Ma’ale Habsor is ceasing to exist and in its place there will rise “Nofei Habsor”. To drum this home, the teachers of Ma’ale Habsor took themselves to Tanka, a mini-Indian experience set in Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael.
Running this spot is Netta Aloni, a one-time teacher, art therapist. Spending some time in the U.S. as a Jewish Agency delegate, she came upon a teacher by the name of Bear Heart and embarked on a Vision Quest. The Indian way made such an impression on her that upon returning to Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, she pushed the idea of opening a small site dedicated to giving others a taste of the Indian way of looking at life. The ten years it took to establish Tanka was thanks to her determination (and a timely Buffalo totem).
We began our trip with lunch outside. And then entered the wooden building, sitting in a circle around a ‘salt rock’ lamp. Netta began to present her interpretation of the Native Indian Way of life. What I’m presenting here is my understanding of her understanding. Please excuse wild generalizations and correct misinterpretations if you see them. (with thanks)
Brief take of the Native Way
We learned of the four main components that make up the native way of life:
The circle (all life occurs in cycles, beginnings and endings are cyclical from our first meeting to our separation)
The sanctity or ‘happiness’ of the circle (if one person in the circle is unhappy, then all will feel unhappy, and so it is imperative to find the weakest link and resolve it.)
the Earth as mother, she gives, she protects and we need to respect her.
and compassion, we are all perfect in our imperfection.
We learned about the drum, the flat wonderfully resonant instrument made of elk skin or more rarely buffalo skin.
We found that a light touch of the drum stick brings far more sound than a harsh beat. So the world offers echoes of that which we put out: we put out good intentions and good echoes back down upon us.
“Vishita, doya doya doya
Vishita, doya doya hey
Wahsa tanaya heya heya
Wahsa tanaya heya hey”
“Mother earth is under our feet
Mother earth, we hear your heart beat”
These simple chants with simple, resonating drum beats did wonders for our alpha waves. The calming centering effect was undeniable. Drumming is a marvellous tool, used for healing. Children are taught to drum from a young age and so the drum becomes a part of life.
We took a look at a tipi:
We learned that the tipi is the only family property and that the youngest daughter is the one to inherit it. She thus will always have a secure place from which she can look after her parents, feed her family and at the same time cultivate her healing power.
A husband will bring his personal belongings to his wife’s tribe, but he will never possess the tipi.
Moving from one circle of life to another
The cycle of life dictates that as we end one cycle, we ponder on what we’ve received and what we’ll take with us in the next cycle. To formalize this passing from one phase to another, we passed a three coloured braid around our circle. Red signified mother earth, the doing, blue represented the analytical, the observation and purple the combination of considering what needs to be done, its solution and implementation.
The braid came home with us back south to the Negev. But not before we had an evening in Sheffayim and an outing in Tel Aviv.
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.
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.
Amir, Lotan: During the Purim break – it took us 3 days.
J: What gave you the idea?
Amir: Arieh! (Arieh Schkolnik, who we’ve met before demonstrating how rockets can be powered by water)
Amir: But,there’s a story.
J: Tell me
Amir: You see, Arieh already had a wind-bike and we asked him if we could borrow it. But, the kibbutz safety manager had seen Arieh try it out on the road with kids, and he was concerned that it wasn’t safe enough.
So Arieh, of course, didn’t agree to let us use it. So, we decided, right then and there to build a new one, one of our own.
J: How did you start?
A: We went to the kibbutz bicycle storage area and started to look for parts. We needed wheels and a good seat. We put them together, attaching them to the front part of a bike and built a kind of triangular frame.
After that, we needed more bike parts and pipes and other pieces of iron and steel. We built the steering wheel and the housing for the mast (which we already had). We made the steering wheel from two handlebars (one was already attached and we mounted the other one a little further back.
Finally, we started to build the chair and finished the assembly, and we were ready to experiment.
A: We had to figure out how to attach the sail. At the beginning, we were doing all this on the kibbutz, but we didn’t succeed much. When we went to a more open space outside of the kibbutz, we managed to travel. We were able to catch the wind and it worked.
J: How’d you feel?
Amir: We felt great.
Let me tell you how it works.
To steer the sail, we use our feet on the handlebar. There’s a string on the sail that catches the wind. We usually try for 45 degrees into the wind.
J:How fast can you go?
A: We managed to go about 20km/hour
J: Is that fast?
A: It’s fun. We even managed to crash. At least I did. But the vehicle was fine.
