Hakhel Seminar: Day Seven

by Liz Savage

What an incredible week; we’ve met such an amazing and diverse collection of people and institutions all around the country, all with their individual takes and structures about and around intentional communities. I don’t know quite what my expectation was going into this trip- maybe just touring around the dusty remnants of a bygone era- but the reality far surpassed all of what I imagined.

The tour began in the wake of the election results here. For the 30% who voted for Netanyahu it was a great result. But the mood for some, myself included, was depressed. There was a real sense of gloominess in Tel Aviv, a place that overwhelmingly voted for fresh ideas and perspective. Israel has so very much to offer the world; its grit, its heart, its innovation, its beauty, and the notion that this election would further distance and divide the Jewish community in America was gut wrenching.

And so with somewhat of a heavy heart, the tour began. First we went to the north, to learn about the beginnings of kibbutzim movement at Chatzer Kinneret and Degania. There, overlooking the glimmering Kinneret, we heard some history- Kibbutz 101, as it were-which would serve as a solid base and point to refer back to for the rest of the trip. Then it was off to a Druze village to see what an inspiring and engaged minority, nestled high in the lush green hills of the Galilee, were doing to build community; both utilizing specifically Druze and universal values. We ended the day at Kibbutz Yizreel, established in 1948, a classic model, which after struggling in the 90’s as many kibbutzim did, found sure footing again and were thriving.

I know that our group has logged the journey every day, so I won’t repeat what others have already shared, so flash forward to today, the last day of our trip.

We’re ending our tour in another inspiring place called, Shuva, a moshav comprised of an eclectic mix of Eco-Hasidic, Sephardic and Masorti. Shuva was established in 1951, originally Libyan and Tunisian, and was an agricultural community. In recent years the community has aged and dwindled and the place, sadly, has fallen somewhat into disrepair. Then five years ago three families- a part of the stereotype defying Eco-Hasidic movement- moved into Shuva. Three families became seven, seven became twenty-one and now today, there’s a waiting list of a hundred. The sense of optimism in this place became palpable, as we’ve listened to the ways they’re working to affect social change and breathe new life into dusty little desert community.

So I’ll end with this: we have seen so much hope in all these communities; secular, religious, mixed secular and religious, artistic, urban, rural, Ethiopian, Kafkazim, all determined on making Israel a more just place for everybody. I feel completely-albeit somewhat complexly- so different then when this tour began. There is hope here- a lot of it. And make no mistake; there are problems too- a lot of them. But it is my hope and prayer, for both myself and the American Jewish community, that we hold the complexity of this country- and not give up- on this grand experiment called Israel.

Learn more about the Jewish Intentional Communities Initiative here.