Saturday, June 16, 2007

More Hermans

Once again I would like to remind all readers that I am now in England and so the events narrated her happened a number of weeks ago.

My last few days on Kibbutz went by without much incident. I spent my last day of work taking copious amounts amounts of photos, and during our break we shared a few bottles of wine, which didn't exactly help our productivity, but I did achieve one of my life's ambitions, which was to slap someone with a fish (the moment has been photographed and is on facebook). Our final day on Kibbutz was the Jewish festival of Shavuos and so we had the day off, which meant we could pack without much rush. In the evening was the Champions League Final so we all enjoyed the Scousers loosing, well I did anyway.

The next day I left early with Richard and Annabel, Nick was getting a later bus, as we were going all the way up North to Shantipi. If you can remember all the way back to October I talked about a music festival on the beaches of the Galilee, well Shantipi was very similar.

On our way up we had to go to the MDA flat in Tel Aviv to drop some stuff up, as we were not going to take all our possessions up to the festival with us. Getting out of the bus station is not the easiest thing in the world especially when you have several large bags, as to get out you mass through small turnstiles. To combat this problem I passed all my bags over the small low lying metal fence on to the other side. As I was trying to lug my big suitcase over, Richard noticed that my small rucksack was leaking, I thought this was rather strange as I didn't remember any liquids in there. Then I suddenly remembered I had two bottles of beer in my bag, I dashed through the turnstile and ran straight to my bag. Ignoring Annabel and Richard's warnings of broken glass I ripped my bag open and took everything out to try and salvage my stuff from the wrecking nature of beer and broken glass. Once I had saved everything, no real damage thank God, I realised that my hands had been cut in several places, and that I had left behind a small puddle of beer and blood. I cleaned up in a local shop, and we made our way to the flat where I spent an hour, with a head torch on taking pieces of glass out of my bag. I must have looked very strange especially to a few FZY girls who came into the flat during my operations.

We finally returned to the bus station, the mess had been cleaned up, and got on the bus to Tiberias. The traffic made the journey about twice as long as we should have been, and we were really running late, this was compounded by a half hour wait at the bus station for a sheroot to the other side of the lake where the festival was. We finally arrived there, slightly despondent as a couple of Israelis that we had met at the bus station, had told us that that Shotei Hanevua the band we were all desperate to see had played the day before. We were therefore delighted by the news that not only had they not played, but that they would be playing in a couple of hours time, and so we hurriedly put up our tent, so that we would not missed them. We needn't have worried as they appeared an hour late. They were very good but not quite as good as the last time we saw them at the beginning of the year.

I think Israeli music festivals must be the only place in the world where you can given directions to your tent by saying, go left at the Scientologists, rick at the Chabad and look directly behind Jew for Jesus, for that was where our tent could be found. You could also go to one of these festivals and not bring any food and be able to have three square meals a day without paying a penny. For all these organisations, except the Scientologists the stingy bastards, would give you free food, so long as you were prepared to listen to them preach to you for a few minutes. We put this theory to the test when we went to Jews for Jesus for breakfast, and I had a small theological discussion with some guy from Luton.

As part of the ticket price, there was entry to a neighbouring water park, and so the three of us spent most of our day in the pools, annoyingly for a festival that was on the beach, the sea was cordoned off, but as the water park had showers as well we weren't complaining. Dinner was an interesting experience, as once again we found ourselves having a free dinner. Richard had gone to the prayer tent for Friday night prayers, and I said I would join him if there was going to be free food, its the way I work. Anyway I went down later to the prayer tent to look for him to discover he was not there. I called them up to discover that they were with a group of Messianic Jews. The group he had found, were a group of people who kept Jewish practices but believed that Jesus was the Messiah, i.e. they followed Christianity in its earliest form. They had a rather alternative Friday night service, which was interesting to witness and then we had dinner with them. The food unfortunately was rather plain, but they were very interesting to talk to, and before we left they even invited us back to where they lived in Isfiyah, in the hills above Haifa.That evening the headliner was Aviv Geffen, one of the biggest names in Israeli music. I knew very little of his work, but his music a sort of classic rock was very accessible and his performance, even for a complete newcomer to his work was excellent.