Lotan: There are no brakes.
J: Is that a problem?
A: Yes. The only way to slow down is to free the sail, and then the wind can’t catch it or push us.
J: Do you have plans to make more of these bikes?
A: First we need to work on some form of brakes!
Lotan: We also need to lower it, to make it more stable on the road.
J: Who is Arieh Schkolnik?
A: He works with my father in electronics on the kibbutz. And he has always invented things, including this wind-bike. A few years ago, Lotan and I found a wind bike that some other kids from school had made. We just needed a sail for it. We went to show Arieh and he got very excited and he built a new sail for it.
Our wind-bike includes parts from my father’s wind-surfboard – the sail and mast.
J: Ah, so you were lucky. Do you have any other projects?
I teach a grade 8 English class, in Ma’ale Habsor. It’s a bunch of lively (lively) kids and we’ve been in touch with a class of 8th graders from Albany, New York, studying in Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy. This is part of the Living Bridge, Partnership 2000, project connecting young people from Israel and and the Northern U.S. and Mexico. We’ve got ourselves a Facebook site and we’ve exchanged holiday greeting cards, and we knew we’d meet. Yesterday was the day.
We bused into the Old City of Jerusalem to meet them, and teachers and students from the Kellman Brown Academy, Cherry Hill, N.J., at the Western Wall mid-day.
We gathered in a shady position to get ourselves in the picture.
Then we headed towards the Cotel, the Western Wall, to put in prayer notes, joining people from all over the world in this ritual.Women’s side of the WallWe re-grouped and began making one another’s acquaintance.
We began to tour the Old City.
End of the day, we ate some outrageously gooey cake and exchanged signatures and final hugs.
The group guide, Ran, had us bid goodbye by hugging 3 people we hadn’t previously known to say a personal goodbye. And so we separated. Bet Shraga people were off to the airport, New Jersey people were off to their next stop and we were off to our bus to make our way home to the Eshkol region.
It was stimulating! (Jerusalem always is) It was full of dramatic impressions. The kids connected and I learned how it’s impossible to adhere to a previously scripted programme. Ran, the Jerusalem guide, John, the American group’s guide, Eyal, our Living Bridge Co-ordinator and the other teachers, Rabbi Aaron, and I were switching plans and timing, according to reality.
It was good!
Now it’s time to build on new connections. Geography is nothing without learning face-to-face about others.
As Gloria Steinem says (paraphrased) : “Internet is great but parents don’t bond with their children by e-mail”. And so it’s true. Technology makes for faster preliminaries and in-betweens, but nothing can replace person to person.
This week has been an intensive seminar in issues surrounding the Holocaust. We’ve dealt with issues of fascism, conflict, fear and oppression – all issues that permeate everyday life for most of the students and teachers of Israel. Today is Holocaust Day, Yom haShoah. Today the day is marked worldover.
Our school had a ceremony conducted by Grade 11s who chose to read statements from those who’ve been personally affected by the Holocaust – whether through ancestors, or associations, or music or any number of triggers that exist as a constant reminder that Israel is home to those who were homeless.
“Swiss teacher sends harsh letter to his president, slams meeting with Iran’s Ahmadinejad. ‘I feel ashamed,’ Jean-Francois Bussy writes, tells Ynet he wants Israelis to know they have Swiss supporters “
Swiss protest: The Swiss president’s decision to meet with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has upset some of his countrymen, prompting a local high school history teacher to send Hans-Rudolf Merz a harsh letter denouncing his actions.
In his letter, history teacher Jean-Francois Bussy expressed his “dismay” over his president’s meeting with Ahmadinejad, noting that the “intentions and convictions of that man were already known.”
“I thus estimate that your meeting with him was a mistake, even an insult to democracy in general, and to Israel, the only true democracy in the Near East,” Bussy wrote.
Click onto the above link to read the rest. I found it interesting that the world votes for or against Durban II, noise and counter-noise, praise and acceptance of the Iranian leader or shock and dismay that the man is being given a platform to preach his diatribe. This Swiss teacher, however, has no problem in stating his opinion that neutrality doesn’t exist where fascism is given free reign.
Bussy continues: “In a conversation with Ynet Tuesday, Bussy further stressed his disappointment.
“How could it be that people in Switzerland are sent to prison for anti-Semitism and Shoah-denial, while our president receives a man known as an anti-Semite, a Nazi, and one who wishes to destroy Israel?” he said. “It’s a shame to host such person on our soil. He came here to spread his poison to the world, and we’re giving him a platform.”
