Health · Israel · Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · Middle East · Nofei Habsor · truce with Hamas

August 19th, 2014 – actively working to ease my mind

overnight planes 

dogs strangely still 

ceasefire extension

If I were to chart my jet-lag, I imagine it would look like this:

Tip: Smart Art helps chart state of mind

I’m getting a little more normal. I woke up at 1a.m. to check the news. I went back to sleep and concocted some very weird dreams that I couldn’t quite recall when I woke up at five-fifteen. This is a good technique, for when school begins: to let out the weirdness at night and to carry on during the day.

So, the war situation. I was thankful that I didn’t have to tear into my safe room last night, but this morning people on facebook are not pleased about the 24 hour extension of the Ceasefire and the so-called agreement. One woman even went so far as to agree with ‘Jo-Jo‘ (1.1), a popular right-wing radio host, by calling the agreement disgusting and a crappy piece of paper that could have been signed before those 64 soldiers were killed.

JoJo 1.1

From the Israeli point of view, I guess that might’ve been an option, but we know that Hamas wasn’t terribly interested in signing anything. And is it now? And if so, why? What’s in it for them?

Most of us in the south want no half-ass agreement. From a military point of view it would be prudent to tear into the Hamas infrastructure and wipe out their leaders, now, while we have set the stage and while our soldiers are prepared.  I don’t have much of an army-mind but in a chessgame sort of strategy, I see the strength in such a decision.

But holy shit, I hate the killing and fear of being bombed. I’ve been told,  killing and fear is inevitable as the Hamas increases its strength and resolves to wipe out the infidels, of which Israel and Jews represent only a small fraction.

Gershon Baskin -1.2

Nothing is black and white, is it? All those slurred boundaries and see-sawing opinions. Pacifism seems so out of style.

Gershon Baskin has become a household name. Among other endeavours, he worked behind the scenes to deliver Gilad Shalit from captivity. He is co-founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI)  and his contacts include moderates from within Hamas. He has been working for rational negotiations as well as humane treatment of those Gazans who’ve been bombed out of their homes. He’s collected household goods from Israelis for delivery and he’s raised money for emergency food. He’s crusading to bring the other side of the story to the attention of those of us who live on this side of the border. But what is the other side? How many other sides are there?  Some people claim that his very earnestness to listen to those across the border has made him too cynical about the Israeli side.

Who am I to guess? How is anyone to know what the objective situation ‘is’.

In world situations, everything links to everything else. One bit of evidence leads to the certainty that something else preceded it.

When people share their political vision, I listen for awhile and then off I go, daydreaming about ‘what if’ and what beach or scene would I rather be surrounded with.

Poetry seems trite. Art seems logical. How would I paint what I want to express? Closing my eyes, I see a kind of huge textured coloured landscape. It’s filled with ranges of low rising mountains and raggedy paths. The mountain has no summit – it’s rather endless like the Great Wall of China, only earth-made. I see a low craggy mountainscape in rusty red with bits of rock in no certain shape.

Up the Mountain, watercolor by judih

This imaginary large canvas contains a very clear way, somewhere within. A poor trekker prepared with dates, water and a hammock, makes camp, knowing that one day, the hammock will find a place to be hung and on that day, the trekker will rest.

hammock offers rest

  1. 2. Gershon Baskin: Israeli Co-Director and founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) – a joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think and “do”-tank located in Jerusalem.

August 18th

August 20th

Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza

May 29th – Shavuot holiday, Itai and Ariel, and other current events

Kibbutz Nir-Oz celebrated Shavuot with 500 guests, succulent quiches, salads, south american flutes and the usual array of breads, cheeses and kibbutz choirs.

I like the beautiful getting ready scenes

Margit whooshing the tablecloths
Margit whooshing the tablecloths

As for me, personally, admitting to a case of the flu, I spent my ‘erev hag’ (evening before the holiday) preparing report cards for my classes from grade 8 to 11. The long-suffering grade 12 kids have already received their final numbers and words from me (including personal goodbye benedictions).

Sneezing doesn’t seem to go along well with meditation or creative outlets, so I spent most of the day watching Sally Fields in”A Woman of Independent Means”, a woman who 100 years ago was struggling with the idea of living life, unconventionally, while walking the line of conservative society. In any case, it was serialized and gave me time to do laundry, bake bread, make a bran cake and generally live a life while watching too many hours of TV.

There’s been a lot of talk of women’s rights and pro-choice in the news. Some people say we’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were. We slowly have the vote, we slowly have the right to express ourselves without being labelled ‘babe’ or ‘warrior’. It’s all so slow that some of us don’t feel a thing. Some of us who claim to be just a normal earthling get shocked when gorgeous models are air-brushed into further perfection (see or when some of our most beloved citizens are victims of violence.

