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,



Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza

Fast Update, December 27th, 2008

Eyewitness: What are we witnessing?

13:24 Dec 27

We were taking our Saturday walk – out of the kibbutz and towards the orange groves when we heard 9 booms in quick succession. When we turned around to look for signs of smoke, we saw grey smoke circling upward from the west. From the sound of the booms, it seemed fairly clear that it was the Israeli side taking action.

After 20 minutes, we started to get text messages confirming that it was the beginning of a military maneuvre and that we should be ready to take cover in shelters.

Now that we’re home, we’re tuned to Sky News and see that  140 residents of Gaza have been killed and about 200 wounded.

We’ve been told that we can find shelter in our Children’s Houses which are protected, and that we should stay close to any shelters on the kibbutz.

Update: 14:34, Dec 27

There’ve been Red Alerts as far east as Kiryat Gat. They’ve had their first qassam. Ashkelon has had some qassams. Netivot suffered a direct hit with one killed and 5 wounded.  So far,  on Nir Oz, we’re okay

Post here if you are an eyewitness and have information to share.

Judih, Kibbutz Nir-Oz, Otef Aza

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
Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · truce with Hamas

Safety, or would that it were true

3 New protective structures on the kibbutzYes! We’ve got 3 new protective structures on Kibbutz Nir-Oz.

One is beside our communal laundry/clothing facility (The Communa),

another is beside the basketball court and this is good because this is where T’ai Chi instruction occurs every Tuesday evening,

and a third is beside the only Children’s House that till now has been unprotected by a huge concrete and steel roof.

We received these structures almost a week ago, and I beg your indulgence for not having reported this sooner. I’ve been busy with end of year Matriculation Exams, but now, here I am to report that they are in place. We are safer.

How safe do I feel?

Well, truthfully, after last Friday’s Red Alert and again another one last night, I have once again realized that it’s either hiding under the 88 piano keys in my living room (the safest place in the house) or continuing sitting where I am at the moment and counting 15 seconds after the Alert to wait for the Boom.  Last night, I counted to 45 before I heard it. The boom sounded like it fell in the field. You can tell these things.

I live at least 2 minutes from the nearest shelter, so I’m not feeling much improvement. Also notably, last night’s Alert came after we heard there’s about to be a truce with Hamas.

Safety is not exactly overflowing.

Some of the younger kibbutzniks are in favour of leaving. Most of us are not in such a hurry to turn our backs on our home. The situation has not really changed for the past 7 years, in fact.

Except for one small detail. A man has been killed by mortar fire. The qassam fire that impotently fell on open fields for so long has been displaced by one hit that struck down a human life here at home.

Yet, life goes on. I continue to walk in the fields. I continue to hear helicopters, like right now, for instance. I drink coffee. I bake bread. The swimming pool is filled with those cooling down from the heat wave.

I, like you, perhaps, check the newspapers to see what has transpired during the night and what is going on in other kibbutzim, cities and settlements. I seldom see the facts spelled out till much later. But safety? I’ll be safe on Tuesday if a Red Alert is called while we’re doing Chi Cong. I’ll be safe if I happen to be by the Laundry or the Brosh Children’s House. Meanwhile, it’s going to be to flatten out if I’m on the road outside, or perhaps look into my daughter’s eyes as we crouch beneath the piano keys.

(I can hear my mother say: “So this is why I paid for 6 years of piano lessons?”)

And what’s going on in Nirlat paint factory (the target of two incidents of mortar fire, one fatal)? Walking by the factory last evening, we heard the orders: “All into the protected shelters“.  After a few minutes, new orders resounded: “All back to work“. And a few minutes after that, ‘All into the protected shelters” and so it goes as the workers do their shifts.

Imagine for yourself how this must be.

Safety? At least they have protective shelters and a voice to give them an alert. This wasn’t the case the day that mortar struck down Amnon Rosenberg.

But here I am to say that we have 3 new Shelters and the promise that each house will receive a protected room. I’ll be back to report how that’s going.  The truce with Hamas has gone into effect as of 6 a.m. this morning, June 19th, 2008.

Let’s give truce a chance.

Here’s hoping you all have a peaceful weekend. And don’t forget to write. We all have our anxieties and our release mechanisms. May writing ease the pressure.