It has taken me a few weeks to get used to work, to learn new words and terms in Hebrew that only apply to field-work, and to figure out how all the work gets done. The people I work with are so nice and are always ready to explain something to me if I don’t understand what to do. My first week of work was hard because it was my first week, but I enjoyed every day of it; the weeks after have been much better. Now I’ve settled into a routine, which is exactly what I’ve needed these last few months. From the time camp ended until now, I haven’t had a routine, something to depend on. It’s nice to know exactly what I have to do when I wake up in the morning.
We usually work from 7:15am until about 4pm. The crops that I work with are potatoes, garlic, beets, and carrots, lots and lots of carrots. The kibbutz has a factory that cleans and packages carrots, so they grow a lot of carrots here. For the first week or two, we worked in these fields. The pipes we use in the fields, which are made in Israel, are 12 meters long and 3 inches in diameter. We put in lines of pipes, take them out, and move them within the fields. Each pipe has a smaller pipe sticking up from it with a sprinkler head attached at the top. We have to move lines of pipes in order for the tractor to come and till the soil, and then move the lines of pipes back on to the already tilled soil. When carrots are ready to be taken out, we have to take out lines of pipes so that the combine can come and take out the carrots. We usually do this work in the morning, before lunch. We eat lunch around 12ish and then go back to work around 1pm. In the afternoon, we fix any pipes that have holes or leaks, and we go around to the different fields and turn on the water to make sure all the sprinklers and pipes are working properly. All the irrigation is done at night by an automatic command from the computer in the office. It’s done at night because there is usually less wind, and because the water won’t evaporate as quickly as it would during the day, which allows for more water soak into the ground. Last week, we started planting wheat. Wheat is one of the hardest jobs to irrigate. With wheat, you can’t just put in lines of pipes and leave them to water the field. We put in two lines in the middle of each field, and then every day we take the lines apart and attach them to hydrants farther and farther out towards the edges of the field. Every day in the morning we move lines of pipes, and then in the afternoon, like before, we check to make sure everything is working as it should.
Irrigation is known as the physically hardest job on the kibbutz. On average, I walk every day between 10 and 15 kilometers on either freshly tilled soil, or mud – which are both harder to walk on than sand. Along with all the walking, I am constantly lifting pipes. Even though it is physically demanding, I love working in the fields. I feel so connected to the land. Every day when I work in the fields and I look at the soil that I walk on, I pick it up, sift it through my fingers, and I think to myself how lucky I am that I’m working the land of Israel. For me, my work is a physical connection to the land.
There is more that I do here on kibbutz, aside from working in the fields. I was given an incredible host family, the Shlomi family. They are always asking how I’m doing and if I need anything, they’re here for me. They have 7 kids. The oldest is 26 and is already married with 3 kids of his own. Then there are 2 daughters in their early 20’s who I have yet to meet. The 4 youngest are 19, 17, 15 and 12. Yair, the 19 year old son, just volunteered for the army in intelligence, the 17 year old daughter, Shlomit, is in high school in Be’er Sheva, Ariel the 15 year old son studies at a yeshiva high school in Yerucham, and then there is Amichai, the 12 year old son. I go to their house a few times during the week to eat dinner with them and just to hang out.
Their daughter in-law works in the school here and she asked me if I would want to work a little with the kids on kibbutz. I jokingly told her that I would only work in the school if there were special needs kids. She was surprised, but she told me that their next-door neighbor was looking for someone to spend time with their son. Their next-door neighbor, also with the last name Landau, has a son named Itamar. Itamar is 7 years old and doesn’t speak. He doesn’t use words, but he is a very talkative kid! He has what to say and wants to communicate with others, to say what he wants, what he doesn’t want, just like any other 7 year-old kid. He understands what everyone says to him, but instead of using words, he makes sounds, and it’s sort of like a guessing game to figure out what he wants. So for the last three weeks, I’ve been spending two nights a week with Itamar. He’s a very cute kid! We go around the kibbutz and he has a few friends who he likes to go visit; I basically just do whatever he wants to do. I’m having fun with him. I’m also meeting other people on kibbutz and making friends. There are so many people who invite me over for dinner or just to hang out.
The last few weekends I’ve been all over. The Shabbat after I was in Modi’in, I stayed on kibbutz and ate with my host family. The Shabbat after that, I stayed with my fiend at her house in Ashkelon. The Shabbat after that, I went up to my friend’s house in Kiryat Motzkin, which is about half an hour north of Haifa. This past Shabbat, I was in Jerusalem again with friends. On Thursday night, I met up with a bunch of Israeli friends from camp. We went to a park in Jerusalem and made a bonfire. We did something called a “poyke”. A “poyke” is a big iron pot, like a caldron that you put on a fire. We put it on the fire and threw in oil, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, rice, pasta, coke, beer, wine, and chicken. After letting it cook for a few hours, we dished it out and ate – it was delicious!
I’m finally starting to set up my room. I got a bigger mattress and I’m working on finding a frame, so right now I’m sleeping on my mattress on the flood. I got a couch! One of the people I worked with who is a few years older than me left last week to go traveling in South America, so he gave me his couch. I’m also starting to hang things up on my walls. My room is starting to look like a room – it’s really nice!
Like I said, it’s good to have slipped into a routine. I’m spending time with friends all over, I’m enjoying my work, and I’m slowly adjusting to my new country. All in all, life is good and I’m happy.