by Sophie Handloff
The end of our free weekend brought the reuniting of our family of twenty-one for our third and final week of volunteer period. After living together for two weeks, coming back from our weekend away to our house at Givat Oz felt like coming home. We got back pretty late, but that didn't stop any of the shenanigans that usually go on at night around here. This can be anything from card games that end in screaming matches, late night grilled cheese, midnight shadow puppet shows or live streaming sports games in the middle of the night. Regardless, we woke up Sunday morning (Yes, Sunday is a workday in Israel!) ready for our last week of work.
For me that meant heading to the refet, or cowshed. There, we are mainly responsible for caring for the baby cows. Every morning the eight of of us come in to feed the cows, give them clean water, and make sure their crates have dry hay. But, once the routine tasks are finished, each day brings new responsibilities!
One of the most exciting responsibilities we have been given is receiving new baby cows! Usually once or twice a week we become proud parents as we bring in five new babies, walk them to their new homes, and of course name them all. Then we begin caring for them and watching them grow. This becomes a huge responsibility, as one day in the life of a baby cow is way more significant than any of us were expecting. Our babies can be healthy one morning and suddenly look weak that afternoon. When a baby becomes sick and weary it can be quite nerve racking. We immediately take on the role of "responsible parent." We do everything we can to get them to return to health. This can be anything from giving them extra attention, providing them with extra nutrients and vitamins, as well as keeping an eye on their food and water intake.
Another task we have been learning to master is herding the cows when certain ones are needed for a variety of reasons: the vet, to be weighed, to be tagged, to be trimmed, or checked for pregnancy. There's a certain rush you feel when you jump into a yard of seventy 800-pound cows and have the goal of relocating a certain fifteen of them. Sometimes it feels like a game, other times it can be extremely frustrating, however there's nothing like the feeling of success when it's over!
The afternoons are usually pretty quiet around the house. Lots of napping, hanging out, and relaxing. However, on Tuesday our madricha, Bat El, planned an amazing activity for us. We were all given plates of paint and and instructed to quietly walk in circles. We were prompted with different instructions such as, "Find someone who you have gotten to know better since you have been on the kibbutz, and put a handprint on their shoulder." After multiple rounds, we had all connected with many different people on a new level, and it was an amazing experience for everyone.
The evening comes and brings the biggest task of all: dinner time. Cooking with twenty-one for twenty-one. Chopping, boiling, sautéing and baking first, and then comes washing, drying, and cleaning. It's a huge task, and sometimes dinner isn't until 10pm, but we have had some great outcomes including homemade gnocchi, make your own pizza, taco Tuesday, fondue night, and more!
While living together on the kibbutz, we continue to talk about the responsibility of being aware of yourself, others, and all that goes on around you. This is because while living in a group, everything we do affects one another. If one person doesn't clean their dish, it sits out, attracts bugs, and then someone else has to deal with it. At night we set "quiet time," making sure everyone can get the sleep that they need. The concept of being aware came up in our daily work with the cows as well. Making sure we were staying aware of the babies' health status, ensuring they don't fall ill, or being aware of how we handle ourselves when in the yard with the big cows, making sure we are all staying safe and keeping the cows calm.
The end of our three weeks at Kibbutz Givat Oz is very bittersweet. Our time here has been so meaningful, especially the bonds and connections we have formed with one another. However, I am very excited to reunite with our entire group for an amazing shabbat in Haifa! I will miss living the Kibbutz life and the amazing experiences we have had here, and especially the cows!