Bussy also dismissed Switzerland’s argument of neutrality, saying that “neutrality has boundaries too.”
“Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and we, as democrats, cannot just stand idly by,” he said. “You can’t be neutral when someone wishes to destroy another country. Neutrality ends at that point.”
He says it well.
This has been a very long day.
In other news, again we had a Seminar concerning students with PDD, pervasive developmental disorder. Shirley Kaplan came again to speak to us, as she did last summer. This time she specifically touched on issues we have with students of jr and sr high school. She spoke of basic lack of social skills in understanding codes both spoken and ephemeral. She spoke of not knowing how to pick up signals or make their own problems clear to others. She then offered us clear instructions as to how to teach models of behaviour, including even hygiene and how to make friends.
At Ma’ale Habsor school, Purim meant a party for the Jr. High kids. You can see them dancing here:
The festivities were down-scaled this year, highlights being: Best Costume choice, lots of group dancing, a cotton candy machine and popcorn.
Mishloach Manot(little plates of Osnei Haman (hamentaschen), candy, bamba and chocolate bars) were exchanged and kids dressed up. I noticed a lot of ears on girl’s heads and many mini-skirts. One girl dressed up as a scarecrow complete with hay sticking out of her jacket sleeves – she won First Prize.
Many kids came in understated statements or no costume at all.
The High School kids were slated fora 3 hour tutorial in the morning, and they chose to dress up for the occasion:
Obviously, the theme of mini-skirt prevailed with the older kids as well.
As for politics
Still no government. Will Lieberman join Netanyahu, or not? Still no peace. Will the qassams stop being fired, or not?
Hot and then chillier. Sandstorm and then a drizzle of rain. In Kibbutz Nir-Oz, spring can be felt. We’re also still seeing storks in our skies, but unfortunately too distant for my camera to highlight.
All are trying their hand at making Osnei haman. I’ve eaten 4 different variations. My own involve whole wheat crusts. It’s impossible to deal with white flour anymore for any serious length of time (more than a bite).
I’m in a limbo mood. Purim vacation means more time to do puppet therapy, for which I’m most sincerely indebted. I need more psychodrama and less outer life drama.
It’s the day when all of Israel is travelling to vote. Those who left Kibbutz Nir-Oz for other locations in Israel are home for the day to cast their ballot. My son is on his way as I speak.
I voted. The esteemed panel there to supervise the sanctity of the process included a colleague from Ma’ale Habsor who is highly active in politics and the quest for equal rights. I was surprised to see him. I was also surprised that so many parties sat there waiting for my choice. I paused to read the code letter and the blurb about each one. It was a while before I found the party of my choice. But it’s done. I’ve voted and now I only have to wait till after 10:00 p.m. when the estimations of who’s come out on top start to be broadcast on TV and radio.
Let me give you an example: Yesterday I was at a wedding in Jerusalem where many of the participants were from Sederot and Netivot. We arrived early before the band really got going, when suddenly something big fell. There was a huge BOOOOOOOOOOOOM. And, tens of people literally jumped into the air and made various sounds all meaning more or less, “YIKES! What was THAT?????” Then, one of the women started laughing and said, “Just look at us! You can see exactly who went through the Cast Lead Operation in safety and who was bombed. This is the Syndrome of the South!”
For more of Esther’s accurate observations, go ahead and click onto her page.
At school, we had our annual Tu B’Shvat ceremonies including the auspicious awarding of Excellence Certificates to those students who have either undergone radical transformations becoming serious and exempular students, or those who continue along a path of studiousness and concern for their peers. A teacher from each grade hands over the award (usually a book) and praises the student in question either in verse or thoughtful prose. I don’t know why, but these awards make me teary-eyed. Maybe because the words and prizes come from the heart and not the report card, but I have to choke back emotion. I bring my camera to such events but during those short presentations, I can never bring myself to actually disengage from the action long enough to shoot a photo.
There’s also music. Gal Gilberstein leads a few school bands. The junior high kids’ group “The Limonim” did a few numbers.
Lee Peretz sang a cool number.
And that was it. All were invited to jam after the ceremony’s conclusion. One note: it was a hot day, but today is back to slightly more February weather – a little sandstorm, a little wind, a need to wear a sweatshirt, not just a tee.
The wind is strong today and the sound isn’t travelling. When walking, we can see that the Operation is still ongoing, but we hear only sporadic booms today.
Getting Prepared to Welcome Back Students
I want to comment on yesterday’s Teachers’ Meetings at Ma’ale Habsor.