No shock, nothing new. All we can do is be open-eyed and prepared. Fast reflexes and staying away from danger zones are good rules to keep. All human beings need to remember the law. No carrying illegal substances in a heavily policed zone. You know who you are. These are bits of advice from someone coming from the ‘discretion’ side of life. Be who you are, be! But if you’re into illegals, be who you are in the privacy of your own home. If you’re into ‘kink’, be who you are at home. Screaming ‘look at me’ in the face of those who can’t handle nonconformists is to bring yourself unwanted distraction and sometimes pain.

Pain is to be avoided. Call me a coward, but politicizing can attract violent reactions. Violence is to be avoided.

Peace begins within the self. Get yourself together and then we’ll talk.

Further news:

While in Sha’ar haNegev High School, testing the Grade 12 students, I met 2 young men, Itai and Ariel, who’d pursued the idea of Protest Songs to awaken consciousness. Itai wrote a poem about Gilad Shalit. His work in Hebrew shows rhythm and rhyme. His English translation did not. So I asked him if I could re-work the English. He said sure. But lo and behold, re-working English means re-writing a poem. So we’ve now got his original Hebrew and my adaptation. I’ll post both. First a photo of the two students who worked on this project:

Itai and Ariel 

English Adaptation: ‘HaHalom hu Shalom’ (The Dream is Peace)


So, tell me what you’re thinking
Wasting time on what ‘they’re’ doing
Believing what newspapers saying
Focusing  on nothing important to you
We already know about terror and war
Fear and threat, well, they’re permanent
Hiding corruption of our Prime Minister
Wondering why things are so complacent
Our motto we cry: Gilad Shalit alive
We demand his return
But who here’s concerned
Tell me, now can I learn?
So, tell me what you’re thinking
Wasting time on what ‘they’re’ doing
Believing what newspapers saying
Focusing  on nothing important to you
And what’s being said in East Jerusalem
Land going back to Palestinians
We always trying to be the Chosen
We’re just asking for a little reason
Wanna live our lives with some peace
So, tell me what you’re thinking
Wasting time on what ‘they’re’ doing
Believing what newspapers saying
Focusing  on nothing important to you
-Itai Hertz, Jan 2009 as adapted by Judih Weinstein, May 2009
החלום הוא השלום/ איתי הרץ
אז תגידו לי מה אתם חושבים
כל הזמן עסוקים במה שאחרים עושים,
מתמינים רק למה שכתוב העתונים
תתעניינים בדברים לא חשובים
מלחמות ופיגועים זה כבר ידוע
איומים וחששות זהכבר קבוע
ראש הממשלה בשחיתויות שקוע
אז למה לי נראה כאילו הכול רגוע
“גלעד שליט חי” זה המוטו
להחזיר אותו מבקשים לפה
אין אחריות לא, לא
אז תגידו לי האם שווה לחיות פה
אז תגידו לי מה אתם חושבים
כל הזמן עסוקים במה שאחרים עושים,
מתמינים רק למה שכתוב העתונים
תתעניינים בדברים לא חשובים
במזרח ירושלים הם דנים
האם להחזיר אותם לערבים
תמיד רוצים לצאת צדקים
מה בסך הכול אנו מבקשים
רק לחיות בשלום חיי שקטים
אז תגידו לי מה אתם חושבים
כל הזמן עסוקים במה שאחרים עושים,
מתמינים רק למה שכתוב העתונים
תתעניינים בדברים לא חשובים
אז תגידו לי מה אתם חושבים
כל הזמן עסוקים במה שאחרים עושים,
מתמינים רק למה שכתוב העתונים
תתעניינים בדברים לא חשובים
איתי הרץ, 1.2009
Perhaps I’ll leave it at that for now.
Happy Shavuot holiday.
P.S. Can someone tell the bloody cats to stop living on my hot tin roof? People ask me if we have qassams and I’m embarrassed to say that  all the noise on the roof obliterates my ability to report what’s going on.
Creativity is the answer · Living in Otef Azza · Youth Making a Difference

An Interview with Avital Shalev, student and artist

Look up

no problemsafe

Pictured above is an art installation, the final art project of a student at Ma’ale Habsor Regional High School. I asked her if I could interview her about her work.

An Interview with Avital Shalev

Judih: Avital, hi. I’d like to interview you about your art project installed in Ma’ale Habsor High School.

First, how old are you?

Avital: Almost 18

J: Where do you live?

A: Kibbutz Be’eri

J: Tell me about your art project. How would you describe it?

