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.


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