by Aliza Rabinovitz '19
This week began on a pretty sad note. We woke up early to hug goodbye to around 75% of our friends and load our bags on buses to travel to our four separate volunteer locations: Kibbutz Givat Oz, Hava V'Adam Ecological Farm, HaShomer HaHadash, and Ale Negev. After a short one-hour bus ride, my group of 24 arrived at the kibbutz.
I wasn't really sure what I was expecting to find, but there were definitely parts that surprised me. While our living location was pretty dusty and in need of a cleaning, the rest of the kibbutz was beautiful and full with flowers, bushes, and adorable dogs roaming freely around.
On Monday morning, we all went to our jobs for the first time. I was assigned to the two and three-year-olds, working in their kindergarten for three hours a day. The 13 kids that learn there are adorable and always come up to me to give me hugs or high-fives. I was apprehensive at first about helping take care of them, especially when they fall over and start crying (at one point a girl ran into a pole), but I learned that most of the time you just have to leave them to cry for a few seconds before they smile again and run to the next activity.
Most of my days consist of walking to the preschool just in time for them to eat breakfast, watching them while they play around on the playground, and then going on a walk with them around the kibbutz. It's been interesting for me to see the Israeli way of taking care of children, which is definitely a lot harsher than I'm used to but nonetheless pretty effective. At noon, I reunite with my friends who've worked in the cookie factory, gardening, with the cows, or in another preschool. We enjoy a nice lunch and go off to free time basically until dinner.
Especially coming from a very structured schedule these past few weeks, I've found myself a little lost in determining what I should do with all of my free time. On Tuesday, a friend and I went on a walk for almost two hours, just lapping around the kibbutz. While it was mainly a way to get some steps in after a pretty inactive day, it was also really relaxing to be out in nature and I appreciated the opportunity. Most of the girls here have also taken the time to get in workouts that we normally didn't have the chance to, which has also been exciting. Other than that, I tend to sit outside when I can and read or relax. It's a change of pace that can get a little boring, but it is still a good break.
Evenings for us normally consist of the "cooking team" preparing the meals for our group; while our lunch is catered, we use ingredients from the kibbutz kitchen to make our dinners. For breakfast, most of us bought cereal or other foods from the very-stocked on-site supermarket. So far, the meals have been amazing. We've had pasta, pancakes, shakshuka, and eggs, and we're all really thankful for the hard work of the team. After meals, we all pitch in to help clean the house. Some of us got sick a few days in, so it's been a priority for us to clean the dishes and floors and make sure it doesn't happen again.
Most of the time we're spending time as a JDS community, but we've also had the opportunity to interact with the greater kibbutz. On Tuesday, for example, we had a bonfire and cooked homemade pita with a few of the teenagers who live here. We also meet them in our everyday jobs. It's been interesting for me to see how much of a different lifestyle they have from us. While living on a kibbutz can feel a bit isolating from the rest of the world, it also gives you an appreciation for community.
Other than the bonfire, we've used our nights for fun activities like movie nights and Krav Maga. On Friday, we went to a mall, which was enjoyable by itself and also as an opportunity to get out of the same place. We ended the week with a relaxing (but rainy) Shabbat, a good way to close out the beginning of our second stage of the program.