Operation Desert Flower

•December 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Another job on the kibbutz:

soft eyes steady hands

Sorting olives is quite the meditation.  After a few minutes you stop thinking and watch your hands work.  Stand back and watch your hands grab colors.



And walla! After a few hours you end up with a huge olive fortress!



You can also stand and envy the job of the goat herders with their sticks and shouts and beautiful goats rubbing up against the fence or straying off to eat stray olives before the herder  hits the ground with his/her stick.


the dance...

Other than work there is play.  On shabbat a special dance is performed.  It is a dance unique to Neot Smadar, which has structured formations and leaders and things but it is essentially improv.  You must wear white to participate.  I was told to watch the first week, but the second week I was able to join in.  The electronic music is composed weekly by a solitary woman who lives on the kibbutz.



We went on a hike into nowhere.


dip after work

We went swimming in the lake before dinner.


I lost my phone in the bushes this way

We climbed up a wooden tower to watch the sun set.



…with a girl who is afraid of heights.  Meet my caravan-mate.


She laughed it off

She looks and acts like Dory from Finding Nemo.



the music room by lamplight

We sang Matthias’ medieval choir piece late into the night (10 p.m.)



Nice end to a long day.  I had to do it again the next day (and retrieve my phone from the bushes)



The moon was full and later, a couple pals and I went skinny dipping in the Wolf’s Pool and howled at that moon.



The next day was erev shabbat already.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was leaving in a couple days.



The peacocks came to say their goodbyes.


bnei kibbutz

shabbat was wild.  The arak was flowing.  The white fabric was blowing with the dancers.  I danced along this time and felt like a 4-year-old playing Simon Says or Indian Chief.


big girls

The grown-ups were playing grown-up games.  Like tangle yourselves in a knot and then untangle yourselves.



We found a scary sign pointing in no direction in particular.  Glenn is the one person who is paranoid about landmines.


Along the blackwater

We decided to continue.


the blackwater system

The blackwater system takes sewage and naturally filters it back into usable water.



The desert. Jordan in the distance.


Ketura Nature reserve

After walking a couple hours, we made it to the waterfall.  Which is actually this rock formation with no water in it.


red rock

we made it! i'm thirsty!

the sun was setting. It was time to head back.

the moon was enormous and low and orange.

enter the bomb shelter

One last trip to the library…  Starting reading The Little Prince in Hebrew and a book of Osip Mandelstam’s poetry translated by W.S. Merwin…. wow.  New favorite poet.

life or death

If they ever use this place as a bomb shelter, they won’t be bored.  But they better hope that the drummer is good.  Otherwise I could see some folks running out into bombfire to escape the noise.

sinewy seed

last moments

One last tea break before heading out of the kibbutz.  I did not want to say goodbye to these people.

who could?



Neot Smadar Kibbutz, Desert Flower Oasis Of My Eye

•November 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

a home!

Time to slow down and be somewhere for more than a few days.  Neot Smadar is a very unique kibbutz and I am volunteering for two weeks here.


the desert

Neot Smadar is an oasis in the Negev Desert, 60 km from Eilat (the southern tip of Israel).



They have organic pomegranate, date, olive, apricot (“mishmish”), nectarine, peach, plum, pear, apple, almond, citrus orchards and a vineyard.


rimon (pomegranate)


zeitim (olives)

It was the olive harvest season when I arrived.


Arts Facility

This is the crazy-looking arts facility that took the members 15 years to build in spare time (I don’t understand how they found spare time outside of work).  It has lots of workshops like ceramics and weaving and metalshop and glassblowing.


sunset view

I was attracted to this kibbutz partly because of the prospect of doing art, but I was sorely mistaken.  I had no time or access to the arts facility; only very special members use it.


Mitbach (kitchen)

Volunteers are put in different jobs throughout the day/week.  A lot of times I was in the kitchen, chopping or setting up the cheder ochel (dining room) or washing dishes.  Every job here involves a lot of cleaning.


the hut

We work all day, from 6am onwards (often until dinnertime).  But they know how to take tea breaks!



This is the hut where everyone hangs out before/after meals, smokes cigarettes, drinks tea.


quiet little hideaway

There are little paths with viewpoints and little pools and nice spots to relax.


desert flower


Gad taught me some basic Spanish guitar, like rassiado and picking.


the food processing building

Another morning I worked in food processing, jarring mishmish jam (apricot jam).



