Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I noticed on the bulletin board of our bet knesset in Kochav Hashachar that there was a secular kibbutz which was interested in having Yom Kippur services on its premises and needed some volunteers to help make a minyan and perform the necessary functions of leading prayers, reading Torah and knowing what goes on. We were told that the kibbutz was Hamadia, located just a drop north of Beit Shean, a drive of about an hour and a quarter up the Jordan Valley from our community in the eastern part of Binyamin, NE of Jerusalem.
This year was the first time in the history of the kibbutz that there were organized prayers held there. The hareidi Ayelet Hashachar organization, which does religious outreach in kibbutzim and other totally secular environments, was instrumental in making the contact. Ayelet Hashachar has no trouble using dati-leumi people for outreach as long as they are seriously religious. On Rosh Hashana Rav Yoel Bin Nun brought his entire family there for the three days of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat together. That had to have been a major undertaking, with food and preparations for three days running. For us coming only for Yom Kippur the need for preparation was much less. We ate at home and brought a little bit of food for before and after the fast. Our sleeping arrangements consisted of some beds but mostly mattresses on the floor in two apartments. Our group included eleven adults over the age of 13 and a few younger kids.
We were received with great enthusiasm by a very heterogeneous group of local residents, some members and others just renting homes on the kibbutz. We discovered that the kibbutz is not merely privatized, it is in advanced stages of liquidation. The various assets of the kibbutz are being sold off to pay debts.
The shul is a room on the ground floor of what was once the communal dining hall. The ground floor also houses some offices and the residents' mailboxes. The upstairs where the dining hall once fed the entire kibbutz is now padlocked. Around the building are various relics of ceremonies, plays and pageants. Outside the room where we davened was a bulletin board with an esthetic list of all the deceased members a"h and a yizkor candle lit below it. It was a sad sight. The empty houses were also a sad sight.
I looked around and began to feel a little depressed. I asked myself, what are they going to do with all these assets, houses, a gigantic kitchen, who knows what else? For a creepy minute or two I surmised that there are probably some leftists who plan to plunk people from the yishuvim of Judea and Samaria in places like this after the next withdrawal, G-d forbid! But then I caught myself realized that there is a great use for places like this. They will be used as absorption centers for the mass aliya of Jews from America.
The prayers were nice, following the standard of the Ashkenazi minyan in Kochav Hashachar. Those of the residents who came from a clearly Sefardic background did not seem to be bothered by the difference. The main thing was that it was Jewish. In between were some excellent short explanations which helped those who were less knowledgeable without being overbearing. It was at least as inspiring for us as it was for them.
At the end of the fast we made havdala. The residents of the kibbutz brought out cakes and drinks, all kosher, purchased in Beit Shean, and we parted, wishing each other a good year, with hopes for continued future contacts. And so may the process of teshuva and unity in Am Yisrael continue from now until the coming of Mashiach.


Batya said...

goyisherebbe, this is the most beautiful post, so just perfect that I'm in tears for many reasons. Thank you so much for writing it on my, no, our blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting. Very moving.

Unknown said...

May Hashem grant that it actually become a real yishuv and be reborn as a makom Torah. You did not specify if it was inside or outside the Green Line. In either case, it should be regarded as a tragedy that a place settled by Jews (no matter how mistaken in other ways) is being abandoned.

yaak said...


Hadassa said...

Thank you for posting. With everything else in the news, we all need something uplifting. I'm not concerned about the emptying kibbutzim, although I do sympathize with the members who are sadly watching their way of life disappear. They're going through a transition phase and in the end they'll be filled with renters, buyers, events halls (or perhaps school lunchrooms?) instead of dining halls etc.
Chag sameah!

goyisherebbe said...

In answer to Sabba Hillel's question, Hamadia is just north of Beit Shean and within the green line. The only kibbutzim which are over the green line are in Gush Etzion and the Golan. The kibbutz movements did not settle in Yesha for ideological reasons. In fact Kochav Hashachar, which was a Nachal army settlement affiliated with the Takam secular kibbutz movement, gave it up and it went to Amana and became a religious settlement. Before the first intifada we used to have a lot of visitors come in on Shabbat to visit their old stomping grounds. I also met a few old ex-Nachal Kochav people who had become religious in the interim.
My hope is that some of these under-utilized kibbutzim will become absorption centers for 5 million American olim, G-d willing, soon. Hag Sameach.