set a precedent for further cooperation.
Picture 7 – Saturday
A “Baobab” tree on Kibbutz Ein-geddi. Ein-geddi is mentioned more than once in the Torah, and a beautiful botanical garden surrounds the Kibbutz. This tree grows hollow on the inside. Like all green in this part of Israel, it was just like the rest of the desert before people settled.