Sunday, 31 January 2010

Final Post: Neot Semadar

OK, so most of you know by now how lame I am at doing blogs. Most of this final post I wrote in a cafe in Haifa before my flight, but I've been too er busy to finish and post it until now. Here it is.


Wow. So, it's my very last day in Israel. The last two weeks I've been at Kibbutz Neot Semadar, where the internet facilities consist of two battered old PCs with no USB between more than a hundred people - hence the lack of blogs recently. I left this morning and have spent 7 hours on buses and trains to get back to Haifa in order to collect a painting I bought form the Druze village nearly two months ago. This is my third time in Haifa and I like it here more each time. Definitely my favourite place in Israel.

Anyway. Neot Semadar was quite a shock to the system after Dimona. From the African Hebrew Community, which is constantly bustling with smiles and conversation, greetings and well-wishing, to an austere agricultural community with an emphasis on silence. Each day begins at 5.45AM with 15 minutes of silence in the dining hall - people file in slowly, pour a hot drink and sit solemnly, accompanied only by the shuffling of feet and coughing. This was a really odd experience for the first couple of days but soon I came to really appreciate the therapeutic benefits. Without the need to constantly engage in conversation, I could find some interior space for my own thoughts - or even lack thereof. Mealtimes are also conducted quietly (not silently). Conversations, if required, are whispered and usually limited to 'pass the salt' or 'water please'. Lastly - and I found this the most difficult personally - no one greets each other. People start conversations if needed, but there is no hello or how are you. I can understand the validity of this, and long terms members did tell me they had come to find it very pleasing to strip away draining social niceties in order to concentrate on content; however, my own social skills definitely require that kind of buffering before meaningful interaction takes place and as a result I found actually getting to know people quite difficult. But hey, there's nothing massively new there.

The Kibbutz is huge - several acres I think, and has existed for about 20 years. They grow grapes, olives, fruit and vegetables, and rear goats, horses and chickens. They make their own cheese, wine which they sell, as well as several other health shop-oriented products from the apricots and dates. The wine is very nice. As are all their products in fact. I really enjoyed working with the goats, although I managed to get out of milking them. I noticed that there is a distinct lack of male goats which worried me a little - the community is vegetarian although they eat fish every Shabbat. When I asked about the male goats I was told "we sell them" - ah. Where to, I nervously enquired. "Bedouins". Oh! I was expecting a slaughterhouse. "They eat them." Oh. Oh well...

As well as the goats they have a single Dishon, a biblical animal sort of like a deer with huge horns.

This was given to them by a place which maintains near-extinct animals, having been orphaned, and was raised by the goats. It keeps an aloof distance from the other animals though and can often be seen wondering outside the pen. I once made the mistake of trying to herd it - it peered at me for several seconds before lowering its head to point its impressive horns at me, at which point I agreed that it could actually go where it wanted. Bizarrely, there is also a single goose who lives with the goats. It could easily fly away but seems to like the company. Or perhaps just the free food and water, who knows.

I met three types of fruit I've never experienced before. One I can't remember the name of, but is small and white sort of like a new potato. Once peeled it is sweet and fleshy around a stone only just large enough to fit inside the mouth. Inconveniently, the only way to eat it is by sucking, like a huge boiled sweet. The other two fruits were parmella and parmelite. These are similar varieties on citrus, the latter quite like grapefruit but not as tart. We ate these at each break and they were very nice.

The art centre has some of the most beautiful architecture I've ever seen:

Some shots from around the grounds:

Which peacock is beast, which peacock is priest?

And a couple from the Magaal, a strange freeform dance they did for Tu B'Shvat.

So there you go. Finally, some more shots from Dimona.

Some from the event I went to, which I can't even remember now what it was. But it had great music and a choir which in


Bob Marley's daughter who visited briefly during the writers' conference. She was doing her own research on Rastafarianism around the world.

Some notices and signs I liked, or thought worth reproducing.

Some from the agricultural fields.

Porcupine, due for release somewhere away from the lemons it was pilfering.

Nahgehla, after a morning picking brocolli.

And me, picking the brocolli.

Some of the new developments near the Peace Village.

And the desert wasteland where I went with Nahgehla to exercise.

(how bizarre is this one - it looks like some deserted martian development. Apparently electricity boxes for a housing project which was abandoned).

The Souq (market) in Be'er Sheva.

Oh yes, and the band I went to see in Tel Aviv - Rotting Christ, a Greek death metal band. Expensive evening (at £4 a pint) but worth it to se some of the underground culture the city had to offer.

Oh and finally just two more from Neot Semadar :) (first is the tower by the infant school)