Art · Creativity is the answer · Getting involved · Living in Otef Azza · Music · Nofei Habsor · Theatre · What's Happening · Youth Making a Difference

The Wonderful Music and Art School in Eshkol

Bikurim, or “First Harvest” offering an invitation to artistically gifted students from 9th to 12th grades, opened its doors in September 2014 and has progressively welcomed students from all over the country.

Some of my most interesting pupils have studied there and have enriched our high school, Nofei Habsor, with a blossoming artistic environment, kickstarting the already lush Art Department and offering their gifts cultivated in a rich new Music Dept.
This past May, a film was created to highlight the dream of the founder, Jonathan and his associates, of bringing gifted pupils from all over Israel or from abroad to our home-town, Eshkol to study art and music, and more!

I’m proud of Bikorim and long to see it develop into a larger hub of artistic pursuits for students of all ages.

Please read what Prof. Jonathan Dekel-Chen says below and watch this film.

“In these difficult times for communities and people around the world, I am delighted to share with you a beacon of hope and joy: Bikurim Youth Village for the Arts. I invite you to view this short film, in English:

Bikurim: The Youth Village for Excellence in the Arts

This film is a window onto Bikurim, located 2.5 miles from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, a most unlikely place to establish an exciting, new professional incubator for excellence in the arts, while narrowing the gaps of opportunity for our country’s gifted, but marginalized, young people from cities, small towns, kibbutzim and moshavim.

For more information or to explore partnering with us, please contact:

Prof. Jonathan Dekel-Chen (co-founder)


Phone: +972-54-7916931

Check out our Facebook page or website for the latest news, music and images from the Village:

Thanks for taking the time to read and watch the clip. Feel free to add comments below, Judih Weinstein Haggai, Kibbutz Nir Oz, Eshkol Regional Council

Health · Israel · Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · Nir-oz · What's Happening

Mindfulness under threat of rocket attack

We come together on our kibbutz for weekly mindfulness sessions. This we do, even under the threat of rocket attack.

Yesterday, Monday, February 24th, 2020 saw a renewal of red alerts in Eshkol and in the northern part of the Gaza Envelope. But, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d show up to facilitate morning mindfulness with our group of over-70s and then a late afternoon mindfulness with a smaller group of women.

I appeared in the “Gan haCahol” (the Blue Kindergarten), the space for golden agers, and was greeted with smiles. H was describing a trip she’d just experienced down in South Africa. We heard about the stark differences between the rich and the poor. How the poor enclaves included raw sewage running through the streets. We heard about the still lingering signs of apartheid and how only now a middle class of mixed races was beginning to emerge, demanding rights. We heard about giraffes and a tiger sighting.

Then we sat to begin our mindfulness session. I wanted to work on body and breath awareness as an anchor for focus, as a release from thoughts. We broke up the body scan with a listening session, our awareness of breath offering a safe distance from the outer sounds. In wartime, the sound of a boom, the pervasive sounds of planes can trigger fear, anxiety. The use of mindfulness offers a way to separate between the self and that which is outside and out of our scope of control.

mountain scape, watercolour by judih, 2008

We returned to the body, scanning all parts, directing the breath and allowing it to clean and renew as it energized us.

In fact, the session was enriching and I was delighted to see that although we’d been in meditation for longer than usual, there had been no shifting of bodies or signs of discomfort. We continued with energizing our hands, creating a ball of power and doing “la qi” to focus movement, mind and breath as we breathed in, separating the hands, and breathing out, allowing the hands to come towards each other.

After a forty-five minute session of replenishing our minds, and energy, there was only one comment about the noise of the airplanes, but since we were all calmer, we acknowledged it and continued, undisturbed. Thanking one another, we got up to continue our lives, with the uncertainty of what the day might bring.

Later on, I welcomed the women to the Open Center, where we sit on mats and cushions. We checked our current body status – our thoughts, sensations, feelings and then offered ourselves wishes for whatever we required such as, relaxation, safety, happiness. Those words we carried along with the breath to renew our bodies after a day’s endurance of rocket fall on various communities. We soothed and energized our body systematically via the breath.

