On to my day Monday. I left very early to get to the Central Bus Station and from there took a bus to Kastina, near Kiryat Mal’achi. It was a long, sweaty ride in a bus that had no air-conditioning and a grumpy bus driver. More of the passengers were Ethiopian than I had seen before, with many elderly women and children.
The whole area that is south of Tel Aviv is economically depressed. The Jewish Agency is trying to find US congregations to help support the area, and Beth Emek is one. For example, this summer, two students came to help with Beth Emek summer camp, as a way of connecting the two areas.
I was put in touch with Inbal, a young woman who is Miranda’s age, finishing her first year at university. She did three years in the army, completing her officer’s training, and then began studying psychology. Taking groups or individuals to the various sites/sights in the region is a part-time job for her, and one she takes very seriously. She grew up in Kiryat Mal’achi and clearly loves it and
Here is what I found out: the senior day center is a place where the elderly can go to be with community, to make things—some to decorate the center; some to sell (interestingly, the men make mosaics; the women sew. Apparently, the men are “lazier” (and I do quote!) than the women, but mosaics hold their interest, while sewing does not. Fascinating. The center offers exercise, showers and haircuts, meals, health care, and company. What I noticed most were the smiles and the smell—or lack thereof. In the
Inbal talked to me at length about the volunteer opportunites—drama, music, and art; helping with youth; working on computers; teaching English (no knowledge of Hebrew required) and, of course, working with the seniors. It turns out that the Jewish Agency maintains an apartment where volunteers can stay rent-free while they help. Very cool. So that was Kiryat Mala’achi.
Then we drove south, near Eshkelon, to Yad Mordechai, to see the museum there. This is a kibbutz that took its inspiration (and some of its fighters) from the Warsaw Ghetto. During the 1948 war of independence, it held off the Egyptian army for several days, eventually fleeing, but by then, other fighters had had the time to organize and get weapons. The museum itself is a nicely done place, but what I was most interesting in was the ideology behind the museum.
Two things—first, it claimed responsibility for the State—had it not been for the defense, Tel Aviv would have fallen, and so on. Same thing was true in Tzfat—it was the defense for the north. Clearly, both are true—
Second, the museum made a distinction between Jews who fought and those who went “to the slaughter.” It’s a distinction I used to make—I can remember when “Dona, Dona” was one of my favorite songs. From making that distinction, I went to a belief that people simply do the best they can and the best they are capable of. Perhaps some of those who ended up in the camps were easily led, however, some of those who ended up outside the camps were lucky. The problem, as always, is that we never know where our choices will lead and that each person has a different set of constraints—the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto were, by and large, young and unattached. From that perspective, it’s easy to see the world in black and white and it’s easier to act without considering the consequences. And, as in a previous post, those who resisted were not left unscarred either.
Following the museum, we had a tour of the battleground and then of the honey factory (cute, but frankly, better for the ten-year-old set). I’m bringing back Israeli honey for Dave. Deborah (meaning “bee” in Hebrew, just for the record) has declared that he will need to decide whether the honey she brought back from the South of France is better than Israeli honey. A tough job, but someone’s got to do it.