MILKING COWS IN ISRAEL FEB  - JUNE 1994

Choosing to spend time in Israel, I wanted to be able to :
* Learn more about the checkered and complicated past of the people
* Find out what keeps driving them forward in a very aggressive and oppressive world
* Be able to learn more about the communist way of life
* Completely understand the importance of adapting to people and situations around you....

Upon reflection today, it is very clear to me that 1994 was the year that changed me, prepared and moulded me...
...INTO WHAT I AM TODAY :

                                                    A COMPLETELY ADJusted Thinker 

 

LEFT Cleaning the COW CAROUSEL
and feeling like I can take over the world with my water jet !

RIGHT :
THE FISH AND HIS MOBILE FINS..

A month after arriving, a Dutch guy was on his way home and gave me his bike...most awesome gift ever !
P
S: Fish was my Hebrew nickname as DOUG was the word for fish....

I thought I would share 5 memorable moments of my time on KIBBUTZ GIVAT CHAIM :

1. WHAT DID MY WORK ENTAIL ?
The kibbutz had the biggest Cowshed in Israel with 300 cows being milked 3 times a day. Milking was done via carousel and a mechanical suction machine but it did could get quite intense as cows really did not enjoy being ushered into the carousel. Occasionally the cows would get claustrophobic, panic and either kick out in frustration or simply refuse to get onto the milking carousel. However, after the initial anxious moments that, I personally had, before long I was able to understand that cows are not fragile and at times needed TOUGH LOVE to get the milking done. I understood early on that, should a cow not get milked the obligatory 3 times per day, their was a very real risk of the cow getting ill and even dying from the pain. It took about 4 hours to complete the process and I was on duty EVERY DAY for 2 of the 3 milks...with a rest day every 5 days
3 shifts - 3am till 7am 12pm till 4pm and 8pm till midnight. It was very hectic at times but I found the 3am shift the best as you could get back, sleep till about 11am and be free until the 4pm shift.


2 WHY DID I TEACH MYSELF HEBREW ?
Because I was not Jewish, it was typically luck of the draw if you could find a kibbutznik who was willing to help you learn to speak Hebrew. That said, their was noone willing to teach any volunteers who were not Jewish. NO PROBLEM....I was able to purchase a second hand book on basic Hebrew terminology and I tested my new words daily on the friends I made working in the cowshed. I have general love for communicating with people who speak another language and to this day, I am proud to say I can still speak some Hebrew - almost 30  years after teaching myself ! The real challenge was not speaking but writing in Hebrew (remember it is one of the oldest languages on the planet and has no consonants or vowels....mainly well constructed cursive squiggles....That said, remembering that Hebrew is written from RIGHT to LEFT and not LEFT to RIGHT...I only managed to write DOUG in Hebrew....which incidently in hebrew means FISH....which was nickname for 10 months in the middle east.

3 MEMORABLE KIBBUTZNIKS vs ODD VOLUNTEERS
A mentioned earlier, the local Israelis that lived on the kibbutz were known as kibbutz-niks while the internation travellers that came from around the world to help out and experience this life, where referred to as Volunteers.

Because the kibbutz-niks generally kept to themselves - viewing us  (quite rightly...) as a bunch of weirdos from all over the world. But I clearly remember the one volunteer - originally from Australia - who ended up becoming a kibbutznik while I was there. He had been living and working in the special volunteer living quarters for around three years and because he had no plans of leaving, before I arrived, he requested special permission from the Kibbutznik elders if he could become a permanent resident...not an easy thing to do...yet after managing to convert to Judaism, he was accepted in a special ceremony while I was there....and he was delighted to be given his own house on the kibbutz. He remained a friend for all volunteers and one of our only connections to the rest of the kibbutzniks. 
Then I very fondly remember the Friday afternoon open-invitation for volunteers to join an elderly widowed lady, Piddut, for some coffee and tea. While most new volunteers only went for the biscuits and decent coffee, I became a regular as I loved simply listening - her stories were really inspirational and I could see that she was a very lonely person...to this day, I still wonder what happened to her.

As for the Volunteers, well there were many that stood out. Most of them came from Europe - a lot of Scandinavians (from Swedan, Norway and Denmark) but there were always at least 5 South Africans around me. Names like Olaf, Gustav, Bo, Amos, Marija, Travis, Marcello, Cesar and many others came and went as the average stay for a volunteer was around 8 weeks....and I managed 15 weeks....

