My Visit to Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak

By:Jackie Sharpe

This past Shabbat I visited the kibbutz. It was amazing to see it first hand and more amazing to see how our 32 kids had settled in and finding their way in just 48 hours.

I set out from Tel Aviv in my rented car and headed South. The GPS took me as far as Beer Sheva and then it was into the first gas station to ask for directions! “Pass Ofakim, then to Tzomet Magen til a “T” intersection, turn left and continue straight until you see the sign, Nir Yitzhak.” The drive took an hour and 15 mins to Beer Sheva and then 35 mins to the gate of the kibbutz. Not terrible!

And yes, Gaza is close. Right there. When you look out the car window, it’s really close, but it was ‘just another place’ and not something to dwell on. Truly! Much of Israel is beyond the green line. My cousins live in a beautiful home in Oranit and we just got used to looking out the window and seeing an Arab village across the way. I know this has been a concern of many parents, but having been here and watching the ‘sunset over Gaza,’ it’s just that. Don’t even think twice about this. They are safe as any place and we have all seen and heard much worse than living 15 mins from Gaza and there is a soldier at the gate who checks every car and person going in.

You will find my photos on our photo website: http://jssajrphotos.smugmug.com

The first thing I noticed is small “srifts” sort of, huts. Our Garin has 8 srifts in a sort of circle and its like a small development (really small) but they are close to one another and run between each other’s room or just pull up a couple chairs and sit on the ‘porch like’ area. It’s warm, it’s open, it’s friendly and it’s inviting. And they are making it their home.

Once you go beyond that, into each of their ooms…you have 32 kids, with 32 styles of their own. You know your own kids so you know what they need to be happy. My son, Alexi, needs “order” and likes everything in its place. It all works and has nothing to do with the friendship and support that I see and felt in abundance with everyone.

So my Friday afternoon was helping organize Alexi and whoever asked for my help unpacking and settling in. I was happy to be there.

At 7 pm, we all met outside their rooms and walked to the dining room together for dinner. This was old style typical kibbutz. You find a place to sit with your friends, grab a plate and take the food you want from different food stations, veges and salad, rice and potatoes, baked chicken, chicken kabobs, and fish… and eat. You bus your own dishes and clean up after yourself.

Absent to me was Challah, but maybe because I like Shabbat and the ritual of candles, wine and challah. I am not sure who else missed it. But because it was Shabbat and the first one, it was important for some to say kiddish. So one of the boys got some wine and Roni led them in kiddish and then we ate.

I wasn’t the only visitor. Several other parents and family members were there in the afternoon and some relatives stayed as I did for dinner and the evening activities.

There was a cork board at the entrance with a photo of each Garin and their name and age (you will see a photo of this) and photos of the dinner and all the kids sitting around. Pretty special.

After dinner, directly as you exit the dining room is a large courtyard type area, and the entire kibbutz gathered outside under the stars in the heat of the Negev surrounding our 32 kids. There was a sound system with speaker boxes and a few welcoming speeches. Dor and Elan said a few words on behalf of our Garin, which was very heartwarming.

Then the dancing started…Israeli “rikudai um” – old songs, news songs, kids songs, American silly songs…you name it, the DJ played them and everyone participated. And when you needed a break, there was lemonade and watermelon. What is Israel without watermelon in the Summer?

When Alexi was dancing I took the photos…otherwise what you see are his photos. There is also a great group shot. Expect a lot of these. Most of these kids don’t mind posing for the camera!

I left about 10.30pm and at 11.30 the older kids of the kibbutz had a party to welcome the Garin. I hear it went until 3 am. I didn’t ask details.

The ambience of the kibbutz is warm and friendly; exactly what you hoped for. It is. Our 32 kids ARE now part of this big kibbutz family and you can feel it. I introduced myself to many and was told how excited and proud the residents of the kibbutz are to have a Garin group again. This is the second group Nir Yitzhak has taken in, so although it’s a new to them, they seem to know exactly what they are doing.

I visited on Saturday. They don’t open the dining room for breakfast so everyone was on their own, but there is a grocery store on the kibbutz and no one starved!

I walked around a little. You know that it is agricultural so there are cows and chickens. I didn’t visit that area but when you drive in you pass it on your left. It’s a nice property. Fantastic swimming pool and a Clubhouse. Their individual kitchen areas is like a dorm kitchen. A counter, sink, small fridge, toaster oven and cupboards. If they want to cook they have to cook in the clubroom, where there is also a fridge. Some may end up buying a microwave for heating food that you can’t in a toaster oven. Alexi’s kitchen needed a good scrubbing and disinfecting. I don’t know about the other ones!

I drove home to Tel Aviv before dinner on Saturday night and luckily I hang around talking because Guy’s sister and friend had missed the bus so I was able to give them a ride back to Tel Aviv.

I am glad I visited and I am glad I can share my experiences with you all. Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you want…on this blog so others can share also.

The kids have a free weekend this week, which begins on Thursday at 1pm, so I will be there…If any of your kids need anything, PLEASE ask me. It is my absolute pleasure to help them settle in and make this their home as soon as possible. Then they can focus on the real reason they are all there…for the IDF and their ultimate dreams.

Stay safe. Stay Strong.
Love,
Jackie

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