Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza

December 30th – early morning check-in + evening update

early morning:

One Red Alert last night.

We heard the boom, not sure where it landed.

My daughter slept in one of the protected Children’s Houses last night. It was a spur of the moment decision. She was going to hang out with her friends who’d already spent the previous night there, and she decided to stay.

The morning news relays info about casualties in Ofakim, Ashdod and rocket fire up in Yavneh and Ashkelon.

Right here in Nir-Oz, the morning’s been relatively quiet.  There’s no school today. I’m in contact with a few of my students. Most are not feeling the need to talk to me, their teacher! (What a surprise). But still, I’ll send them messages to remind them that English exists, still.

Take care. Those of you in Otef Azza or out of the country, post your comments or questions.

Judih   6:56 a.m. 30/12/08

Evening update: 19:25 30/12/08

It’s been a day.  On a morning walk through the kibbutz to check out a potential protected space for the evening T’ai Chi, I visited my daughter. She’d just arisen from a night sleeping on wall-to-wall mattresses with the ‘Neurim‘ (kids from 7th – 12th grades) in the Children’s House.  She had slept well.  They’d been reassured by the security head of the Kibbutz who had dropped by to explain the sounds they were hearing, and the Night Guard  who fortified himself with tea while making his rounds.

My son was also among the crowd.

Invitations to leave the area

The kids were issued two invitations to spend the next few days in other locations – one further South and one up North. My kids weren’t terribly interested in leaving, but after a group brainstorm and the possibility of spending a less tense New Year’s Eve, they both decided to go.

“Tzeva Adom”

On Nir-Oz, the day included one “Tzeva Adom” and a few loud booms. My friend was out walking her dog on another kibbutz when the Tzeva Adom alarm went off. She ran for cover among some huge concrete pipes, with her dog cooperatively lying on top of her. She heard a whizz and saw a rocket land on the kibbutz Dining Room. No injuries. She was quite sure of that because there was no sign of an ambulance. She, herself, was out of breath from her super fast sprint and the reality of what she’d seen and how close she’d been.

Life goes on.

T’ai Chi is about to commence. People are coming from a few different kibbutzim,  wanting to come together for this peaceful, self-balancing regenerator. Our teacher made it clear that he would come to teach no matter how many people would show up. He’s a provider of sanity for so many and for so many years.

Hopefully a photo to come of this incredible man who has helped us cope with various degrees of tension from war and anxiety for the past 14 years.

Stay safe.


Creativity is the answer · Living in Otef Azza · Theatre · Youth Making a Difference

Interview with “Tzeva Adom” Cast Member Ya’ara Messika!

Without further delay, but most probably with edits and an added photo of wonderful Ya’ara, I proudly present an interview with Ya’ara Messika, recently graduated student from Habsor Comprehensive High School, Eshkol Region.


Tzeva Adom! Ya'ara Messika
Tzeva Adom! Ya'ara Messika

Interview with Ya’ara Messika, member of The Moustache Theatre, Eshkol Community Youth Theatre, in the Western Negev.

We spoke about the Theatre and about the play ‘Tzeva Adom’.

Judih: Hi Ya’ara. Could you introduce yourself?

Ya’ara: My name is Ya’ara Messika. I’m 17 years old. I live in Pri-gal in the Negev. My main interests revolve around theatre. I also write poems and short stories for myself.

J: Tell me about The Mustache Theatre – (Teatron haSafam) – what is it, how long has it been active?

Y: It’s a community youth theatre and it’s about 7 years old. Each year, the kids decide what play they are going to produce. Then a writer comes and writes down our ideas and the stories that come up. Basically, the work is cooperative – the actors work with the writer.

J: Which professionals do you work with?
Y: a professional writer, a director and a choreographer. Our director is Ya’acov Amsalam, a very good actor and director.

J:What play did you do last year?
Y: We did “That’s How It Is” about families and family relationships.

J: Where did you perform last year?

Y: We performed at the Eshkol Municipal Hall and at a youth festival.

J: How does that compare to this year’s performances?
Y: This year we performed three times: at the Eshkol Hall, at the youth festival and a third performance for Ma’ale Habsor and Habsor High Schools. We have a fourth performance coming up on August 5th for the Military.

J: I know that some of your performers are out of the country, or some may be unavailable. How will you put on the show without them?

Y: Since the play is made up of short skits, if someone isn’t here, we can either replace him or her or simple leave out their segment.

J: Tell me about “Tzeva Adom”. How did it begin?

Y: Well, it’s a funny story. The very place we work in, a qassam fell, just about the week we had to decide on a new play.  And we moved to a shelter to continue our work temporarily. It was quite obvious that that was going to be what we were going to talk about. Because a lot of us had experience and  it seemed to be the best topic.

J: How did you begin work on the script?
Y: Improvisation – we did a lot of improvisation and took everything that came up, showed it on stage and then the group decided what would work best for the play.

J: Is there anything you want to add about the process?

Y: It’s a very communal process – we all work together and everyone gets a chance to speak his mind – no one gets left out. It ‘s like a family.

J: You had a monologue, Ya’ara. Can you tell me about it?

Y: Well, my monologue is about a mother talking about her son. My mother told me a story about a kid she taught, who had a qassam fall on his house . Well, he moved away and then a qassam fell on his new place. And he said that the qassams were after him. That sentence burned itself into my head and I turned it into a monologue about the parents and how they deal with kids, who don’t really know what’s going on.

J: How did you prepare for your role as the mother?

Y: It was easy for me to get into the character because the monologue is mine and I’m very connected to what was said. And my mother helped me a lot. Also I heard a lot from many other parents with small children, because everyone talks about it. People tend to talk a lot about kids when they talk about qassams because it’s a very tense topic. All this going on around me  helped me prepare.

J: Why did you wear white?

Y: It was a director’s decision. We all wore loose, comfortable clothes, because those clothes represent peace and calmness and the topic we’re talking about is war and anger. We wanted to make a dramatic contrast.

J: The costumes were red, black and white. Did you choose white for yourself?

Y: The director thought white was better for the character I was playing.

J: At a certain point in the play, the sound system wasn’t adequate and it was hot in the theatre. Some kids in the audience weren’t listening. Was that the 1st time that something like that happened while you were performing?

Y: Two years ago in the Bat Yam Festival, kids got up and threw a pencil sharpener and an eraser onto the stage! That happens with teenagers. They can lose patience if they can’t hear well or if the topic doesn’t interest them. Kids sometimes do stupid things on stage. That’s just how it is.

J: After the show, Aliza Ben Yehuda, technical advisor of the group and professional youth counselor, proposed opening up a dialogue between the actors and the audience. She asked for people to offer their responses to the show: if the topic spoke to them. When no one volunteered, she asked a few of the actors to offer their reactions to what they had performed. What did you think of that?

Y: I did not participate in that segment. I felt very offended. I think that when people don’t show respect for what is done on stage, they don’t deserve my respect. We were there for them. We weren’t paid, we were invited to perform for the schools. I didn’t think we should initiate a dialogue if they didn’t respect us.

I think it’s a good idea to have a dialogue but not with that kind of audience.

J: Was that the first time that Aliza had suggested the post-performance discussion?
Y: It was the first time. When we were in the festival, we didn’t have the time and in the other performance it wasn’t appropriate.

I think for the dialogue to work, people have to be prepared. You need to know who you’re talking to and what it is you want to say. It could work in the future.

J: What is Aliza’s role in the Theatre?

Y: Aliza is there almost all the time, she feeds the process. She takes care of us, she handles the technical stuff backstage and in rehearsal. She’s isn’t there to act as a counselor, she’s there strictly for the theatre.

J: Do you think the Mustache Theatre will be doing this play next year? Do you think it will still be relevant in the light of the current cease-fire?

