Edition 1 Date January 2018
COMFORT ZONE Publishing house
◊Looking back ◊ Looking forward ◊Looking up
◊Meet us ◊Greet us ◊ War and Peace
I arrived at the Eshkol region 32 years ago. I was young and naive enough to believe that you could plan your life out and everything would go according to that plan. My vision was to see the Holy Land and then save Africa. G-d had a little chuckle and then showed me his plan. Approximately five minutes after landing In Tel Aviv I had a revelation. I had come home. I didn’t know that I had been searching so the homecoming was even sweeter.
I had stumbled upon a place that was historical and yet cutting edge, spiritual yet pragmatic. The people of the book: I decided to join the library.
Naïve though I was, I realised that I wasn’t the first person to claim this land and that many peoples over the ages had come to call this place home.
I embarked on my new adventure at the old bus terminal, travelling to the southern region (Eshkol). I spent the first few weeks in a haze of culture shock. Far from family and friends I was without my support system and far from my comfort zone. This was the time to put all preconceptions and habits aside. I reached inside and reinvented myself. I emerged stronger and more flexible. There was a new reality to assess: I reached back to the past and connected with the souls who had wandered the Negev for generations, I reached forwards to my new life here and we met in the middle. After immersing myself in culture and history I found my new comfort zone and I never (or almost never) went home. So who did tread this path before me?
The first recording of Eshkol appeared in the Tanah (Numbers 13:23-24) as the valley into which twelve spies came into to obtain an enormous bunch of grapes which they took back to the camp of Israel as a specimen of the fruits of the Promised Land. Eshkol means cluster. The biblical Eshkol was in Hebron however and our region takes its name from the Prime Minister Levy Eshkol in order to honor his name as he died of a heart attack in the middle of his term in office.
Each of the diverse communities (13 moshavim, 14 kibbutzim and 5 settlements) has its own distinct identity, from the religious, the traditional to the secular and the agnostic. Each person has affirmed his or her life in the area. The nearest town is Ofaqim with its meager services and the nearest city Beer- Sheba which is 43 kilometers away. So Eshkol became self-sufficient. Instead of waiting for the world to come to our aid we went for self-service. A quick google search resulted in showing me what I had suspected. Our tiny region has a plethora of services from acupuncture to aura-soma; kickboxing to Kabbalah, netball to knitting, medical to musical and swimming to singing, from the mundane to the magical. There is more to do here (per capita) than any of the big cities in Israel that I checked.There are two cultural centers, three libraries, ten alternative medicine practices, restaurants, three hair-salons and enough beauty-salons to preen and pamper yourself regularly. Our children can run free and play outside instead of being stuck in front of the computer. There will be more rocket attacks and tunnel invasions in our future but we will pull together strong and unite.
The ancient art of aura-soma here in Eshkol
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On the 2nd August I met up with Anat Hen who is a leading figure in the local council of Eshkol. Living three kilometres from Gaza, Eshkol is often under the spotlight for being under a rocket attack or for having the constant threat of tunnels leading directly to its settlements from the enclave of the Rafiah and Hamas terrorists.
What happens when the spotlight goes off? I wanted to explore the reality of the working woman living behind the headlines. Anat is a woman leader in this complex region.
Hi Anat, which two roles do you have at the council and how long have you held them?
Hi- For ten years I have been manager of the department for establishing new businesses in this area. This is a full time position. I ran some courses including
Anat Hen (second from the left) Linoi Bar-Gefen (third from the left) and the Eshkol women’s forum
directorship/leadership and management for women. This lead to my second role as director for advancement of women’s issues which I have held for three years. I am also on the national and southern branches of the Forum for the Advancement of Women’s Issues.
Hadar- How do you find time in your working day for all of those roles?
Anat- Multi-tasking. Women have been proven to be excellent jugglers, combining domestic and career duties. I fit in the newer role by working evenings or sometimes on Fridays.
Hadar- How do you go about advancing women’s issues?
Anat- We start young! I invited a gender-equality coach to give a course to all of the nursery teachers. They engaged in role play and were encouraged to include the stories of our heroines and female role leaders into their daily interactions with young children.
We invite inspirational women to talk and engage with our Eshkol women. Rona Ramon came to promote her foundation that educates about space travel and healing through holistic methodology. Linoi Bar-Gefen the renowned journalist and television presenter told us about campaigns for justice and against bureaucracy. Tsofit Grant the popular television personality mesmerized the audience with her autobiographical monologue. Ora Yaacobi a successful author unveiled her creative process as have other writers and artists.
We encourage women to take part in the decision making processes of the council. Women often feel that they need to have qualifications in order to justify their participation on committees or other official bodies whereas men just feel that they have to show up.
The directorship and management course was initiated for this purpose. It was very successful and readied women not only for the public forum but also for the committees within their own settlements.
Hadar-What is your status here in Eshkol in comparison with other councils?
Anat- By law all councils need to have a post for isn’t defined and neither is the budget. Our budget is 30,000 shekels per annum whereas Bne-Shimon, another council here in the Negev has a budget which dwarfs that. Beersheba however has a population of 203,000 presumably over 100,000 of whom are female, a budget of less than a shekel per women.
Hadar- How do you see the future of this area in general and for gender equality in particular?
Anat- I am very optimistic. There are many new enterprises in the area and the vast majority have been initiated by women. They have opened boutiques, clinics, alternative medicine practices, children’s’ goods suppliers and more. Women also comprise most of the volunteer groups: they are energetic and willing and provide an invaluable service to the community. There is a growing contingent of women in leading positions in Eshkol. Apart from education workers 80% of whom are women; including the headmistress of the high school, head of the committee for school and preschool. The accounting, planning and culture departments are all managed by women. I hope that this trend will continue until we see a situation of equal representation similar to that of the Beersheba council. I hope that we see a continuation of full employment, new growth and high satisfaction rating of our residents who consistently vote that Eshkol provides good service and is transparent with its budget and all other dealings.
