Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ketura Continued

Shavua tov!

(Unless you are genuinely interested, I give you permission to skip to the fun stuff at the bottom of the post…but you will miss out…)

Last Week

To bring you up to speed:

  • I spent days visiting friends in Tel Aviv and Haifa. I must say, the Israeli train system is really nice. Had good hummus and good beach time!
  • Bought some last minute essentials and fun things.
  • Moved to Ketura on Thursday (9/24/09).
  • Continuously working on not overeating.
  • It’s date season here!…very important for Ketura.
  • We’re REALLY in the DESERT…hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

The Beginning of the Journey

It is always good to plan for the unexpected.

Here are some of the essentials:

  • Thanks to my cousin Elad, getting to Savidor, the train station in Tel Aviv, to meet the group, was very easy.

  • But, when I arrived, I found out that I had the best Hebrew in the group. The staff member who was “chaperoning” us to the Kibbutz is a very lovely, broad, six foot, blond hair, blue eyes, (non-Jewish) Australian, who doesn’t know the language.

  • So, I had to convince the bus driver, who refused to go ANYWHERE within 500 feet our gathering area, to come closer so we could load the bus with all of our stuff for a year. It didn’t work when I tried, but then Elad gave him some Israeli and he decided to move. SUCCESS? Not really…the bus driver pulled around once, didn’t think there was a place to stand/park, so went back to his original spot…very far away. The whole group ended up schlepping their stuff to the bus. WELCOME TO ISRAEL!

  • For my peers with whom I took Besner’s Honors Hebrew…I passed the Vishay factory form that movie on the way to Ketura.

  • I got my own room, share a bathroom with one other person, and a common area with two more. It’s GREAT, but not for long. Once all the students arrive, they will be moving the undergrads to the “Quad,” which is also very nice, but has doubles. So, for all those who were worried that my room looked very bland in the photos, fear not, you will be smiling on my wall soon enough.

  • After almost burning myself in the shower and combating ant infestation, I really feel settled and comfortable.


    • This is a truly an extraordinary group. Just within the participants from abroad we have gap-year kids; junior year students; people pursuing masters; and even a guy who was a mechanic for six years and has been unemployed for eight months, so he decided to change career paths.

    • Unlike years past, we are predominantly male with only one female. I like this wonderful mix and we all seem to be getting along.

    • I’m excited for more people with much different backgrounds to join us as we pursue a common goal.

  • They gave us all these forms and made us sign our lives away, out of the liability of the kibbutz…a comforting feeling. They also have talked to us about the close-knit 24/7 living experience and trying to prevent burnout as well as ensuring group cooperation such as creating a “nikayon” chart for the houses. But, as I camp person I just thought that was common sense / second nature.

  • They had us going from the very beginning. On Friday morning, after a night at the pub and many jet lagers, we were on our bikes at 6 AM for a wonderful desert ride. That’s ok, because pool time in the afternoon gave me sufficient time to nap before Shaabat.

Shabbat on the Border

I had an action-packed Shabbat with many new experiences.

The highlights:

  • I left Friday night services glowing as I witnessed our family friend, Advah (who is a high-functioning, wheelchair bound, twenty-year-old women, with cerebral palsy) lead Ma’ariv. It was a spectacular sight! I happen to be here on the right Shabbat, because she is leaving the Kibbutz to live and work on her own with similar young adults in Sderot. The community threw her a lovely party after dinner. This whole thing brought a lot of joy to my heart.

  • This morning I awoke at 7AM to meet a few members of Ketura who bike every Shabbat morning. Even though EVERYONE has warned me to stay off of Route 90 (PARENTS, DON’T WORRY), on Shabbat morning it’s very quiet and we took it to Route 40 to tackle the mountain. It was about a 400m climb. It was GLOURIOUS! I know this is just the beginning of a phenomenal riding season. I have highlighted our route here for you:

Click on the map for a larger image. And, look at the post below (“My Bike Ride and Area”) for a better map.

…The best part is we made it back for shul…now, that’s Judaism at its best!

  • At kiddush I was treated to some homemade date liquor. It was unique, interestingly tasty, and VERY potent.

  • Ben and Adi Go Walking

    • After some time at the pool, my new friend Ben (one of four Ben’s) and I took a splendid walk. We get along very well. He’s from Toronto and just graduated from Kings College this spring. We have similar interests, both wanting to integrate environmental studies and medicine. This is the second walk we’ve taken in less than 24-hours.

    • We left the front gate and walked across Route 90 to Ketura’s fields. Before we departed, no one warned us about fatal traffic, scorpions, or the heat. BUT, many cautioned us for the hundredth time – DON’T GO NEAR THE BORDER. It’s actually quite funny…if the army finds footprints, they go around to every kibbutz and find the matching foot.

