There are so many things I have been meaning to write about, and each one deserves its own entry. I don't know how you anglos are feeling, but I was talking to someone in the playground on Shabbat, and she told me that she read my blog entry from Purim (I sent a link to it on the Maale Gilboa listserv because I thought people here might enjoy it). She told me that she enjoyed it so much and that it was a great way for her to find out what happened here on Purim (they were away), as I really covered everything, but then she remarked that it was so long, and do people really read such long entries? She is not at all a native English speaker, so I'm just going to chalk it up to that, and presume that I am not at all long-winded....
But even if I am long winded, I can't really do justice to this last week if I include the mundane things that happened before it, so I will try to come back to the saga of our electric grill and our adventures getting a "McFelafel" at McDonalds (complete with pix when I figure out how to add them).
In the meantime, I want to tell you about what I learned about our kibbutz community through a heartbreaking tragedy and a most heartwarming celebration.
Our kibbutz is an unusual community, having been first a kibbutz, then privatizing, and than re-kibbutzifying in a way that it is still not clear to us exactly what makes it a kibbutz. When we ask, we receive different responses from different people. It is clearly more privatized that what is usually thought of as a kibbutz. There is no dining hall. Most people work off the kibbutz, and salaries are not pooled (there is some sort of taxing on salaries, but not the sort of thing where you have the same as everyone regardless of what you earn, and there are definitely no meetings about who can go to college and who can go on vacation. In fact, most of the people who live here are not members!
We have friends who live as residents on another kibbutz who describe that there is some tension around people living there who are not becoming members, and therefore having different status and benefits, but we have never seen anything like that here. In fact, it is hard to know who here are the members and who aren't, unless they tell you. Everyone is invited to meetings to discuss and make decisions about the future of the community. In fact, Ross was surprised when he discovered that the head of the membership committee has lived here for over a decade but is not a member!
The other day one of the kids complained that on kibbutz "everyone knows everything about everybody (which has not been my experience. I don't even know everyone's name!). But we saw the other side of that this week, when a baby of one of the families (who happens to not be "members") died in his crib.
I heard the awful news when I was out for a walk. As I was getting close to my return home, I was walking by the park where Shmuel and Abaye were having an activity with the kids house (Building benches out of mud). As I approached, the kids came running up to me to ask what happened.. They didn't know, but they saw several ambulances and police cars pouring into the kibbutz, so of course they were concerned. One of the mothers who knew what was going on told them that the news wasn't yet public, but tried to give them a sense of the nature of the tragedy, and assured them that it didn't affect any of them directly. She saw their concern and agreed to sit with them until the news could be shared. I decided to sit with them, and shortly after, she sat them all down and had a long talk about what had happened, She took all of their questions and then made sure everyone had a home to go to where there would be a grown up to be with them.
The news didn't affect any of those kids directly because the family only has younger kids, but it happened to be the baby brother of a good friend of Adin's. We talked to Adin about what happened that night, and then they talked about it again at gan the next day, with the big brother. Of course the kids took in what they could understand (Adin came home from gan insisting that he had to go over to the boys house to make his baby alive again).
Anyway, the whole week, a heavy sadness fell over the whole kibbutz. The funeral was massive-- it seemed like everyone from the community was there, along with a lot of their extended family and friends. We gathered for some words of eulogy (the grandfather spoke about how G-d seals the book of life on Yom Kippur, but clearly there had been some sort of a typo, because how could this baby have been inscribed to die? SO heartbreaking...), and then we drove two minutes down the road to the tiny cemetery that serves our kibbutz and the kibbutz next to us. I think there are fewer than 10 stones. It was insanely windy and it was hard to hear what people were saying, but all around us, everyone was bawling. Everyone seemed to be really present and focused on being with them.
When we returned to the kibbutz, the rabbi's wife immediately arranged for minyans, meals, and helpers (to clean and just be with the family around the clock). I was asked to take Adin's friend home with us after gan the next day, but he didn't want to come. He wanted to go home. Since then, however, I have seen them (him and his little brother) around the kibbutz with lots of different friends and family. A couple of days later, when the kibbutz made their own matza factory (which was just awesome!), the gan teacher had picked up the two boys, and brought them to bake matzas. They seemed to have a great time.
When Shabbat came, it had been almost a week since the tragedy. In the meantime, a few days before, a baby had been born, and the bris was scheduled for right after Shabbat services. The place was tense with the sadness of the one event and the joy of the other. The baby's father was out of the house for probably the first time all week. The rabbi who gave the d'var Torah spoke very briefly, and only about the recent events. He talked about the difficulty of living in the tension of such sadness and such joy. He talked mostly about the big hug and the love that we all are giving the grieving family (the dad was in shul). He ended with saying there aren't words, but that we are there with them with love and with hugs.
After services, they began the bris. Irregardless of recent events, it was by far the most moving bris I had ever attended. Ross said exactly the same thing right afterward. They brought this baby into the covenant with a endless string of songs and lullabyes. People were singing and dancing, and again, a sea of tears. Tears of joy, tears of sadness, and I am sure for many, like for me and Ross, sobs that gave voice to the powerful tension of the two.
Shabbat afternoon I attended the woman's class, and still the sadness and the joy and the tension were first and foremost on everyone's mind. The woman who taught the class (who happened to be the mom who sat with the kids that morning as they waited to hear the news), taught about a few interesting customs related to the seder and the hagaddah. She ended by talking about the idea that everyone goes through what she called "their personal Exodus from Egypt." Women shared how sometimes the most horrible events help to make us stronger, while sometimes the most irrelevant and mundane things can knock us down.
The teacher concluded with a beautiful poem about how everyone needs an "Egypt." I can't possibly do it justice in my feeble attempt at a translation (if you can check it out in Hebrew, it's by Amnon Divek (?) and it's called "Everyone needs Egypt.", but towards the end it says something like
Everyone needs some sort of Egypt
To redeem himself from it, from the house of slavery
To go out in the middle of the night to the desert of fears
To march straight into the waters
To see them open before him to the sides.
Everyone needs a shoulder....
The reason I attempt to translate for you despite the inadequacy is because amazingly, just now I opened my email and found that the parents of the baby had just sent out an email thanking everyone for their help and support. They said that they were overwhelmed and comforted by it, and that they felt very both hugged and loved. They concluded the email with the above excerpt of that same poem.
I could feel all week that this was indeed a huge part of what made us the community that we are. We are so blessed to live in a community of unbelievably creative, talented, intelligent, thoughtful and loving people who have very independent lives, but who also want to be part of something bigger. I cannot think of a place on earth where I would rather live. This week has got me doing a lot of thinking about seeing my life's challenges as opportunities to grow. It has also to me thinking that I still have a lot of names to learn and I lot of people I want to get to know better.
I wish everyone a holiday of growth, strength, health and joy. I look forward to sharing with you about our seder (which promises to be exciting, with the Wines AND the Richters!!), as well as our McFelafel and our grill. And I would love to hear about yours!!!