Monday, December 13, 2010

Sandstorms and Kibbutniks: Israeli Society Shabbaton

This past Shabbat, three of our volunteers joined the Masa community for a Shabbaton hosted by Kibbutz Kranim in the Northern Negev.  The weekend opened with a tour of two Bedouin villages in the Negev and a discussion of modern Bedouin culture, led by Bustan, a NGO that works for cooperation and social justice with Bedouin and Jewish communities in the Negev.   Dor Friedman, a student at Ben Gurion University, gave an overview of the differences between recognized and unrecognized Bedouin communities, and how the larger plans for the Negev will impact these traditionally nomadic communities.  The villages, recognized and unrecognized, were both faced by intense poverty and lack of services, but the group was impressed by the leadership and hope shown by the Bedouins who spoke to the Masa participants.

After touring the Bedouin villages, Kibbutz Kranim was the next stop.  Founded in 1980, the kibbutz had lost a great deal of its membership by the beginning of the 21st century.  It has been renewed by a membership dedicated to the principles of religious pluralism, sustainability and activism in the Negev.  The community's progressive ideals and commitment to developing meaningful community between religious and secular Jews rang true with the Tikkun Olamers present at the Shabbaton.  For Shabbat, the communities families each hosted a group of Masa participants at their tables.  It was an opportunity to really understand how a semi-privatized kibbutz functions and how a progressive community can flourish in the desert.

The weekend's speakers touched on a variety of topics ranging from ecology to Jewish Identity and Peoplehood to the Arab-Israeli conflict to the integration of Russian and Ethiopians in Beer Sheva to the challenges faced by the social workers trying to improve the lives of those in the Negev.  Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the weekend was that all of the educational programming and speakers were from Kibbutz Kranim or from nearby Moshavim or Kibbutzim. 

One of the major challenges faced in the Negev is the climate.  The group witnessed its first sandstorm and took the opportunity to stay indoors and have their own discussion about Jewish Identity.  Unfortunately, the periodic sandstorms prevented pictures from being taken, but please check out our other group photos on our facebook page,, and website

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