Ketura, Ketura — Part 2

We arrive and are well-treated

Usually when you arrive at a kibbutz where you’ll be staying for a few days, they’ll hand you your room key, show you where the dining hall is, and that’s it. After that, you’re on your own to figure out where to go. There was one place we stayed at on one of these study trips where it took us from when we arrived Monday to checkout time on Thurs. to figure out the quickest way to get back to our cabins from the dining hall, that’s how convoluted the route was. Not so at Ketura, which made it kind of special. Once we got off the bus and located our luggage, we were introduced to Dar (pronounced ‘Dar’ in English and ‘Darrrr’ in Hebrew), who was there to make certain we were properly looked after. (As I found out, she was from the wilds of Ramat Gan, did graduate work in Florida and South Dakota (?), and returned ‘home’ to The Land, although a different part of it.) Our quarters were a minute or two away from the building that served as a reception area and a gift shop. When it was time to go to and from the dining hall, which was a five-minute walk, or anywhere else on the kibbutz – also a five-minute walk – there was a golf cart and a young driver eager to make certain we wouldn’t get lost or run out of energy.

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Ketura, Ketura — Part 1

Some things, you can bet the mortgage are going to happen one after another – the way night follows day and day follows night. If the AACI has scheduled another study trip (#184), you KNOW it going to leave from in front of the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem promptly at 8AM, and the first stop will of necessity be the Elvis Diner outside of Abu Gosh, where members of the group can buy coffee in Elvis mugs and take advantage of the rest rooms.

It was there that I sidled up to our tour guide and inquired if he knew Barbara and Richard Levine. What kind of a question is that? Why would Bill Slott, who lives in a kibbutz 50 kilometers from Eilat, know our friends, who, as everyone knows, live atop a mountain in the Galil? Because of his shirt, that’s why.

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Ketura, Ketura (Introduction)

Another of my crazy ideas

They’re giving us a choice! That’s sure nice of the folks at Kibbutz Ketura, especially since we are not supposed to show up there for another three weeks. Here are the options for the activities on that Tuesday morning: 1) a bike ride around the kibbutz premises; 2) a watercolor workshop; 3) a tour of their ‘off-grid village’; 4) a desert ‘montage’. Well then, what would I – and the others – choose? Decisions, decisions…

It’s just another of my crazy ideas, a success-ometer, a device to measure when someone has succeeded mightily or has failed miserably in something we have done. Some of the events that could be measured are the obvious ones: marriages, careers, and the like. But I’m more interested in activities that seem less monumental, perhaps ones that are far-distant memories that still remain with us, because, as we all are aware, it’s hard to escape one’s childhood.

I am invited to join a group bike ride around the kibbutz premises. As a teenager, many of my friends would head off to Saxon Woods Park in Westchester County, while I remained behind. For whatever reasons, I never learned to ride a bicycle, so I could not pedal off with the rest. (Very low score on the success-ometer.) To this day, I remember my sense of failure, my feeling of incompetence. Why can’t I do what everyone else is doing? So, no, let others cycle through ‘Ketura’s fields and orchards on the way to the Jordanian border’; I’ll take a pass.

Then there’s the watercolor workshop. P.S/J.H.S.80 was a real school, with activities that have long since gone by the wayside in today’s curricula. Of course, we had Art as a subject, meaning we got to play with watercolors – not the easiest medium for a child to work with. We were instructed to use the watercolors the ‘right’ way, make a thin wash and apply that to the inexpensive paper we were given. Many of kids figured out pretty quick that if you did the opposite, use as little water as possible so the texture of the paint was like glue, it was a lot easier to work with. Those of us who foolishly followed the teacher’s instructions wound up with a big mess, while the others….. (Another score in the red zone of the success-ometer.) Let’s pass on this as well.

A tour of the off-grid village, one of the interesting activities on Kibbutz Ketura. I’m not sure what that’s about, but a definite maybe. However…….. there’s Desert Montage. ‘The essential principal of montage is the arrangement of cut shapes, words, images or materials on an esthetic or conceptual theme.’ Collage, as a thing, was ‘invented’ by the Cubists – Picasso and Braque – more than a century ago. The German artist Kurt Schwitters created quite a stir with his Merz. More to the point, my late sister, Marilyn June, did a number of works, some of which I have, that could qualify in that category. I’ve never had the opportunity to try my hand at taking disparate objects and creating something anew. It would be perfect for someone like me, with a lot of visual imagination but limited dexterity. The best thing is that there was never anything recorded on the success-ometer; I get to start from scratch. That’s what I’ll do; let me at ‘em!

Back at the home front

Of course, we wouldn’t get started for another three weeks. Lots of time for other things to happen on the home front. First, The Levines finally made their way down from the up-north mountain top, just in time for Thanksgiving, which we don’t usually celebrate here in The Land because ‘nobody’ else is doing it. But Artzenu, where I get my free-range chickens, was hawking their free-range turkeys for those ‘somebodies’ who do want. So let’s do it right with all the trimmings, including Richard Levine’s you-ain’t-seen-nuthin’-yet stuffing. And let’s invite a bunch of other friends to partake, because four of us cannot do justice to a 6.5 kg bird. Beside chowing down on a holiday fowl, we usually go someplace exciting when our friends are with us, but Richard was having, let’s call it intestinal issues, so we weren’t going too far afield. A lot of chatting and pontification, but no wineries. Still, good company is worth a lot. Maybe a whole lot.

The Shabbat after that was the big bar mitzvah shindig for friend Ezra’s son, Boaz. Lots of preparation for that, some of which involved the Casden household. I assumed the role of resident spirits consultant and part-time bartender at the Fri. night post-dinner get-together and the kiddush Shabbat morning, (after the let’s-have-our-own-minyan at a shul none of us ever go to, but they’ll let us use their space for a nominal fee) to make sure that the edict of ‘drink responsibly’ was followed meticulously, that no one got to hog a bottle, and no young whippersnappers got within shouting distance of anything remotely alcoholic. We also rolled out four bottles of Power Coffeeworks’ best cold brew, because what’s the point of a kiddush without coffee – I ask you.

There was also the matter of home hospitality. When someone invites their nearest and not-so-nearest to spend a Shabbat with them, those doing the inviting invariably call upon friendly locals to provide mattresses and even (gasp!) victuals to those invitees arriving from afar. And are there any locals friendlier than the Casdens?  Obviously, Natania, Gil, and Liel (daughter, son-in-law, and step-grand-daughter, if you haven’t been keeping score) would be provided for, but we were more than happy to welcome our former neighbors, The Hesslers, who were making the journey up from the sands of Beersheba for the occasion. Doing the math, we would have six guests staying with us, all of whom would be seated around our table for Fri. night dinner. But first, a whole bunch of Hurwitzes and other worthies would assemble at our place for a minyan for Fri. night davening. I ‘m sure you get the point: lots of people, lots of goings-on.

And lots of clean-up and laundry to do on Sunday after everyone had returned to their own home-sweet-home. Normally, that would not be a matter of concern. Take our time; we have all day. What’s a few loads of laundry between a man and wife? But now that we’re done, it’s time to pack. Tomorrow would be the big day. Off to Ketura. Would I get the chance to practice my skills at making a collage? The bus is full; no more seats. But anyone can join us, assuming you don’t mind traveling virtually. See you soon!