We took short breaks to simply listen to the sounds in the room and outside. This allowed us to rest before continuing. The scan was divided into 3 parts – the head, the upper torso and the legs. When we approached the torso, I introduced the idea of the breath as artist, with the ability to decorate the arms with colour and energy, like a tattoo of light. We highlighted our back in colour and allowed the body to enjoy the effects.

We shook out the body before continuing to scan, breathing into the legs and ultimately creating shoes of colour, shape and energy: shoes which would allow us to travel wherever we wished, magic shoes to protect us.

Meditation as a doorway to body awareness, with enhancements, why not, I thought!

Afterwards, we shook out our bodies, stretching and engaging in our Dry Shower, patting our body, paying attention to areas with tension. On completion, we referenced our wishes for ourselves, if they were relaxation, safety, happiness or any other wishes that applied to us.

Thanking one another, we left the session. This time, the session had been accompanied by booms, from the beginning at 5 p.m and throughout. Still we held our concentration. Later on I read that rockets had fallen on the neighbouring kibbutzim.

I feel gratitude for mindfulness as a tool in the resilience kit, and fortunate for the ability to offer sessions on the kibbutz and to pupils, via whatsapp or phone. This is an open invitation for anyone who needs a few minutes to disengage from surroundings to focus on the body, mind, breath. Just contact me, Judih, via a comment here.

Israel · Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · Middle East · Nir-oz · What's Happening

August 10th, 2014 – mind cleansing therapy

Day One of Cleansing my Ancestral Karma- August 10th
Yes, I’m accepting the challenge of a mind and spiritual cleanse. A new distraction to delve beyond the daily news.

First, my morning haiku attempt to encapsulate my night:

drone of planes

distant booms

and neighbour’s dog

who needs sleep? 

film editor mode

mind games

The still-present jet lag scene is exacerbated by the warning of an approaching ‘noisy night’ as our kibbutz Security Head references the ominous hum of F-whatevers. The insane dog who was off the kibbutz for awhile has returned and any noise sets him off. Of course with the ever-present dread of underground tunnels from our neighbours in Aza, the wild dog bark sets off wild thoughts on my part. Sudden infiltration? Merely a jackal wandering the paths?  Or a strange creature of no specific description? Perhaps the whistle of an approaching qassam (rocket)?

No possible way to sleep through such thoughts. I use the time to consider how I can create an intro to my Class Relax clips. How might I construct a smooth interface as a lead-in. This requires wardrobe, make-up, hair. Check, my mind handles that. Then it requires a script. Check. Then a background – I don’t have green screen possibilities, or do I? I take a mental inventory of my fabric cupboard for possible green fabrics. No, maybe, possibly. Or should I just shoot directly using a pleasant yet suitable background – something that will go with all the bizarre backgrounds I’ve selected for the clips. I’ve got mountains, rolling windy wheatfields, a waterfall, a group of tibetan singing bowls, and street graffiti. What background would work? Black and white? A large yin/yang?  Or my pastel-bright buddha?

pastel Buddha

Something natural. Or even a classroom to take kids from where they are to where I want them to travel.

And then an epilogue. 

I don’t know. I wish I could green screen and decide later.

The creative possibilities do nothing to encourage sleep.

I slip out of bed to head to my computer room – closing doors to keep the light from shining in G’s eyes. I know he’s not sleeping. But still, he’s into his zen coma mode and I’d rather not intrude.

I turn on the fan and the white noise brings me a sweet oblivion to Red Alerts, maniacal dogs or other interruptions.

It’s too early to chant, too early to drink coffee. I decide to hunt for a book I almost finished while I was away, “Unbroken” about Louis Zampirini and his traumatic POW life in WWII Japan. Sure enough, I find it online and begin to read. He’s found Billy Graham and manages to find God. Everything goes well till the internet connection suddenly dies and I can’t read anymore.

Unbroken (for inspiration)

Time passes. I give up and fall asleep.

Six a.m. rolls along. I check to see if G’s awake. He’s ready for his first day back to work with 100,000 chicks on their way to fattening up before they’re shipped off for processing.

As vegans, we deal with this fact of life. Jews like chicken. Israelis are no exception. Chicks feed families.