Saturday was also spent largely in the water park. In the afternoon we relaxed to the sounds of a very chilled out world band, and then we plucked up our courage and stifled our laughs as we went to the big yellow tent that belonged to the Scientologists. We were first asked to fill in forms so that we could be contacted and then we were taken individually to have some tests done on us. The test consisted of being asked questions while holding metal rods, there was also a dial and without answering the questions the interrogator could deduce the way you felt on certain subjects by looking at a dial. I realised almost at once that the metal rods were pressure sensors and so I just held it in my open palm and then squeezed at random points. The guy asking me the questions failed to realise, but still managed to conclude that I had problems relating to others, and that my problems could be solved if I brought the book. He regretted to inform me that unfortunately he did not currently have any copies in English, but told me to go along to the Tel Aviv office, where I could buy the book and see a film, wait for it , for free. I had to go round the back of the tent before I permitted myself to break out into a fit of hysterics.

And then it was time to go, a speedy ride back to Tiberius, and then back to Jerusalem for the first of two parts, of the the end.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Crackheads and Hermans

From now on the following articles are being written not in Israel but in the comfort of my own home, this means that I am writing about events that may have happened a couple of weeks ago, and so not all that I describe is fresh in the mind.

Kibbutz volunteers are an odd breed, and in this space I would like to pay tribute to some of my fellow volunteers at Kibbutz Ketorah. The title refers to two of the terms used to describe such weird specimens as were found on Ketorah. I already knew how strange my fellow Noamnics were and so I will not describe them here, they are a special breed of abnormal. As I have already said we came down on a bus with six girls from a group called Israel Journey. Now they were weird, especially on first appearances, but they were nothing compared to who was already there.

There were about thirty kibbutz volunters although the numbers were constantly changing as people came and went. We arrived on the same day as the Garin, a group of boys from Noam Israel who went into the army together and framed their service spending time together on Kibbutz. On the whole they were a group of really lovely guys and we frequently hung out with them, especially since outside one of their rooms there was a really nice canopies and with sofas. On the whole they all spoke excellent English, the one exception was Uri, a character in his native language, and this was magnified as he nobly tried to navigate the confusing paths of English, at the end of Passover he declared 'lets go eat flavor', as opposed to flour. He stood out as the only slightly member of the group, well off the dance floor anyway. On the dance floor they performed some sort of drunken Capoeira, the Brazillian martial art dance, and on one occasion I was once payed the flattering compliment of dancing as weirdly as the Garin.

Ed and Emma were two members of Netzer who had dropped off the program because they loved Kibbutz life so much and wanted to stay. I knew Edd well as he was on the Machon, I knew who Emma was but I never really got to know her before Kibbutz as she was on the Netzer alternative to Machon called Etgar, and our paths never really crossed. There was a general rule with Edd, that from when he woke up to when he finished work he was a perfectly normal human being (despite his height of 6'9) who worked in the kitchen. After work was a different story, he would tend to disappear into his room and wouldn't be seen until around eleven. Lets just say that after this time period normal conversation with him wasn't exactly possible. All his stories he told usually ended with the phrase 'I dont remember it that well because I was so fucked'. My first impressions of Emma were not particularly good, although they were quickly eradicated as soon as I got to know her. Her vice was alcohol and she drank a lot of it, occasionally I tried to drink with her and I was gone within about five minutes, (I because a bit of a light weight in Israel, I blame the heat).

Also on the Kibbutz were a group of four post-grad American girls, who on first look seemed quite normal and indeed they were. The one exception would probably be Sheri who came to work in the dining room for a week. I didn't think you could get more American until Matt came. Matt just out of his first year of college, struck us as being the world's biggest Herman, he also joined us in the dining room and he was actually one of the nicest volunteers, and he quickly fell into kibbutz life, particularly dancing, and he frequently told me how it was the total opposite to college. He and Sheri would frequently conversations in the dining room and us Brits would look at them thinking what on earth are they talking about.

Other volunteers included Ron, a gym manager from California who arrived around the same time as us. He spent the entire time he was there (a week, he was fired because he didn't work) telling us about how America was taking over the world. Ben, another Yank was far more normal apart from when he would sit outside and play his guitar and sing on the spot lyrics, which could only be inspired by serious drug use, which I am pretty sure they were. Run (said with heavy Israeli accent) was just out the army and he was rather normal, except when he greeted you he would hit you in a friendly manner on the chest, and it hurt. David from New York used to manage Fridays, and was probably the coolest person on Kibbutz (not hard) and I managed to con him into taking over the pool for me. Marissa from Ottawa walked walked and danced in a manner which wouldn't seem foreign to a zombie. Volunteers don't usually stay for more than a few months but David from Montreal had arrived in November and doesn't look like he was ever going to go.

