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 · Sha'ar HaNegev · Youth Making a Difference

Bar Gal-On talks about JITLI, a wonderful project in leadership and co-existence


On Tuesday, June 10th, 2008, I interviewed Bar Gal-On, a member of Kibbutz Bror Hayil, a student at Sha’ar HaNegev High School and a participant in the unique JITLI programme.

Name: Bar Gal-On

Age: 18

Address: Kibbutz Bror-Hayil, Negev (kibbutz site in Hebrew)

Q: (Judih): Hi Bar, I’ve been wanting to ask you about a program you’re involved in called JITLI. Do you have time to talk?

A: (Bar): Sure, go ahead!

Q: Tell us something about JITLI – what is it?

A: It’s a program of co-existence with Jewish participants from the Sha’ar Hanegev community, San Diego, California communities and the Muslim communities of Segev Shalom Village and Lakiya village in Israel. It’s a program that teaches how to take leadership in your community while enabling you to get to know the other side, the other culture, the other religion.

From the site:

The original idea was to include these 4 different groups: American Jews, Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians. The group would visit Spain, as a neutral ground with significantly peaceful historical relations between Jews and Arabs, and various parts of Israel, including the Israeli and Palestinian homes. Another characteristic of the program was that every group would consist of 5 girls and 5 boys, and they would be guided by young and adult, counselors from every region. Although not every year could incorporate all four groups, each year has been a success in its own way. The trip now includes a San Diego portion to start it off which lets the American groups also show their home.



Q: Who started the program?

A: Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs, a family from San Diego that wanted to start a project geared to children. It began with the Sha’ar haNegev community and a village in Gaza. At that time, there was far less restriction of movement and the Jitli group flew to Spain for one week and then spent a week  in Israel . Things had to change in 2003 or 4, when kids were not allowed to fly freely from the Gaza Strip and Jitli partnered with the village of Lakiya, instead.

Then the JITLI journey became one week spent in San Diego, one week in Spain and one week in Israel.

Q: Who is involved?

A: Each community has 10 participants,  5 boys and 5 girls, selected after an interviewing process. They are chosen based on knowledge of English and on their seriousness in wanting to be ambassadors. They must have potential to take leadership and sincere desire to learn about the other side.

After 2 days of tests, our final 10 participants are chosen. Since November or December we’ve been having one meeting every 2 weeks in which we talk about issues in our immediate world or actively train for the upcoming journey.

In each community there are two counselors: one young and one adult. The young one is fresh from his or her own experience from the JITLI trip the previous year. I have been able to contribute a lot from my experience in order to be able to guide the kids, being more close to them and their problems.

The adult counselor is in charge of everything and responsible for the entire community.

Q: Where does it happen?

A: Meetings take place at Kibbutz Or Ha Ner, which has been relatively safe from qassam fire. We meet once a week, though recently we’ve had to miss meetings because of our Bagrut exams.

Q: Tell us about some of your projects.

A:  After the JITLI journey, each participant can take on leadership responsibility in his/her own community or even in another community. There are people who take leadership to begin projects to contribute something or help in an ongoing project.

Q: Can you give specific examples?

A: I can tell you about one person who participated in 2003. After serving in the army, he called Gary and asked how he could help in Jitli. He told them he wanted to continue what he’d started and wanted to give back to the organization. Now, he’s in charge of coordinating all communities in this area. It’s nice to see him come back after the army.

Another project is happening  in Hura. There is an open kitchen, serving food to Arab communities. There are kids from Sha’ar Hanegev who are involved in that projet..

We had a gathering of Jitli Alumni from 2000 – 2007. Everyone was excited to meet and share experiences. What was clear is that they all want to keep active and help.

Q: How has JITLI affected you?

A: Even though I experience qassams all the time, I’m in a position that few share. I get to know the other culture. We could never talk to Arabs or Muslims so freely before and how could I have the chance ever again without JITLI?

For me there’s been a switch in my mind – I’m more open. I am understanding.  I really want to help contribute to the community.

I gained information from the journey about the West Bank and the way of life there and, also, I get to know the people, the inner person.  They talk about their family, those who may be in jail, or even dead.  We talk and listen to one another.

We’ve made a lot of friendships.  I go to Lakiya and Segev Shalom and my friends there and their families welcome me. They  really are friends of mine.

Q: How you think JITLI helps make a difference?

A: JITLI, itself, can’t make a difference. It works on a personal level. If each participant can take something to his or her community, then they, themselves, make the difference through personal contribution. JITLI gives tools.  We need to do the work.

Q: And the future?

A: We, the participants from Sha’ar ha Negev are going into the Army. I don’t know what the future is going to bring, but each one is responsible for his own future, responsible for what they’ve learned.

Q: What about the Army? How is it going to be for you in the Army after having participated in JITLI?

A: It’s really hard. I don’t know what the Army’s going to teach me, or how it’s going to affect me. What I do know is that now I’m going to the army with knowledge that other people don’t have. It’s going to help me make decisions.

Another thing I learned is that a lot of JITLI Alumni are now commanders and  hold important offices in the army.

Q: That has to be good. Any other comments?

A: Last year, at the end of the 2007 JITLI trip, kids came together and it was really nice for everyone. We were able to see with our own eyes that four years later, after JITLI participants had finished their Army service, they, the graduates kept talking with the Arab kids and were good friends. We saw that and it encourages me and all of us that we can do it, too. And that we don’t have to be enemies.

I guess that’s about all I can say.

Q: Thank you, Bar. You are inspiring. Good luck with everything.

A: You’re welcome.

Note from Judih:

For further information about JITLI, click onto or for information regarding how to contact Bar Gal-On, make a request in your comments. Show your support for this project! Thank you.

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