4. SA DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN 1994
Many of you reading this will clearly remember our countries first democratic election in 1994. It was well known that he ANC were going to win, but the excitement of voting for the first time (having turned 18 a mere 5 months before) was just too exciting to miss being a part of. But the problem was the fact that all registered voters in Israel could only go to Tel Aviv to put their X on the ballot sheet. 
So, on a very hot day in April, I left the group with around 6 or 7 South Africans bound for the voting station set aside for ex-pats in Tel Aviv. Castle Lager available at cost (it was also brewed in the country) did not really help in my quest to get my vote counted !
The truth is that with literally THOUSANDS of South Africans gathering in one spot in Israel, it was unfortunately impossible to cast a vote as the queues were too long and the air with thick with sentimental Afrikaans accents, braais, boeremusiek and Klipppies brandy.....no vote cast, but my memory of this historic day that MADIDA ASCENDED to become president, will still a proud day for me.

5. THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA
First of all in the mid 1990s, the mobile phone had just arrived but was only available to PURCHASE by the truly important and wealthy person. Also, e-mails, wi-fi connections etc were not really established yet. 
So, communication with friends and family back home was done in one of two ways only.....
1. AIR MAIL...unluck emails, you actually had to pick up a pen and write down your experiences...WOW - physically picking up a pen ? I know, we were hardcore - werent we ? Once posted, it still took between 5 and 7 days to get to its destination.....back to the STONE AGE I can hear some people say...
2. PHONE BOX...also known previously as the tickie box !
This was the only way we could hear voices of family and friends back home which was very tricky at times as the phone boxes were not always close to you....sometimes it meant having to
hitchhike (another forgotten habit we had in the 20th century..)  to another kibbutz  to call home as you promised your mom10 days before when you sent your airmailed envelope back  home...PHEW.
(before I continue, towards the end of 1994, I remember the REVOUTIONARY introduction of the PHONE CARD - no more was there a need to carry coins around as there was already money in the card for you to phone...what would be next ? I remembered thinking)

Anyway, the reason for this story above is simply for all to understand that receiving  updated, real-time communication on all that was happening in South Africa was only available via the daily newspaper - which for me was the Jerusalem Post. 
Day in and day out was NOTHING BUT DISTURBING NEWS coming from SA. I remember getting seriously concerned about the safety of my siblings and parents back home. 
The next Sunday evening - 5 shekels (around R10 at the time) saved an put into the phone box, I anxiously wanted to find out if everyone was safe back home.

The answer that came was almost always the same - Dont worry Ant, we are fine, BUT HOW ARE YOU WITH ALL THE BOMBS GOING OFF AROUND YOU ? So - the media back home was reporting that it was utter chaos at the same time in Israel....this is the moment I understood the fact that, while the media does (usually) report correctly, we as readers only get a small and very dire situation of a smaller picture sometimes.  
That said, I only remember one incident of a bomb going off in Hadera, our closest city to the kibbutz...but no one was injured. Other than that, you did see UZIs on every bus and on soldiers walking in the streets, but I actually felt very safe in my time in Israel.

 

CLOCKWISE from first picture on the LEFT :
1. On the Kibbutz, I met STRETCH ! At 7foot1, and 8 years older that me, he became my (LITERAL) and figurate brother once we moved on from the KIBBUTZ to seek employment in Eilat on the Red Sea
2. FLOATING in the DEAD SEA - school boy error made...I decided to shave before we left and with a few opened scars on my face, it was a painful experience : #NEVERAGAIN
3. COWS ON THE CAROUSEL....a daily job for me.... I HONESTLY LOVED IT....even though I learnt very quickly that cows only do 3 things...eat, sleep and sh#
4&5 . When you travel, you do meet VERY interesting characters, like MARIJE from Holland (her story will be revealed in a later blog) as well as SOUTH AFRICANS who ALL seem to have some fascinating stories - Mark, Travis and Mike (all from Durban) were no exception to this rule !
6. After work drinks with FELLOW  VOLUNTEERS  (which the locals called us...) 
7. While taking a few days off from milking cows I went on MY FIRST TRIP TO JERUSALEM.  Truth is that I am upset I was unable at the time to fully grasp the AURA of this city at the time...BUT I can honestly say that I felt the presence of our Lord while I was there. |I cant wait to return with Jax