Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kibbutzim in the Aravah

While down in the Aravah, we stayed on Kibbutz Yahel. It's a reform, religious kibbutz, that still functions as a kibbutz on some levels. They still have a community pool of money, and each member of the community has responsibilities at different times. But they have privatized to a great extent. There is actually a very small number of members that live on the Kibbutz.

But it was incredible. The guest houses we stayed in are very dorm like, but they were pretty nice. It was cool to be staying so close to so many people, but in very small groups. It didn't feel like a hotel at all, unlike the last time we went on a tiyyul.

We got to meet their rabbi, who had a very interesting take on his job as a rabbi in the region. One of our instructors used to be the rabbi there in the past. I don't know that I can see her doing what he does, but I think it's cool that she still has a good relationship with the community.

The place was quiet, and it was really nice to be there. It was almost like an oasis in the desert with a surprising amount of trees and covered spaces. It was really great!

On their large property, they have access to a bunch of different pieces of desert. On the first night we were there we had an outdoor meal and a campfire. It was a lot of fun! The food was fantastic and the energy was incredible. A great way to start the trip. Although I was a little surprised at the fact that the fire was basically large pallets just tossed on a budding fire.

In the same area is another Reform Kibbutz. Kibbutz Lotan has a much more clear mission. We didn't spend much time there, but there was less of an open feel and a much more of a strict adherence to ideology. They are still in the early kibbutz idea that all decisions are made by the community and affect the community.

This is a very interesting way to live, and I don't know that I would like to spend my life living on a kibbutz like that.

They are doing some really good things there. In the Kaki Classroom we learned about their flushless toilets. Yep that's right, a toilet that doesn't flush.

The first images that pop into my head is either a port-a-potty, or their joking sign they have in front of the stalls with plants growing out of the toilet. The latter is closer to the truth.

The waste gathers in bins behind the bathroom. With other material, an interesting process and about six months of waiting, the human waste is turned into soil. Usable soil and fertilizer that is derived from human waste. They don't use it on the gardens because it weirds people out, but they use the soil on the trees. Interesting...

And speaking of gardening, we got a chance to plant a garden, Jewishly. There are sections of the Talmud and the Mishnah (collections of Jewish texts that Jewish legal code is derived from) that describe the appropriate way to plant a garden. What seeds can be planted how closely, and how you should divide the field so you can sow differing varieties of plants.

That was a really fun experience. I learned how to grow garlic, and you better believe I plan on having a small herb garden next year.

Another cool thing that happens at Kibbutz Lotan is the use of straw and mud brick construction to make homes for people to live in. The domes are built around a metal framework so they are slightly more stable. THey are covered in straw/mud bricks and then lacquered so they don't dissolve in the rain.

They aren't bad places either. I don't know that I would want to live in one of them for a large point in my life, but if I was here while I was in college, I would have loved to get down there and volunteer for a semester or so to help out and live in one of these eco-domes.

The kibbutzim were really interesting to visit. And they are very different from each other. Totally worth checking out if you're around here and want a cool experience.

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