Hakhel Israel Resilience Trip – January 2024: The Journey Continues

Written by Pablo Elliott from Living Tree Alliance in Vermont.
Another early start Thursday finds us in a van at dawn rumbling dutifully along pitted dirt roads to the Mango orchard for a final round of tree trimming on Kibbutz Ravid.

The cloud of travel fatigue the first two days would soon give way to a beautiful sunrise as we approach rows of bare mango trees, dormant still but showing the earliest signs of buds.

Our morning conversations in the orchard meander across every possible topic as we leapfrog from tree to tree, hacking away branches to let light through the canopy for the coming season. The project is satisfying as we start to feel some comfort with the tools and flow. The only challenge was our boots still wet from the day before; they gathered the clay soil and scattered leaves and sticks to form something like the bricks of Mitzraim, constant scraping required to lighten the load. We know that as a group we could be faster, Farmer Marina encourages us as we go with various version of Yalla!

After a full morning of work, it was lunch-shower-go time. We cleaned up, packed up and circled up for some final thoughts on the land connection that made our stay at Kibbutz Ravid both challenging and special. The connection with Israel was more than an idea at this point in the trip, it was real, as real as the mud caked to our shoes, pants, and shirts for the foreseeable future. It felt good to have done something so tangible to contribute, even in a small way, to future harvests.

The afternoon was another day unto itself. Our eventual destination was Haifa, but first two stops along the way for meetings with communities to better understand the range of experiences across Israel in the wake of October 7. Our first stop was a grand hotel in Nazareth where 200 members of a displaced Israeli Arab community (evacuated from the Northern border) were staying for the foreseeable future. Over coffee, we learned about how the community was impacted by their displacement, and how leaders in this community were navigating relentless hurdles.

Our final stop in the early evening was to Nof Hagalil and the Urban Kibbutz Mishol. Around couches and tea, we learned about the history and development of this innovative community, and ongoing efforts of this Kibbutz to bridge divides in their local community in a time of true challenge and tension. A really inspiring conversation to round out a day of conversation.