There are four volunteers who I think deserve slightly more space they are JD, Teague, Arielle and Will. They have all now left Ketora JD, Teague and Will all left within about three days of each other about a week after I left. Arielle left after about my third week. They had all come at the end of last year, or the beginning of this year.

I spent my first few days of work with Teague painting houses. During this time he asked my name about three times a day, after a while he just called me English kid. Teague had spent time on Ketora before, he had met a girl and they moved to Eilat together, when they broke up he moved back. He came from a very well-off family from Seattle but he had turned his back on the lifestyle for a more calm life. He was psychotic, usually stoned and a real character. I'm not really sure I can describe him properly as I never really got to know him that well, although on my second or third day of Kibbutz, Nick and I were chatting to him and he told us of his two year plan to go to India with Will and sort of stumble back home, during this whole conversation he was itching his bulls, and only changed his hand position to show us his new jacket.

The average age of a kibbutz volunteers is somewhere between 18-24 JD was 38. The first thing that you would notice about JD was his size. He was big, not fat, but very tall and very built. I believe at some points during his life he was a marine as well as a bouncer. I think he was also a nutrionist, accountant and a lot of other stuff besides, however, I was never really sure as his accent was utterly impenetrable, and I spent my first few weeks trying to work out where on earth he came from. He told me he was born in Arkansas, USA, raised in South Africa somewhere in the country side, his father was Scottish and his mother was Dutch (or it could be the other way around). When I talked about him I described him as the font of all knowledge as there was no subject upon which he did not consider himself a world expert. In the beginning it was a bit weird having this old man hanging around with us, but after a wall we got used to it. I was very happy to learn that he decided not to leave at the beginning of May when he had originally planned but to extend his time to after I left, I could not imagine Kibbutz without him, and his advice, stories and death threats, of which there were many.

What I am about to tell you of Arielle is mainly of what I have heard from others. She left pretty early on of my time of Kibbutz and I tried to avoid her as much as possible. For two reasons she was a) annoying and b) grotesque. She was a nineteen year old from the states, and her stories are actually legendary, if a survey was done of most talked about subjects on Kibbutz she would occupy pole position. She was really rather, well fat. She was always first into meals, and used to come back for thirds when we were closing up. She was also a compulsive liar at one stage she was a virgin whose boyfriend had left her pregnant before committing suicide. I cant go into the stories of her adventures on kibbutz there are just too many of them, and I am only a second hand source. Suffice to know that stories about her caused much laughter.

Will was famous, as was his story. He had been travelling to India with his female friend, their journey included a stop over in Israel. During the stop over she declared her undying love for him, he was however unable to return it. So in the spirit calm collected rational thinking she tore up his passport and tickets and ran off. Not wanting to go home, but without a passport he was unable to leave Israel. He called a friend in England, and his friend told him about Kibbutz, and so he found himself on Ketora. Although his passport came about three months later he stayed for six months. Will was from Mill Hill, he was not Jewish. He frequently had to reassure himself of this by shouting "I'M NOT A JEW" at random points during the day or night. But he was scared he was becoming a nice Jewish boy, and was even about to let Teague circumcise him (Teague had gone to get a knife) when he had second thoughts saying that he had become attached to his foreskin. Working with the electrician he sort of became the Kibbutz bitch and everyone knew and loved him. Will also comes with his own hilarious stories, including waking up my former roommate Danny with a machete, and the time he flew to Australia and was so scared of not being able to smoke for twenty-four hours, he put fifteen patches on himself and fainted fifteen minutes into the flight. When I last spoke to him he said he was either going to go and on an oil rig or go crab fishing in Alaska.

I'm sure there are people I have forgotten, but I can not talk about everyone. Everyone was at least slightly quirky, but those mentioned really stick out in my mind. Nick has gone back to volunteer on kibbutz for a few weeks and he says its just not the same, everyone is just too normal.