Over the past weeks, we’ve all been dispersed, though in touch through text messages, our inner school feedback system, through e-mail, our school site and of course, regular e-mail. For the most part, we’ve each been through totally different experiences.
The purpose of the meeting was to offer us a framework of support to offer our students upon their return. First, of course, we had to experience it first-hand.
So, we were welcomed, offered fresh baked burekas and croissants, tea and coffee and then divided into 3 groups to allow for a more personalized sharing session.
In the room, we could see various objects and quotes. These included:
Quotes, such as: “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us” – Golda Meir
and so on.
We were to pick an object and then let it trigger us to write about a meaningful event from the past few weeks and how we overcame it.
As we went around the room in no particular order, people spoke of staying at home until qassams reached their outer walls, leaving for up north as soon as possible, staying put, feeling good about finally responding to the ongoing qassam experiences, feeling sad about what was happening to the people of both areas.
The stories were heartfelt and, for the most part, bursting to come out. As we each shared our experience and how we dealt with our situations, the facilitator, a Counselor at school, encapsulated our way of dealing and categorized it. These categories follow the ‘Basic PH’ method, including:
The next part of the session was to show us that as we do a similar activity with our students, we were to put the Basic PH categories on the board and chart each student’s ‘type’ of dealing with experience, so that they would see that they were dealing in a perfectly normal manner and that there exist all kinds of equally legitimate methods of dealing with outer trauma.
Also, it is to be remembered that although today I might choose to laugh at the traumatic event (Humour) tomorrow, I might call everyone I know just to hear their voice or to be able to freely vent (Social). Each way is valid.
Small groups reconvene
After our groups reconvened into one large group, we were reminded of various relaxation techniques we could offer. These include breathing exercises, guided meditations (if our students were responsive), games with flash cards (very structured games, offered by our school psychologist Izhar Sha’ar), and standing back massages done in twos – each one getting a turn to give and to get.
We were given written information on trauma and then assured that on the first day of resumed studies, the first two hours would be devoted to allowing students to vent and to digest their experiences. Each homeroom teacher will be assisted by at least one other teacher to ease the process.
As for my personal experience, I’m often struck that knowing how to deal with trauma is part of our basic training as citizens of this country. Often with just a little direction, people can implement techniques that they already do instinctively.
However, there’s nothing quite like an expert when it comes to leading guided meditation. Meditation in order to be effective needs to work from the outer stimulus to the inner space of a person. In order to enter the inner space, a person needs to feel safe, needs to feel that the instructor knows how to lead the process. It’s important to remember that the quality of voice must be relaxed and non-threatening, and the instruction must be consistent and empowering. There are no tricks allowed, no sudden breaks from the rhythm, and then after a few minutes in that inner place, a person must feel that they are being safely led back to the chair, to their regular outer sensation, to their regular sense of awareness.
I’ve experienced brilliant guided meditation and I’ve experienced ridiculous meditation. Poor guided meditation is better left undone.
If you know of a recorded meditation that you trust, could you please comment here and recommend one?
Some people love to be physically touched and others can’t bear it. In a state of anxiety, the use of touch needs to be assessed carefully. Perhaps touch could be implemented using a rubber exercise strip or through the use of a foam rubber ball. But that takes experimentation.
The counselors were quite clear that we should try such techniques ourselves to see what we feel comfortable with.
Hopefully, the quiet will continue somewhat so that our students can relax a bit before we call on them to study and undergo tests.
In Otef Aza, we’re trying to begin the process of easing into a regular schedule.
Teachers at Ma’ale Habsor are meeting today to prepare for welcoming back our students. That exact date is to be decided. What will we be told in a three-hour session? I know what I’m expecting to hear: to legitimize all feelings, to listen to those who need to talk, to look for signs of anxiety beyond the anxiety that is considered normal for these times. I’ll see what 3 hours brings.
My children are on the kibbutz again which is a great relief to me. All these relief packages to various locations left me wondering how they were, and now that they’re back, they don’t ‘feel’ like talking about what they did. The important thing is that they’re fine, still filled with humour and usual appetites and still fly to the computer to check in with their itunes and friends.
The noises at night are less in terms of quantity. The booms are larger in terms of volume. My dreams continue to accompany the sounds with images of travel, music and super-powers. (Boom. As I write this.)
One note: Back in the old country, January 13th was celebrated by those who followed the philosophy of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. Happy Birthday, Mr. G.