Hadar- Thank you
Children learning gender equality (no connection to children in article)
In order to reclaim the number three from the sometimes dubious connotation the number has in our area: it is the number of kilometres between Eshkol and Gaza. We asked three people from around the world to ask three questions to three people from the Eshkol region.
Ariel Mizrahi– Medical student Miami
- Do you live each day with fear knowing that you live so close to Gaza?
Ayala There were times when we were
very afraid. When the rockets were
coming over every few seconds
we had to run to the bomb shelter
without alarming the children.
usually though we are in a routine
and aren’t afraid. We don’t want to
live in fear or let the terrorists win.
- How is it raising children there?
Ella In peace time it is the best place to
raise children; the nurseries and
schools are good and it is a safe
environment. When there is a war
or offensive it is traumatic. I had
to take my son for therapy and he
still had panic attacks.
- Do people have preconceived ideas about life in that area?
David Yes. My family in England watch the
news and they see the retaliatory
attacks but not the reason for them.
The BBC and Sky News are very
‘selective’ with their coverage. This
Dr Leah Girsh- Clinical Psychologist Philadelphia
- What is the biggest challenge of living life in that area?
Yotam Making a living. The options are
- How do you manage personal growth if you feel under threat?
Lora I make sure to exercise, socialise
and keep positive.
- What are the main industries and occupations there and do they get disrupted?
Tal Farming is the main occupation it was disrupted for a few weeks. Some of us received some compensation but most people didn’t and some businesses closed.
Jenny Faith– Author and women’s affirmation speaker–California
- What is the single greatest negative impact of living in Eshkol?
Tslil The constant uncertainty. Never
knowing whether another round of
attacks is on the way.
- What is the single greatest advantage of living in that area?
Hadar The community spirit. Everyone pulls
together in a crisis. When the soldiers
were here protecting us, all the
families helped make them food.
the children put together care
packages. It was comforting to know
that you have a support system.
- If you had the chance to relocate would you?
Vickie No. I have raised my children here.
It is our home. I won’t be pushed out
of here, if I decide to leave in the
future it will be my choice not because
I have to.
FROM KABBALAH TO KICKBOXING
There might not seem to be a connection between these two concepts and there isn’t apart from the fact that I love them both. They are both life affirming and I don’t know if I would be able to do them anywhere else. This area is like a pressure-cooker. Whatever happens elsewhere happens here faster, stronger and more intensely. This is the way to live.
Kickboxing instructor Pnina
PUT POLITICS ASIDE
There is no such thing as a vacuum. This is definetly the case with politics. There are representatives from the whole broad spectrum of opinions. The kibbutznikim are traditionally more left and the moshavnikim generally vote Likud. There are other parties which are all represented. There is no lack of opinions all of which are voiced vocally. The policies of the government directly affect the citizens here more than other places so fee lings run high. Children are more politically aware here than in other places and the debate is healthy. People on all councils and committees work side by side and grudges are rarely held. Most of the lives lost were Palestinian; each time Hamas started the fighting; press coverage is biased in the best case scenario; both sides suffer and no one wins. Everyone agrees about these facts but what to do, when to react and how we should heal the wounds are subjects for hot debate but when we are all together in the bomb shelter (for the hundredth time) we all feel on the same side.
WAR AND PEACE
Since the disengagement of 2008 (when Israel gave Gush Katif the area next to Gaza to the Palestinians) there have been three major military operations, two in 2011 and one in 2014 which included thousands of rocket attacks and two incursions into Gaza. Thousands of people were killed after three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped from the Eshkol region whist guarding the Gaza border. There will be a detailed insider bog of the skirmishes and their human costs in the next month’s blog.
A missile that landed in a hothouse in the Eshkol region.
Soldiers during the recent skirmish
I went to my Kabbalah lesson with the Rav Arik Nave in Moshav Yesha with a large dose of scepticism. Any talk of reincarnation gave me the creeps and I had heard horror stories of people losing their minds. I also had visions of Madonna writhing around which was disconcerting. Within minutes of the Rav talking my walls
came tumbling down. My own private Jericho. What caused this drastic turnabout? I have always hated hearing the phrase ‘live your authentic self’. Why should I change my behaviour to fit a template designed by childhood expectations or some attempt to fit in with some concept of who I should be. When I listen to Metallica I am a rocker, when Mozart is on I’m classy. Before my morning coffee I’m tetchy and afterwards chilled. My surroundings affect my attitude and I need to adjust to each one to make the most of it or defend myself from it .I maintain my principles and don’t lose my essence but I feel that I can change and evolve without confusion..
Apparently my gut instinct is right. The Rav said that it is imperative not to get stuck in a rut or live according to the role you were given as a child. Everyone should search for the truth each and every day and to live according to a pre-set pattern is not the true way to find it. Each day should be treasured and cherished. You should try dancing, singing or painting if you feel the urge. You should also encourage your loved ones to live each day to the maximum. Learn, love and find the joy in each moment. The Rav Nave gives lessons to a mixed audience (separate seating arrangements). He is the only Rabbi I could find who teaches Kabbalah to women (and he is right here in Eshkol). His lessons can be heard on the English site Nave Kadeshcha. He teaches in the club-house Moshav Yesha motsei Shabbat. Each month there will be a Kabbalah page here on Looking up –Eshkol Blog.
Arik Nave picture taken from YouTube
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The new dance studio Nofey Habsor –cutting edge design
Nofey Habsor School under construction. The school was built to withstand rocket fire in 2008.
The entrance to Nofey Habsor school