Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : October 31, 2013
by Johannah Truppin, volunteering on Kibbutz Kishoret through ITrack
With the arrival of my now 10-day-old niece, I have been thinking a lot about names and their meanings recently.
According to trusty Google Translate - a life saver for me here in Israel - the direct translation of “Kishorit” from Hebrew to English is “Spindle”.  And a quick Google search (believe it or not, this blog is not sponsored by Google; other search engines are available…) tells me that the Oxford dictionary defines a spindle as “a rod or pin serving as an axis… on which something revolves.”
At first, “Spindle” seemed merely to be a random choice of name for this kibbutz...  You know, something chosen because it sounded nice, or after the name of the builder’s first pet fish.  But the more I think about it, the more I can see a connection; Kishorit is the lynchpin of the lives of the chaverim.
Some hold down jobs outside of Kishorit, in nearby cities (such as Karmiel), while most work here on-site… everywhere from the kitchen to the organic vegetable garden, to the toy factory (check out their beautiful handicraft here:  Part of Kishorit’s philosophy is that “meaningful work with appropriate compensation gives life value and structure” and so each member is supported - with the help of their social workers and the staff - to find a job suited to them and their individual capabilities, should they so wish.  It is not compulsory for the chaverim to secure employment but amazingly, in practice, over 97% do.
Day-to-day living is supported at Kishorit in a traditional kibbutz style.  Meals are served in the “cheder ochel” (dining room) - a substantial proportion of the food served is organic and comes from Kishorit; from the yoghurts made from the goat’s milk (flavoured with strawberries grown here) to the delicious bread baked in the bakery.  All the chaverim, volunteers and staff eat together and I especially enjoy lunchtime when people come from all corners of the kibbutz to sit “b’echad” (together).
Laundry, too, is a communal affair.  And even though I am a strange phenomenon (someone who genuinely enjoys doing washing), I have managed to put my bizarre hobby on hold and visit the “cvisah” (laundry) to hand over my dirty smalls.  The atmosphere between staff and chaverim is positive, but not patronising.  The operation is organised to military precision with a bag and shelf system that to me, an outsider, seems impossible to understand but that obviously works – not so much as a sock has gone missing.  And everyone knows washing machines like to eat socks.
(The cvisah also deserve a special mention for washing my post-vegetable garden, grubby Converse Allstars… and getting them to look good as new!  Well, almost… they’re actually at that perfect, slightly beaten up stage.)
Kishorit also organises daily social activities that allow the chaverim to try out new things and make friends with others with similar interests.  Everything from sessions at the (brand new) gym and swimming pool, through to music and theatre activities, and monthly Shabbat events organised by the group of young “Shinshinim” (the affectionate name for the volunteers here - more on THEM at a later date…).  There are also external trips and activities, for example: on Saturday, we took part in a fun run in aid of a Cancer charity.  All of these – and more – enrich the lives of the chaverim and give them the opportunity to independently schedule their own free time. 
So, what to call a community that offers its members core support with day-to-day life, but yet allows them the freedom to make individual key decisions regarding work and social life?
A bit more internet research (this time Wikipedia) brings up an idea (I say “idea” because I can’t really trust Wikipedia as fact) that Kishorit’s name was originally taken from Proverbs 31:19; “In her hand she… grasps the spindle with her fingers.”  Well, whether or not there’s truth in that, it’s a lovely image – and one that complements the earlier definition of the “spindle” perfectly.
The famous Shakespeare quote “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet” is bang on; the concepts at the root of Kishorit’s philosophy, and their implementation, would not be less effective if this place was called something inconsequential…
But I can’t help feeling just the tiniest bit smug that all my Googling (let’s face it… nobody uses any other search engine) has paid off.  And that Kishorit, the Spindle, is meaningful both by name and by nature; providing tangible and robust support for the chaverim to “grasp” onto when they need it but, most importantly and uniquely, the liberty to “revolve around” it as they choose.
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Published : October 02, 2013
I officially started teaching today. As my teaching partner, Brian was out of the country in order to attend a wedding in the States, I was by myself. I was worried that my students would have forgotten about me—seeing as I only visited them twice last month—but I had no reason to be worried as my students remembered me. I had such an amazing day.