One of my favorite jobs was scrubbing cheese. Mattias and I scrubbed mold off cheese for 2 hours a few different times.  I like this job ’cause I like cheese, and I also get into a rhythm.  Mattias is really passionate about music and as we would work, he would compose a medieval choir piece and we’d sing.


night ride

It was Orly’s birthday (my caravan-mate on the far left) and a bunch of us took a couple boats across the lake to an island.

campfire kum kum (kettle in Arabic)

We built a fire, made lemongrass tea, passed around chocolate and cheese, looked at the incredibly dark, starry sky, got to know each other.

spontaneous vocalists

Mattias led an improvised singing sesh.  No pre-existing songs, just our own spontaneous sounds coming together.  There were harmonies weaving, whistles garbling, knees slapping, and tea glasses clanking.  I peed in the woods.  It was a good night.


An Unexpected Visit to this Half-Metropolis

•November 4, 2010 • 3 Comments

(half-metropolis because the population’s at about half a million)

Bardo Store, Haifa

This is the side of the shop that the Broken Fingaz Crew opened and which now sells their ware.  Unga painted this hairy creature.


night kitchen... Nimrod's apartment



Godfather of Massada Street

We gathered veggies for a late dinner after a long day.


the sweet spot

Part of the boys’ apartment on Massada Street, morning light.



The balcony and the sun showed me where I’d landed: the port city.  We ate breakfast at a cafe on Massada Street and it really struck me how integrated and connected the Arab and Israeli communities are here, definitely unique to this city or maybe this street.  I felt hopeful.


last looks

The roof where Broken Fingaz shot this dope stop-motion, inspired by Blu.


this too.

Ah to be surrounded by creative people making stuff…


Aviah and Aya

Such as these two beautiful girls.  Loved them from the first moment.



the Haifa underground

After making and devouring a delicious feast with the gang, Gon and I headed into the city for a night adventure.  It was cold and rainy and I dug it!


monkey boy in big city

The subway station is a trip, not like any other subway I’ve experienced.


Waiting for the last train

It’s a cool space, with the angle and the colors and the buzzing cables…. to see it sink to a stop is strange, counterintuitive for me.


vortex or TIME MACHINE

We hopped up a building to see the whole city from the rooftop.  It started to rain again and we made the slippery descent.  It was short and sweet, Haifa.  Hopefully back for another go, but I had a destination: Neot Smadar…


•November 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We left Jerusalem with the sun, on a bus, into the desert.


the wild chase

We set up camp in the dark, inches away from each neighbor.  We had to move spots because we’d accidentally landed upon a beastly biting ant colony.


wanna party

It was a small festival.  Well, it was the biggest in Israel, but tiny compared to any festival in the States.  In a really really really amazing way.  It felt intimate and when I lost everyone I didn’t feel really lost.


Tree's guitarist

The first act we saw was Tree, a psychedelic/freak folk band that toned down the freakiness in order to play with some old Israeli legend of a musician.


Bela Tarr

One of my favorite sets was on the small stage called Bimat Pil (Elephant Stage).  Her name is Zoe Polanski a.k.a. Bela Tarr and she layers live bass loops and sings. Beautiful.  Here is the one song I could find online, “Salty Lights”.



Night was a big party.  Natalie and I somehow got a second wind (mind, I had slept zero hours the night before) and danced until the music stopped at 5.


Audio Montage Allstars

A band I saw with Gonjasufi and the Gaslamp Killer in Tel Aviv some weeks before.  Some DJs from TABAC, a crazy keyboardist, a melodicist (?), hand drummer and a sitar player.  Were so good mainly because they had a good selection of songs already in existence.


Watch Natalie rock out.


feed the monkey

This is Gon/Unga/monkey boy from Haifa, arak-enthusiast and, duh, banana-enthusiast.


this is Tent City.

We said goodbye to tent city and carried our things a bit outside the festival, behind the parking lot.  We found a spot under a tree and called it a night.



We still woke up drenched in sweat at 8 in the morning, but hey, it was better than 7:30 when everyone else woke up.  Suckers!  We could hear the soul/funk set in the distance and headed over.



Walking through the heat, we realized where we were

the right side of the tent



Gon, Itai, Tant

mitz. juice.

We woke up slowly to passiflora juice and sitting under the shade watching a set.


the shade

night number 2

Umlala played.  They are great but the stand-up bass was replaced with an electric, and the keyboardist girl was also replaced. Shame.


the humans are dead let's talk about it

new friends

We sat on a mat near the box people and met some friendly people.  And they found the paint, just what I’d been hoping for.


art and photo courtesy of Moran Newman

Suddenly I’m feral! And extremely sneaky!

