It is hard to believe that we have already been is Israel for a month now: how time does quickly go by! It is surreal to sit down and reflect on the fact that we are actually in this country, and that the year and a half of planning is now no longer a plan but a reality. Currently, we are living on a kibbutz (a communal society) called Maagan Michael, which is located on the Mediterranian coast just south of Haifa, boasting a population of about 1,800. It is one of the largest and wealthiest kibbutzim in the country. The majority of the kibbutz’s land is dedicated to fish ponds, in which ornamental Koi fish and edible fish are raised. The kibbutz also owns and operates other businesses such as a multi-million dollar plastics factory and a diary farm. Mostly, only members of the kibbutz work in the kibbtz’s businesses; however, there are also many people working here that are from other cities in Israel. Here on the kibbutz, even the children are expected to do their part for the kibbutz. Since 7th grade, they work several hours, once a week, in any one of the kibbutz jobs. As they get older, they work more hours and more days a week. The children of the kibbutz are amazing to me: from a very young age, they become independent and self-sufficient. For instance, I have observed a large group of 5-6 year olds come into the community dinning room with their teachers, form an orderly line to get their food, carry their own plate and cup on a tray to the table, sit down, eat, and finally take their tray to the dishwashing area where they place the cups, silverware, plates, and trays in their designated containers. There is, of course, a happy, playful, childness to them, but it is lacking in the unrestraint and immaturity I have seen in groups of children that age back home. The kibbutz has its own schools beginning from pre-K and going through high school. Every school yard has an underground bomb shelter; also, every house has a “bunker”: a room built of steel-reinforced walls, roof, and door. This room will often function as one of the bedrooms or a small storage room; therefore, it looks like anyother room in the house, but the door will be thicker and heavier that the other doors.
The kibbutz is incredibly self-sufficient! It has a small store where you can buy anything from shampoo to ice cream, to cleaning supplies, snacks, dishes, and school supplies; a small market offering fresh produce, meat, diary products, and canned goods; a clinic, dentist office, schools, gym, soccer field, ballet classes, post office, pub, sporting goods store, laundry service, coffee shop, and small auditorium/movie theater. In addition, it has a large dinning room that prepares industrial amounts of food for those living on the kibbutz. However, most people prepare their own meals and eat at home. For Jabniah and I, the dining room (called the Heder Ohel) is our source of meals.
When we are not in our room or the Heder Ohel, Jabniah and I will be either in Hebrew classes or work. Everyday, from Sunday – Thursday (this is the work week in Israel), we work and study. Every week our schedule alternates in the following manner: one week classes are held in the morning from 7 – 11:30 a.m., and the next week they are held in the afternoon from 1 – 5 p.m. The week we have class in the morning, we work in the afternoon, and vice versa. Jabniah is in a different class than I am; therefore, when I am studying in the morning, she is working (and vice versa). So, how is our Hebrew level coming? We can say basic sentences and ask basic questions. Listening to someone’s conversations in Hebrew, we can pick up words here and there. The majority of the people that live here speak English to some degree or another, but we try to speak using what we know in Hebrew and say the rest in English. The place we get to practice most is at work. Jabniah works in the Heder Ohel’s kitchen. She works in the salad area chopping up all kinds of vegetables for salads (and Israelis eat LOTS of salads). In the morning, she begins work at 7 a.m., and in the afternoon shift, she beginns at 12:30 p.m. She is enjoying her job very much and works hard at practicing her Hebrew. I work in the Madan, a company dedicated to raising, preparing, packing and selling ornametal Koi fish and goldfish. I begin work at 6 a.m. On morning shifts, and at 11:45 a.m. On afternoon shifts. I also enjoy my job and the people I work with very much.
This month we were taken on a field trip to learn about the history of this kibbutz. When the young founders of Maagan Michael began to develop the kibbutz, they were asked by the Israeli resistance to take on a very secret and dangerous mission. This was in 1945. Israel was not a state. There was not supposed to be a resistance group. The mission: build a clandestine bullet factory under the nose of the British Mandate and manufacture bullets for the resistance. The founders, a group of 30 young men and women not over the age of 21, accepted the mission, built and underground factory under the kibbutz’s laundry house, and for three years secretly manufactured bullets for the Israeli resistance forces – bullets that won Israel’s war for independence. And do you want to know what the craziest thing is? Judith Ayalon is one of those amazing young women who agreed to take on the mission and made thousands of bullets. Three times last week, I sat across the table from her during lunch and listened to her talk with her friends. She is 85 and lives contently and peacefully on this kibbutz, in this land that by her efforts and hard work (and that of many others just like her) is now the Jewish homeland. Considering her life, what she did, how she is enjoying the results of her decision to be part of the establishment of Israel, both Jabniah and I feel our hearts give out a longing sigh to do something like she did.
In the time that we have been in Israel, we have seen history come alive, seen the landscapes that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the prophets must have seen, met so many people from so many different countries, and have had our minds presented with new prespectives on life. We have so many things to learn and so many things to put in practice. We are very content and sastisfied. Thank you so much for your prayers and your thoughts toward us. God knows why He has brought is here, and we say to Him “May your will be done in our lives.” So be it.