A: The physical description? Okay, to begin, the foundation is a kind of protective shelter, which has drawings on it.  And on top are colourful umbrellas.

J: How did you get the material to do it?

A: The shelter was already there. And to get umbrellas,  I put up notices on the bulletin board in Kibbutz Be’eri and in the Youth Clubhouse, asking for people to donate old, broken ones.  I had a basket ready to collect whatever might come. I got most of the umbrellas from my kibbutz. Some I got from school and then I had to buy  about five umbrellas,  but only five!

J: How did you get the idea?  

A: Okay, that’s the funniest part. I was in my art history lesson and it was mid-winter. And I saw my teacher’s umbrella in the corner of the room. I looked at it and rdecided I really wanted to do something with umbrellas.

I started to brainstorm on paper about umbrellas: what they meant for me, their purpose and how they protect us from the rain. I jumped to the concept of protection against qassams and how the protective shelter and the umbrella were very similar in that they both help shield us.   And then I thought about protecting the roof of the shelter (which is open to the sky). The idea of the  falling umbrellas came as I started the actual work.

J: When did you start creating it?

A: Around February, 2008

J: How did you feel while you were making it?

A:  It was hard. Physically it was very hard to execute the idea . I had to get to the top of the shelter, holding the umbrellas, using a ladder that wasn’t high enough.

And also it was difficult to connect the umbrellas. At the beginning I didn’t know how to go about doing it. Finally I joined them on the ground and lifted up the whole thing. That was the hardest part, I think. But friends from the art department helped me.

The project is located  right beside the Grade 9 classrooms and the kids were always asking me questions, some of which that I, myself, didn’t know how to answer.

J: Can you think of any examples of questions they asked?

A: For example, a  girl asked me how my project would help the situation. I didn’t know what to say

and right at the beginning, one student asked me how I was going to do it. I couldn’t answer that, either! The kids were very sweet. 

Someone asked me why  all the umbrellas weren’t red, and I said it was because they were similar to people, small, big, light, dark, decorated with pictures or plain, and if I had chosen all red ones,  I would have lost that added meaning.

The use of naïve colours, that was also important to me. That choice was part of my statement.

J: How did you feel about the result, how it looked at the end?

A:  I was very satisfied. The responses of people made all the hard work worthwhile. It didn’t come out the way I imagined, it was more striking than I’d thought.

J: How did other people react?

A: I did the project before there was the Jerusalem demonstration of Otef Azza  dwellers. They used red umbrellas to demonstrate their point, so after that, people asked me why I hadn’t done them red.  But, as I’ve said, I chose my  colours for a reason.

And there were many other responses. That made me realize that the academic grade I might get for my work was not as important as people’s reactions. 

J: Can you remember any special reaction?

A: An art graduate came to our exhibit and told me and one of the teachers that my work was the one she loved the most.

J: Now, today, when you look at your project, after time has gone by and the colours have faded, what do you think?

A: Actually, in general, I was supposed to have taken it down, but then I spoke with my art teacher, Gladys, and we decided that we’d leave it up until they tear down the school* (scheduled to happen this summer) because they don’t bother anyone. So meanwhile they’ll protect the shelter.

J: And do you think the idea is any less relevant, today?

A: It’s still relevant. The work is very political. For example, the problem with qassams reallly has no solution and my work continues to show that nothing has changed.  There’s also added relevance in that there’s still no solution for Gilad Shalit.

J: Avital, do you think expressing yourself through the art has helped you to deal with things? 

A: Maybe. During the time that I was working on it, there were many qassams. I think doing this work helped me deal with that. But this particular piece is not about dealing with things but rather expressing a political statement about our reality.

J: Anything else you want to add?

A: I don’t think so.

J: Okay, thanks so much Avital.

A: Thanks, Judih.


*Ma’ale Habsor Regional School is being torn down this year and re-built according to the safety regulations needed for Otef Azza. The school will be united with Habsor High School (which is for residents of the Moshavim in our area.) As a result, the art studio will be demolished along with Avital’s installation.

Additional note from Judih

Avital lives in a kibbutz that has experienced a few direct hits of qassams. Her kibbutz, Be’eri, was the first of all the kibbutzim in the Ma’ale Habsor district that had qassams falling in residential areas last year and continuing this year, causing injuries, physical and certainly psychological. One such example can be found here.

Avital, herself, is also one of the most sensitive students I’ve ever taught, who’s come to know herself as she’s matured. Her artwork is especially dramatic in light of her personality and environment.

This particular piece of artwork has caused others to stop, look and experience something in a new way – a true measure of art, in my opinion.

If you’d like to contact Avital, herself, you may do so at her e-mail address: