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

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

Living in Otef Azza

Sept 11/09 A long time and here it is again

September eleventh brings a rush of associations. We still mourn our loved ones in New York. We still quake at the reality of urban terror and know it could recur anywhere, anytime.

September 11th is also the birthday of some fine virgos: Wendy, Jamelah, Craig and Krista.

September 11th is almost getting serious. Almost getting Autumn.

In school, it’s jumping into new technology at a new hi-tech school.

Menu Bar of SmartBoard
Menu Bar of SmartBoard

We’ve got Smartboards in our classrooms and teachers bring laptops into class in order to maximize their use.

Laura approaching the menu bar

School’s been heralded off to this start with weekly staff instruction. Our English staff got its first private class on Wednesday. About half of us, or more, are already using the boards in class. We’re finding that the kids enjoy the sessions. Flashcards have never been so high resolution before. Our painstakingly prepared powerPoint presentations do their magic. For us it means hours and hours of prep. Theoretically, we’re building up a reservoir of materials.

As English teachers in Israel, we’ve always needed to put in huge amounts of creative time in readying our materials. We’ve had to adapt authentic materials so that our students can work on mandatory projects. We’ve toured the globe to bring them sound clips and interesting activities to stimulate their many intelligences.

We’ve investigated techniques to focus students with ADHD, and now the SmartBoard, I feel, will aid us in all of these components.

I feel the focus and I love it when students ask to go one more time through the vocabulary flashcards and I burst out laughing when a class of Special Ed kids finally all pronounce ‘laughed‘ correctly along with the magenta framed flash card.

So, it’s good.

The laptop is, however, heavy! And the distances between classes and the English Centre is not small. On Sunday, I strapped on a pedometer to measure the distance. Sunday I did 5,000 steps just going back and forth.  Tuesday was a lot less: 3, 695! Together with biking to school and back, I’m just about commuted into aerobic health. Unfortunately, it’s never enough.  A good walk around the fields is the best and I hope I’ll still have time when the clocks go back to Winter time and throw darkness on those precious early evening hours.

Qassams? We’ve had a few in this area. In Mifalsim, they had a Red Alert. We’re always reminded that the fortified school and the ongoing construction of home shelters is not for nothing.

May the weekend be quiet,



Living in Otef Azza

at last! Update – School, GA visit, beloved friend’s loss, Red Alert “Tzeva Adom”

Yes, Let My People Know is still here. It’s been a week.

Commiserating with a friend.

A beloved friend suffered the tragic loss of her husband to suicide. How to comfort a friend under such A & dogshorrific life-blows? There’s no answer except to love her and try to stay in one piece, oneself.  Being an exceptionally loving human being, she was surrounded by many friends. We all extend our love and support. How to go on? We find the strength and we do it. Together.

Monday, November 17. This week saw the return of “Tzeva Adom” (Red Alert) during school hours. The English staff were able to scurry into our shelter within 5 seconds. We stood there counting and heard a loud Boom and then a slightly softer one. We knew it had landed close by. Sure enough, it hit the kibbutz beside Ma’ale Habsor. News stories have interviewed elderly residents who had no protective shelter to run to. Still the kibbutzim are unprotected. The school children are luckier. They have shelters near their classrooms.

Survival Techniques

During our 8th grade english lesson, we were again sent off to wait through a period of uncertainty. Most students have their survival equipment on hand: cell-phone music and earphones, games to be played, gossip to be shared. One girl in my shelter had her crocheting on hand. She’s making a scarf! (lovely spring lilac shade)

A few students in the younger grades were shaken up, but the older kids seem to be able to digest this reality and go on with a semblance of normality. Those students in the soccer field had no option but to flatten out on the ground, according to instructions by the Security Office.

Visit from the GA (General Assembly of the Jewish Agency)

One visitor from the U.S. had a taste of this reality. Marcy from the G.A. (General Assembly) of the Jewish Agency came to promote the Living Bridge Project. We met at Ma’ale Habsor along with Tal Kalmer, co-ordinator, Vered Tal, Principal of Ma’ale Habsor, Anat Rozen, co-ordinator of the connection with Mexico for Ma’ale Habsor, and myself, Ma’ale Habsor co-ordinator of the connection with Bet Shraga, Albany.

We shared greetings and news. The bridge with 8th grade students in Albany is being built through a private Facebook site, on which we post greetings, questions, photos and video clips. Ma’ale Habsor kids sent New Year’s Greeting Cards to Bet Shraga kids. Marcy brought us a bulging envelope of Chanukah greeting cards from kids at Bet Shraga. We had to hurry to make some cards to send back with her, but sure enough, Marcy received an envelope from us with cards to the kids in Albany. There’s nothing like a colourful hand-written card to build excitement in a roomful of kids!

May this project grow.

May you all have a good week, a peaceful week.

Early Chanukah Greetings – Light! and more Light!

Chanukah Collage in Progress, Randa Dubnick
Chanukah Collage in Progress, Randa Dubnick

Living in Otef Azza · Now we're Nofei Habsor (prev. Ma'ale Habsor and Habsor) High School

A week of everything: Olympiad at Ma’ale Habsor, qassams, weddings, sunshine and psychologists

This week had something for everyone: athletes, those nostalgic for ‘Tzeva Adom’, brides (my niece), and psychologists who took care of qassam fears.

The Olympiad of the Mossad at Ma’ale Habsor began last Sunday, November 1. Students from the Mossad and other enthusiasts took part in games of all sorts: Volleyball, Soccer, Athletics, etc. The kids were in charge of organizing and publishing a day’s end newspaper reporting on the events.

Lots of energy was devoted to this traditional week of intensive sports, sponsored by the Mossad of the Shomer Hatzair Kibbutz movement. Both my son and daughter were busy in the events, as participants and spectators, as were most kids at Ma’ale Habsor.

The very day that my daughter chose not to sleep overnight in her dorm room at the Mossad turned out to be the morning when we re-experienced falling qassams. (Link: Ha’aretz )This past Tuesday morning, the Western Negev had a morning of ‘Tzeva Adom.’  I know that no one reads this blog of mine to find out the latest news – there are newspapers aplenty for that. But here, I’ll tell you how it feels to be preparing for a normal school day and to hear the female voice with her ‘Tzeva Adom’ alert – repeated 3 times and then another 3 times. All in all, 4 different alerts – with several booms afterwards. When was it safe to stop counting the 15 seconds allowed us after the first alert? We didn’t know.

My daughter and I were at home. We had nowhere to run. In the case of advance alert, we have no shelter nearby and though the government promised to build a sheltered room for every house on the kibbutz, this pledge has been set aside during this period of the Calming Down (or ceasefire) in place since June.

So, we stood hugging each other under a doorframe away from windows until we felt safe enough to move. She was scared.  I wondered if I should ride my bike to school, as I have been doing since the beginning of this school term. It’s been awhile. I’d forgotten the feeling of anxiously counting off 15 seconds. I’d forgotten how I’d be halfway to school when I’d hear booms in fields somewhere nearby. I’d forgotten how I’d search the horizon for signs of smoke. I’d forgotten how I’d continued my morning walk with quick phonecalls to family members to see if they were okay and if they’d found out where the qassams had landed.

It all came rushing back. The alert, the lack of a safe place to wait it out, the wonder if this was the start, the end, the signal for war.

That day, we got to school, of course. I with the kibbutz transport, she with the schoolbus, all in thankful uneventful regularity.

However, at school that day, a whole slew of students made their way to the nearby Telem Station (psychological services). They had been in their dorm rooms at the Mossad when they’d heard the Tzeva Adom. Getting to class, they asked for permission to seek some help. There, they were given a chance to vent their fears and receive tools to cope with anxiety. When they returned, they worked, seemingly able to carry on with their day. How soon, the mind adjusts, the psychology adapts and life continues.

In my 10th grade class, students saw fit to pull out their “Tzeva Adom” ringtone – an old prank that scared kids to pieces last year but only now had another round of usefulness. It was ineffective. We’d learned the trick and had been through enough alerts. One student showed his cellphone photo of a fallen qassam – he’d been at home on his kibbutz when it landed.

Another student reported 3 qassams had fallen on her kibbutz and that they’d had 10 “Tzeva Adom” alerts. I’m reporting numbers here, people. It’s math. But it’s part of our reality. We know this routine. We are afraid, but we know this, we’ve felt this, and we’ll deal. We hope for continued peace. We continue in the hope that peace will be an end product of these days of uncertainty.

As today’s banner shows, weddings are always pleasant. They bring together family and long-time neighbours. In our case, we attended the marriage of our niece from Ein Hashofet and her fiancee from Daliya. The Ein Hashofet people were instrumental in setting up Kibbutz Nir Oz, so the family connections continue.

Mazal Tov!
Mazal Tov!

The ceremony was a mix: secular together with allusions to the traditional religious elements. The food was delicious, the after speeches were musical. My niece, Dalit, serenaded her sister, Dana, the bride with a wonderful solo of a piece they used to sing in harmony on their porch on Saturday evening. Their mother sat, headcovered being mid-chemo, in utter motherly joy listening, watching, looking proud. Not a dry eye in the house.

Simchas, fabulous celebrations, balance life in Israel, for here, And, still the school is being built. One of the workers, already used to my weekly photo shoots asked me to snap his photo.

Take my photo!
Take my photo!

Another worked asked me not to. The walls are rising. This new school to be fully safe from qassam fire is to be ready by September. Till then, we study in mud and noise and in smaller dimensions.

New School - direction towards Nir-Oz
New School - direction towards Nir-Oz

Today, on a gorgeous summer day, I wish you all a great weekend.

Creativity is the answer · Living in Otef Azza · Music

Update! Interview with Gal Giberstein, musician, composer, teacher

Gal Giberstein, musician, composer and teacher, has been working with students in Ma’ale Habsor for a number of years. He’s an inspiration to kids to express themselves through music.

After participating in Ma’ale Habsor’s Rosh Hashana ceremony with Gal Giberstein in performancehis version of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ (lyrics quoted here: ,I asked him if he could say a few words to readers of Let My People Know.  









Judih:  Gal, could you please introduce yourself.

Gal: 36 years old, married plus 2. Been playing guitar since age 10. Went to music college (Rimon) for 3 years (Rimon: Playing rock and ethnic music

J:Do you think that Rimon is a good school?

G: It was good for me. I’m glad I decided to go there. I met good teachers and good musicians with whom I’ve worked all these years.

J: Where are you from?

G: I grew up in Kibbutz Lahav (

J:  When did you start becoming interested in music?

G: At age 16,  I started composing music and playing in a rock group. We played Vangelis, some original stuff of mine and rock interpretations of Hasidic music.

J:  When did you start teaching?

G: I started working with kids in Mevoot ha-Negev in the year ’95 when I was in second year at Rimon. I was asked to form a group that would perform for the school.

J:How was it working at Mevoot?

G: I worked there for 8 years and I learned a lot. It was great! They gave a lot of opportunities to do things.

J:  What kind of music do you love the most?

G: I like all kinds of music. Nowadays I’m listening to the new album of Avishai Cohen (link: “Shaot Regishot” “Gently Disturbed“.

J: What inspires you?

G: I’m inspired by many things. First, Avishai’s new disc. Also,  I saw a great show called “Debka Fantasy”, Israeli Ethnic music from the 1920’s onwards. Trips in nature – always good ideas come from my walks with my dog Nina in the forest near our house. Lastly, my family always contributes to my inspiration.

J: What are some of your other interests?

G: I play basketball every Sunday. I like to prepare food and I’m trying to grow organic food.

 J:  Tell me about the work you do with students in Otef Azza

G: The kids are very talented so it’s lots of fun, We work in a miklat (bomb shelter) so we are safe.  I’ve heard only one “Tseva Adom” “Red Alert” and it was scary – though the kids were used to it and didn’t make a big deal of it.

J:  How would you describe the music the kids like to play?

G: The kids like to play Rock, Progressive Rock, Reggae and some Trance. Some of them also like Jazz.

J:  Do you think that the qassams in the area make a difference to the sort of jams you hear from the students?

G: One time a student did a free style Hip Hop and played with the words “Tseva Adom” like a scarcher (turntable) but usually there is no difference.

J:  Do you see any difference since the ‘ceasefire’?

G: I’m more relaxed on the way back home…

J: Were you tense before? Can you elaborate on that?

G: I used to drive very fast when I passed Sederot. I used to think that I wouldn’t be able to hear the alarm from inside the car.  Now I feel better, but maybe I just got used to it.

J:  What about your work with Bedouin musicians? (note: Gal was a  member of the BeDo project, an ensemble of Israeli and Bedouin musicians) Can you talk about that briefly?

G: We are no longer in touch, except for wishing each other “Chag sameach” “Have a happy holiday” from time to time.

It was a great time working with them and I learned a lot, but then each one of us went our own way. We recorded our stuff and you can hear it on our MySpace page:

Maybe someday we’ll do a gig together. Who knows…

J:  What do you see as a possible future scenario in this area?

G: I’m optimistic-but it will take time…

J: You say you’re optimistic. Do you know of any ongoing projects right now that will promote a peaceful path?

G: I’m starting to do something in Ben Gurion Universty – a mixed group of students
playing together.  I hope it will work out well so i can tell you more about it.

J: I’m looking forward to hearing about it. Thanks, Gal, for taking the time to talk to us.

G: Good luck and kol tuv (‘all the best’)

 Thanks, Gal!

To all: Take the time to listen to some of the BeDo Project   on MySpace. Listen to the blend of Bedouin instruments and folk lyrics from Israeli as well as Bedouin sources. It will take you to a place of optimism. We can work together–judih.

BeDo Project in Performance
BeDo Project in Performance

Living in Otef Azza · Music · Now we're Nofei Habsor (prev. Ma'ale Habsor and Habsor) High School

Sunday Update – Building the New School +/- more news

First for the good news.

The building has really picked up speed. I’ll post shots from the northern side on Sunday. Meanwhile, please note that there is a wall in sight from the window of my 10th Grade Classroom.

Looking out from 10th Grade, Ma'ale Habsor
Looking out from 10th Grade, Ma

 More photos:

Sunday view
Sunday view





See the structure!
See the structure!

Next, we had a fabulous Blues Concert this past Monday, featuring the FunkyUblues band, with Roy Young and his utterly fantastic big blues voice.

Roy Young sings the Blues
Roy Young sings the Blues


The concert was for Ma’ale Habsor and Habsor  High School students. I managed to arrive after teaching 8th grade (Junior High kids were not invited this time), just in time to see a Habsor student up on stage with Roy, who was trying with humour to invite other kids.

He managed to convince Etti, an Habsor Math teacher, to join him and then along came 3 other students from Ma’ale Habsor: Rahm, Dolev and Rose. He did a back and forth with them, sent them back to the audience and then he played with the audience in the same rhythmic groove. Wonderful concert! The big finale was Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” and his guitarists took wild solos while Roy left the stage.

Roy’s been in Israel for awhile, brought over by Haim Saban, and he’s married to an Israeli. Very cool to know we’ve got genuine Blues happening here in the country, and better yet when it shows up in Otef Azza.

Nothing cheers you up more than singing the Blues.

And for the bad news: Qassams were heard this week, along with the staccato of gunfire. The noise came from Azza and we were surprised to find that the old feelings of fear and anxiety were not far below the surface, even after this period of relative calm.

Speaking to people in the area, I gather that the cease-fire is allowing all of us to breathe easier but still not free from the knowledge that it could start up again at any time.

Singing the blues helps.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be back before Rosh Hashana with more photos of the new Ma’ale Habsor/Habsor building site.