One of my favorite sets, the Ramirez Brothers VS. Boom Pam.  Boom Pam is a Balkan/surf rock band that played at the Teder one sunny day, and the Ramirez Brothers, formed by an ex-Boomer, were so fun.  They battled it out luchador-style and I’m still not sure who won.



photo courtesy of Natalie Willens

3421… live electronic goodness.  Kip and Deso (from Broken Fingaz) and Markey Funk.


last day at the beach. Adir, Asaf and Natalie.

This desert looks like a beach but without the water.

photo courtesy of Adir

silly kids (Deso, Asaf and Adir)


play day

The reality of leaving was starting to knock, but I still didn’t want to let it in.


breaking camp

Luckily, I got invited to stay with Unga and Tant at their apartment in Haifa, on Massada Street.  Reality didn’t seem so bad after all…

The Boat, The Sunrise

•October 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Jerusalem welcomed me back with two Parisian girls and a crazed French folk dance.

making funny funny in Shani's apartment

A portrait. An artist in his room. Maxim Fernand, Architect.


Natalie, my muse of the night

At the Sira ("boat")

Shai and Maxim and the dance floor

making music with our hands, our throats, Amir's apartment, late night, til the sun came up.

O Tel Aviv How I Love Thee!

•October 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

44 Hertsel cat-- one of many

I had one more day to explore Tel Aviv before heading out to somewhere new.  I marvel at the way this trip has unfolded– with a stop in Tel Aviv in between every other destination.  There is just always some reason, something happening here, to make me come back.

strength and grace

Walking down the Rothschild pedestrian path/ bike path, I stumbled upon aerial dancers under the shade of a tree.  It was so beautiful, every movement was a picture, and I couldn’t tear myself away until they did.  This is what I love about Tel Aviv– you never know what you will come across.


I found a friend along the way.

don't drive and juice

This was less of a friend, more of a nightmare.

Broken Fingaz-- they've sure left their mark

Who are these Broken Fingaz people?? I kept wondering every time I saw them pasted or painted on the street or published in Af zine.

the pink balloon


a unique opportunity to fart on art

skyscraper making. the usual. tel aviv is growing so tall with all those french and pet dogs she's been eating.

i much prefer the old crumbly ones that tel aviv is sweeping under the rug.

being served unusually cheap beer with none other than sara matlin, from way back in the days of san diego, whom i remember getting drunk with before she left to study abroad in israel. little did i know she stayed ever since.

One day of wandering.  On to the next.

chava v’adam

•October 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Here are the highlights from visiting Liz at Chava V’Adam, a permaculture  Eco-Farm somewhere outside Modi’in (between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem).  After extremely vague walking directions, I somehow made it to the farm with bags on my shoulders and a wedding proposal (during a 5-minute hitchhike ride: “I have nightclub in Natanya, you come, I marry you”) under my belt.



yurt dome...with a peephole for passing cloud puffs and passing stars


I’ll let the pictures do most of the work this time around, since internet access/time is limited.



late afternoon snack




Dinner was delicious and lively. Danny played guitar and we all sang and clanged our tea glasses or whatever we could find. American folk songs for American folks.



strong arms... good for kicking



The next day me and a few of the girls built some shade over the compost with dried palm fronds.



This is Maxi, shade enthusiast.




This is Liz, turning peels into pure magic.



The loudest creatures on the farm (and there were New Yorkers on the farm)



chums of chem (chem, are you reading this?)



chickenwire creation



ert ert ert?




rassiado-er on the flo-er



After lunch we all walked to the abandoned olive groves nearby with buckets and sticks and tunes on our lips.



Modi'in behind us.



Zahava (Goldie). A true love of mine.







elizabeth golda, my muse



the smallest snail shell



olive harvest. olive trees have one good season and then one bad, and this one was bad-- we found few patches of hanging olives.


and then flopped onto the grass

and then climbed the tree

and then climbed another tree with thorns

and red bugs

and then i had to say goodbye to her in the yellow grass under the tree with the bugs. Zahava led me back to the spot where Idan was waiting to give Danny and I a ride to the train station. That night Danny and his friend from home played an acoustic show at the rooftop bar of Sub Kuch Milega, an Indian restaurant, with everyone sitting on pillows on the floor and it was all very California feeling.