Y: I hope so, it’s a very interesting topic. The play opens the eyes of people who don’t know what it’s really like. It gives them an idea, albeit a satiric view, but still it gives a good idea of what we’re living. Along with that, we live so far away and we’re only a community theatre, so I’m not sure how many opportunities we’ll get to perform ‘Tzeva Adom’.

J: What was your favourite part of the play?

Y: That’s hard, there were a lot of parts I really liked. I like the birthday party. It shows a real situation. It could really happen.

J: I loved the way the little girl was dressed (she was totally padded with a crash helmet). It was very comic. I wish there was a clip of that scene on youtube.

Y: There is a promo of the play up on Youtube. It gives an idea of the play.

J: Okay, I’ll include the link here.

J: What are your plans for next year?
Y: I’m going to do my Military Service, probably in the Intelligence Unit.

J: Okay! Good luck to you, Ya’ara. Thanks so much for talking to me.

Y: You’re welcome. I hope I’ve helped you.


Cast Member, Ya'ara Messika, "Tzeva Adom"
Cast Member, Ya'ara Messika, "Tzeva Adom"

july 20/08

Living in Otef Azza

Let My People Know!

Intro – who, where, what, when

Hi. My name’s Judih and I live and teach school in an area east of the Gaza strip. The kibbutzim and settlements in this zone of Israel make up the area called “Otef Azza” – “Surrounding Gaza” as you could loosely translate.

For awhile now, we’ve been experiencing sniper bullets aimed at our field workers and qassams landing in our fields and sometimes on the kibbutz, itself.  Our Children’s Houses have been ‘protected’ by huge concrete roofs and only this past week, we’ve received a protective shelter located near our bus stop (within a 15 second run from our communal Dining Room and beside the bus stop where our children wait for the schoolbus from Sunday – Friday). The rest of the kibbutz, however, remains unprotected.

We live in a time of constant listening for falling qassams, tuning in to our Official website for updates, clicking into news reports on radio and internet. We hope that the victims are not loved ones, we breathe out in relief when they’re not, but we soon hear a cry from someone close by who knew them. We’ve all been affected.

Why this blog, suddenly?

On Wednesday, May 14th, I was called upon to go to Sha’ar HaNegev High School, in order to test some Grade 12 students who were scheduled to undergo their Oral Matriculation Exam.  Those who were scheduled to come test them backed out at the last minute. You see, the school has been in the news for years now as a frequent recipient of qassams. Only one week ago, last Saturday, when no one was around, 3 qassams hit the school, just outside a classroom. No one was injured because it was Shabbat, a no-school day, but on Sunday, when kids showed up, they saw the shattered windows and they each thought, what if…. We all thought ‘what if’, including teachers who were scheduled to come to the school to test the graduating class.

So, along with 3 other teachers and our regional Inspector,  I went to examine over 20 Grade 12 students and during those 5 hours, I heard stories that filled me with awe. Near death, relocations, running to shelters, sleeping in shelters, they have gone through so much anguish just to live their lives and to keep to a school routine. Their teachers unfailingly offered strength, optimism and determination to help them make their way as normally as possible through the fear and reality of qassams. The all-too familiar 15 second warning of ‘Red Alert’ (Tzeva Adom) signalled too many dashes to the nearest shelter. School life during these past years was like no other location in Israel.

And often, when students go home, there is more of the same. Those who live in Sderot have little opportunity to relax these days.

This blog is to relay some of this information.

That day, I heard stories that opened my eyes and heart. I live so close, and yet none of my students have had such constant threat hanging over their heads. What those students live through, none of us can guess.

More of us in Israel and outside of Israel need to know what is going on in this generation of students. We need to care for them now and to help them mature with minimal trauma. We need to know.

This blog is to get those stories out. We all need to know.

Those who wish to contribute – students, teachers, parents are welcome. In the place labeled “comments” – write your name and e-mail and I’ll send you information.

All comments are welcome.

I hope that this blog will grow and be a community effort, a way for each of us to let our people know!

over fields towards Azza