    • Our first stop was the Date Orchard. As I mentioned, it’s date season! Miraculously, we found an open net of dates. So, of course, we had some. THESE ARE THE MOST DELICIOUS DRIED FRUITS I HAVE EVER HAD! It’s a like biting into condensed honey goodness.

    • After roaming through a cactus growing area, we decided to explore the depths of the property, hoping to hit the border. And, that we did. We eventually left the cultivated area and it finally looked like what everyone thinks of as desert, with beautiful rolling sand dunes. About ten minutes later, with lots of flies following us and swarming our heads, we found the trilingual sign reading: “STOP! Border ahead.” Although tempted to continue, we left our footprint and walked back… (don’t worry, it was legal there)

    • Following some sand dune skiing, we approached the experimental orchards of Dr. Elaine Soloway. Since this is the project Ben will be working on, he knew a few things. We found limes, pomegranates, and lots of argan.

    • We returned for some more pool and sun napping.

Time for the pub…again (don’t worry I don’t actually drink every night….it’s expensive. I just pretend to be cool)…

G’mar Hatima Tova,



  • Since I’ve received a lot of comments about my mehitza Befuddlement, I must clarify: Among other things, I was pretty much saying that just as women can highly influence and improve scientific research, there’s no reason why they cannot have the same effect in a spiritual/religious setting. Does that make sense to you? Leave your comments below…

  • I mentioned not wanting to be a journalist. Coincidently, Karon wrote last week: “Recording every observation that pops into my head every hour of every day is neither normal nor healthy” (Ruminations #159). I have found now that I have started thinking this way, Shabbat is particularly difficult for this habit. As soon a Befuddlement comes to mind, I begin thinking of ways I can remember it until after havdala. OY!

  • I finished reading that NYT Magazine cover-to-cover (including ads) and now have this weird sense of accomplishment.

  • Why is it ok, even on a Kibbutz, for a toddler to walk around naked and urinate wherever he wants AT A PUBLIC EVENT?!

  • I and everyone else have fond that although this is probably the strongest heat we’ve ever experienced, you don’t burn for some reason. We’ve come up with various hypotheses about the ozone, UV rays, sea level, etc. But, until I’m further advised, I think I’ll still apply sun block (at the pool).

  • In the last two weeks I’ve seen a lot of mopping. At first I thought it was so silly to put a rag over a squeegee and call it a mop. However, it’s actually genius! Why don’t we do this in America? It’s cheaper, you can always clean the rag, and it’s less expensive to replace. So, in our land of technology, we’re actually screwing ourselves over by spreading dirt while cleaning. Go figure!

  • With so many stray animals wandering the property and lots of livestock, I was afraid I may step in pooh. But, it’s worse…After my walk today, I found a big glob of irremovable dirt on the bottom of my sandal with DATES as its cohesive! ‘Tis the season…

  • I’m beginning to reconcile that as much as I love the kibbutz life style, there’s REALLY nothing to do here at night. No more city boy. There’s something to be said for this, but I’ve decided we’re in “communal confinement.”

  • Finally, why is it that the only assimilation that Americans undergo when they arrive here – no accent, no attitude, no clothing - is acquisition of the word “EHHHH…”?

Shoutout #21: Me – What can I say, I wanted to join my own adventures!

Shoutout #22: Andrew – I don’t know who you are. Please reveal yourself so I can give you due respect.

NOTE TO ALL – if you join without a picture and/or last name I can’t give you a shoutout.

Shoutout #23: Eliezer (SHINER) Shinnar is truly one of a kind. You continue to amaze and confuse me between not finishing high school, completing college in three years, and especially the various presents you have given me. Keep doing whatever it is you do! I can’t wait to see you in Thailand.

Shoutout #24: Queen of THA, Rachel Podell (RpO, for those who don’t know her full name). Finally, you found the secret…welcome! You are truly a fun adventuress. If only we didn’t have jobs / were responsible staff members in Camp…

Shoutout #25: Cindy Gallin – In the name of RMM, “WOW, Cindy, that is truly a spectacular and unique thought!” Your strong personality keeps us all in line, but you still know how to have fun. Keep up the good work!

P.S. To inaugurate my first official post at the Arava Insitute for Environmental Studies, I thought I might share this sad, but funny clip: Cute Polar Bear Shaving

P.P.S. Please Note: We switch back the clocks tonight, so Israel will only now be six hours ahead (makes for a “shorter” fast!).



  1. how could you not know who andrew is? i've known you for many years, we currently go to school together, and we ride on an ambulance together (sometimes). ouch, adi. ouch.

  2. you forgot to mention how critical I am of people
    on a side note, I am quite disappointed in your flimsy shout outs. please do better next time