That’s me, sitting at a bus stop waiting for a bus to Jerusalem. When I was a mere slip of a girl I saw an advert in the back of a magazine wanting volunteers for Kibbutz in Israel. At the time I had no idea what a Kibbutz was, but always looking for an opportunity to be somewhere other than the UK, I rang the number and soon after attended an information evening. I was shown a little film; it was sunny, lots of young people picked fruit and appeared to be having party after party. I signed up. A few short weeks later I landed in Israel, completely naive to the history and politics of the country. I was met at the airport by a Kibbutz representative who sought to reassure me by explaining he had a gun. It had the opposite effect.
Incredibly unprepared, it was February I had packed shorts and expected sunshine and fruit picking. A Kibbutz is a collective and they can incorporate farms, factories or hotels the members live on it and run it on a communal/cooperative basis for shared gain. The Kibbutz that became my home for the next 3 months is just outside Jerusalem; it’s called Ma’ale Hahamisha. For the first month it rained, I shared a room with a girl who had been dumped by her boyfriend, she spent a lot of time smoking in bed and writing a diary about how miserable she was. There were a handful of volunteers but no one socialized much. We worked in a factory packing sweets, the shifts were long and often started in the early hours of the morning. After a couple of weeks I managed to get a shift in the kitchen, the kitchen afforded access to cake something not usually on the menu and I am a girl who loves cake. The hours were good; 6 am start, pancakes for breakfast (every day). I made my best efforts to endear myself to the kitchen staff, mostly older women who loved to listen to Doris Day. I’m a Doris Day fan and knew all the words, I went on a charm offensive and suddenly I was off the rota for all other jobs and in the kitchen every day. Mostly chopping onions and peeling potatoes, 15 kg bags of either. The sun began to shine the kibbutz pool opened and miserable girl and I discovered cheap vodka in the local shop. She cheered up a bit. For me, it was a very happy period of my life, I loved the kitchen, I finished at lunchtime, I’d get the bus into Jerusalem and explore. I enjoyed the Kibbutz community life and I learnt a lot. I can count to 10 in Hebrew (handy for ordering pancakes). My experience of Israelis was of a proud people with a keen interest in history and politics and who keenly enjoyed a debate.
I travelled around Israel with other volunteers and with Israeli friends, I had many experiences that will stay with me forever; floating in the dead sea, seeing the sunrise over the desert, eating fish by the Sea of Galilee. Travelling through the West Bank in a military vehicle, being abandoned on a desert road at night, having a gun aimed at me from a passing car. I do enjoy an adventure.
Israel was and I am sure is, anything but dull. Steeped in incredible history, it’s a place where culture is strong and religions meet. It has a raw beauty that feels untouched for thousands of years. I have nothing but fond memories.
I’m linking up to Flashback Friday over at CafeBebe.