An Interview with Arieh Schkolnik. Arieh is a fervent believer in enacting on one’s dreams. He strives in his own life and encourages all who dream to put in the effort to actualize those dreams. An idea may be a great thing, but is nothing compared to the inner joy gained by making it come alive. Many pupils at Nitzenei Eshkol Public School and in Ma’ale Habsor High School have referred to Arieh when they talk about getting inspired, so I decided it was time to speak to the man, himself, and hear what he had to say.
Judih: Hi Arieh. How are you?
Arieh: I’m geared up to talk with you.
Judih: Okay. Let’s begin. Where do you live?
Arieh: I live in Kibbutz Nir Itzhak, in the Western Negev, at the edge of the great desert.
Judih: How do you feel in this environment?
Arieh: I feel good. I always wanted to live on the border, that is to say, on this side of the border.
Judih: At what age did you start thinking about inventions and creations?
Arieh: Funny you should ask. This morning I thought about something I built when I was small – a raft- Kon-Tiki expedition style.
I built it from stretching tree trunks and attaching 20 empty paint cans as floats. I didn’t use quite enough, however, and, unfortunately, it sank. The sail was constructed from one of my mother’s plastic tablecloths. I attracted the attention of everyone around.
Judih: How old were you?
Arieh: About 11 or 12. I had always dreamed. I always read adventure books and watched movies. Tom Cruise would have been jealous of me because while he played it in movies I did it for real, all the impossible missions, well I lived them everyday.
I have stories to fill many blogs.
I even built a barge in the Argentinean army – I have the photos. I managed to get in and out fine, but my friend wasn’t so lucky. He somehow snagged on something and the barge tipped over, in frozen waters. I had to heat him up by fire. This was in Ushuaia, the Land of Fire.
I also built boats with empty glue tubes. In the swamplands, I built a swamp boat with a propeller, a car engine and two plastic gluetubes. I built a catamaran and travelled 3 kilometers to a small pond in a public park. Everyone there came to watch.
I’ve built many nonsensical vehicles in my life.
Judih: Did you work alone?
Arieh: Always. I made a skateboard when they first started to become popular. I cut off a piece of a board (I didn’t have a real place to build it ) small but large enough for me to travel down the hallway of the house.
Judih: Were there other kids in your family?
Arieh: I have one younger brother.
Judih: Did he play along?
Arieh: No, we were very different. He was grounded and I was in the air.
Judih: How was it for you when you decided to come to Israel?
Arieh – It was a revolution! My family (on my father’s side) was religious and very Zionistic in their beliefs that Israel was our homeland, but even so, got quite hysterical when they heard I wanted to come.
My mother’s side of the family also got crazy. But I always knew I wanted to come here.
Judih: How do people accept you in the kibbutz, a place known for its predisposition to conforming to the rules?
Arieh: I live my own life fully without hurting others or, in any way, infracting on the rules of the community. I believe that I have a right and an obligation to express myself, within the bounds of the society in which I live.
This is for me, of course, but I also believe that living life this way can inspire others to express themselves in their own way. Individual creativity thrives in an environment of creativity.
Judih: This brings me to the next question. How did you start to work with kids?
Arieh: I always wanted to but was hesitant to begin to teach.One day via the internet, I started to study the things I’d always wanted to learn. I was accumulating information and wanted to pass it on. I wanted to contribute. I began giving a workshop – the first was on studying the constellations. I would distribute a circular map of the night skies and for one evening a week, I would tell them legends and myths and how to recognize the constellations of the summer sky. I bought a special laser flashlight to help illustrate my talks. What was most interesting was that every year as I taught the kids, I learned from them. I learned how to clarify my explanations and I think I received more during those lectures than they did. In fact, I am indebted to them for my own progress at this fairly late stage in life.
I reached huge conclusions, also in my private life.
Judih: Tell me about some of your interests. I know about Astrology,…
Arieh: – no! no! no – not Astrology! How so-called experts take advantage of unsuspecting people, taking their money, telling them stories, no, no – never.
Judih: Excuse me, I meant Astronomy. What else?
Arieh:Physics, I read books – the galaxy, the Elegant Galaxy, Popular Science, History, all kinds of things, t’ai chi, archaeology, – I love to learn from experts.
Judih: Let’s get specific. Tell me about what you’ve invented in these photos.
Arieh: I call it a land yacht
Judih: How did you make it?
Arieh: The first one I ever made was constructed from aluminum irrigation pipes and some discarded wheels from a cart. I built the steering wheel from a machine that had been junked. When they tore down the metal shutters from a house, I collected them. I used everything that people tossed aside.
Judih: Where did you work?
Arieh: I built it in the machine shop after work hours. People laughed at me, but I continued. Now that kibbutz kids are interested I see how it was all worthwhile.
Judih: What about Amir and Lotan’s wind-bike?
Arieh: The wind-bike works well. I’m envious of it. Those two kids are truly desert flowers with brains.
Judih: Are there girls interested in this?
Arieh: No, none so far, though, girls come to the Astronomy workshops. They also come when I teach how to create paper airplanes.
The only girl is my daughter. (Arieh relates stories of his daughter’s determination, energy and inner drive).
Judih: Maybe I’ll interview her. Now back to another question for you.
How, do you think, we can renew the original spirit of the kibbutz?
Arieh: We need to listen to the individual. There is a fundamental requirement to accept the other according to his world, not from our world. The basic principle needs to be one of acceptance – whether or not we agree with him. This is very difficult to do, unfortunately.
Judih: And how to start?
Arieh: It takes individual effort. We must forget the idea of trying to fix our neighbor. Fixing the neighbor is the biggest mistake – the biggest problem of the kibbutz.
The moment each person worries about himself, not the neighbor, then we can stop the tragedy. To change our environment, we need to leave our neighbour alone and work on ourselves.
We have to re-focus on common things, we have so many. Let’s take another look at the proverbial glass. Truly, it’s 90% full and 10% empty. Why have we always concentrated on the empty 10%?
If we were able to truly listen to others, we would hear ourselves. Our situations may be different, but we are all basically the same.
Judih: What do you think about the kibbutz?
Arieh: The kibbutz is wonderful, but people don’t open their eyes to see how wonderful. Thoughts are petty, as it says in the Little Prince, the most important thing is hidden from the eyes.
People on kibbutz are pre-occupied with what others have: “Why does he have and I don’t?” There isn’t enough mutual problem solving. There isn’t enough rational consideration that maybe someone has something that someone else doesn’t require.
In other words, the concept of equality has been rendered absurd.
We made a mistake in how we lived, but no one opened their eyes. There was a lack of imagination to solve the problems.
Judih: You’re saying we need to use imagination…Not to be closed to conceptions.
Arieh: I want to be in a society where people can develop themselves.
It’s like the graffiti painted in the bathroom of the youth workers – “Why doesn’t a person have what he wants? Because he doesn’t want what he has. If he had wanted what he had, he would have had what he wants.”
Judih: With that, I think we’ll conclude this portion of our interview. I’m sure there are all kinds of additional questions that need to be asked.
Arieh: No problem. We can continue this some other time.
Judih: Thank you, Arieh.