During my first class, I worked with a girl by helping her to read and write about The Great Fire of London. Reading with a non-English speaker forces me to slow down my own English (I talk quickly) and really examine the letters in each word. The girl and I also worked on writing sentences with the main vocabulary words in the story. The story was a history lesson for me as well because I was never taught about the Great Fire of London, although I am familiar with the Great Plague that preceded it. In fact, I can now teach the children “Ring Around the Rosie” as some people believe that this nursery rhyme was about the Great Plague.
After a coffee break, it was off to my fifth grade class, who I can say unabashedly are my favorite class. The students remembered me by exclaiming “Taylor!” and when my fantastic teacher, Meirav, mentioned that I would now officially start teaching English, all my students broke out in cheers. I have never received a welcome like that, save for when Jacob and Noah, the oldest of the three boys I nannied for this year, would greet me when I came in the door of their house. My students were blowing me kisses and one of them, Dasha, came up to me with a note that said, “My name Dasha. :) Love you” and she proceeded to give me a hug. I helped the students with reading and spelling by playing Hangman and we worked on reading and spelling colors, shapes, animals, fruits, vegetables, cartoon characters and singers/bands. After playing Hangman and hearing who my students like to listen to, I now have to read up some more on One Direction and Justin Bieber, even though I find them incredibly dreadful. It will be time for a Beatles lesson soon.
I had one more coffee break and then it was off to the third grade class. I worked with three students, two boys and a girl, and I helped them make three columns of uppercase and lowercase letters in English and a column that had the Hebrew letter in print form. I can’t read Hebrew—print or script—so one of the boys helped out the girl who was struggling. His English is better than my Hebrew. When I told him that I didn’t speak Hebrew, he said “kaha-kaha” (“so-so”) and waved his hand, which is how I describe how much Hebrew I know. He’s a smart kid. My favorite moment was when the girl asked the other boy how to say “thank you” in English and he told her how to say it, which is how she ended up saying it to me afterwards. Once class was over, I said goodbye to my students and the smart boy from earlier told me laila tov (“good night”). Needless to say, I went back to my apartment with a huge grin.
I feel so…inspired. Maybe it’s first day bliss, but my students…I just adore them. I have been over today dozens of times, in my head at least. I have been repeating words and sentences over and over and over again to my cohort. I have been grappling for the perfect words because my students deserve perfect. But in the end, I have come to realize, there are no perfect words. In fact, there are no words at all. None at least that make sense and none that do justice for my students.
So I say it, or rather write it from my heart, a sometimes worn and a somewhat broken heart. Once again I bear witness to the obvious fact that there is indeed immeasurable and undeniable beauty that dwells alongside absolute and complete anguish and sadness. I also stand steadfast in my personal belief that without my students, who tell me that this earthly life is merely a station, a waiting place, that without that knowledge, I would not survive. I mean, my physical body would go on but my spirit, my soul, would be barren. I don’t know much these days, but that much I am quite certain of.
There is one other thing I know and that is, without a shadow of a doubt, is how simply amazing my students are—each and every one of them. They are the very best part of me. They have all seen so much over their lifetimes and still, they persevere, radiate joy and strive to do good in this world. Each and every day I know that my students will teach ME something about living. My students have witnessed things in this life that most parents try greatly to shield their children from. But my students have been immersed in various tragedies, but, amazingly, they emerge better. How can that be?
My students exemplify dignity and grace during the most unspeakable of times. Grace isn’t just a word anymore.  Today, I was able to see grace with much more conviction and strength than before. Grace will always be with my students. Always.
I never imagined that I would be teaching students in Israel or having them teach me things, all in the same breath. Who would ever imagine such a thing? But I get to have this amazing chance and I am honored and privileged to do so.
After my month-long sabbatical, I am finding my way once again. I seem to have gotten good at that. I wonder perhaps, on some days, when I hear people utter that “life only gives you what you can handle,” that maybe I should have curled up into a ball a long time ago, cried uncle or sent my memo to the universe. But then again, what good would that have done? That isn’t how this life works. And, as to “my fair share,” well maybe, but life does not work that way, either. You aren’t doled out an allotted amount of pain and suffering and then suddenly some switch gets flipped and then enough is enough. It’s not that simple, but I wish it were. When I feel down, I can at least count on my students to lift me up. Children always do this for me.
Today, and in the weeks and months ahead of us, my students and I choose to go on with life with dreams, hopes and most of all, we choose to do it with GRACE.    

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