It’s kind of like sitting in a car, or using a cellphone. Cars create pollution, but they take you places you need to go. Cellphones let you know how your contacts are doing, or where to meet. Sure, there’s radiation, but a phone is useful.

Chicks become meals. Same thing. These things aren’t healthy, yet they’re facts of life. 

So, coffee along with the usual grinding away of opinions about the Protective Edge Operation. I exercise along with breathing. Facts of life. These things need to happen.

The fact that my brain isn’t yet lucid seems irrelevant. Whose brain is? And if there’s someone who has a reasonable grasp of reality, it’s rare that they’re listened to.

Perhaps I’ll be back to consider what I’ve said here. Perhaps not.

Hemp seaweed soap

glorious scent of other lands


hemp-seaweed soap

back again…

August 9th, 2014

August 11th, 2014

Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · Middle East · Nir-oz · truce with Hamas · What's Happening

Day After Ceasefire – November 22, 2012

Wednesday night,  November 14, was the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense.

Today is Thursday, November 22nd, the first day after the Ceasefire pronounced yesterday evening at 9:00 PM our time.

A week of being directed to our Safe Rooms if we had them, or within 15 seconds distance of any possible Safe Room.  A week of being alerted to every little nuance of  daily life. No work. No school. Yes work. Yes kibbutz breakfast. No kibbutz dinner.  Store hours. Store closed suddenly. And so it went.

A facebook group kept English Speakers in constant touch. We fed one another’s anxieties and applauded our acts of heroism. Going out for a regular walk was cheered, or admonished (mostly admonished with incredulity). Walking dogs within proximity of  a shelter became a deed of courage that needed a motivational talk beforehand and a debriefing afterwards.

Interesting times we live in.

Some lived without.

Many residents left the area and still haven’t returned.

Eventually, things will come back to normal.

Normal awareness that we carry with us at all times will sit in our back pockets instead of fully planted in our frontal lobe.

Soon. My safe room will go back to being a safe haven of choice rather than necessity.

A safe room.

Israel · Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · Middle East · What's Happening

June 23rd, 2012 Rocketfire on a Saturday morning

this morning

before five thirty a.m.

we received a message to stay close to our fortified safe rooms.

another round.

I rolled out of bed, acquired some coffee and headed to check out the sounds outside and then the newsfeed. Sure enough, rockets had been aimed at cities and towns close by. Momentary updates show that the Iron Dome intercepted a few missiles, but that at least one man has been injured from shrapnel.

I realized that there’s something to share here: a news report featuring my friend Adele, who lives on a neighbouring kibbutz. She was interviewed the other day and I’ll let you listen to what she has to say.

Israel under fire, June 21st, 2012

Art · Creativity is the answer · Getting involved · Ha'aretz · Israel · Middle East · Rights · What's Happening

Spreading the face of revolution from Tunisia to Tel Aviv – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Spreading the face of revolution from Tunisia to Tel Aviv – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.


Remember JR, the winner of the TED Prize for ‘movers and shakers’ in 2011? Well, I do. And I showed that TED talk to a number of students hoping to inspire them to proclaim themselves through art.

He was in Israel last week to support the March for Millions held last Saturday, Sept 3.

Read the article!

Get on the bandwagon. Yallah!


Getting involved · Israel · Rights · What's Happening

A million protesters for social justice? – Israel News, Ynetnews






A million protesters for social justice? – Israel News, Ynetnews.



A million protesters for social justice?

Police forces prepare for Saturday night’s mass social rallies across Israel, as organizers hope 1,000,000 protesters will show up

Ynet Reporters click the link for the story as preparation is being made for the protest at Kikar haMedina this evening, Saturday September 3, 2011.

Ha'aretz · Israel · Middle East · Rights · Speak Out · What's Happening

A Special Place in Hell-Israel News – Haaretz Israeli News source.

Read Bradley Burston’s observations about the revolution for Social Justice. Saturday evening Sept 3 – 1,000,000 man march!

In Israel, the future can come down to just one night

The burdens of everyday life have for so long persuaded people that they could do nothing about them. No more. It either ends here, or Israel does. Saturday night. Be there.

By Bradley Burston

A Special Place in Hell-Israel News – Haaretz Israeli News source..