samedi 19 avril 2008

Israeli days, part one

So, when I was 19 I broke my mother's heart and contributed to my father's early death by leaving the comfort of Brummie suburbia and heading to Israel.

"But sweetheart, you're not Jewish" said my mother.
"They let anyone in these days, you know" said I
"But you'll get killed" said my father.
"How many people do you know who have got killed in Israel?" said I, dumbly, stupidly, foolishly.

Before going, I'd been to see the kibbutz office in London who'd told me that all of the kibbutzim were full and that I should not go to Israel expecting to find a place on one. Given that I landed at Ben Gurion with only £100 and no return flight, it was pretty essential that I found a place on a kibbutz (or a moshav, I wasn't choosy) as soon as I could.

The first few days in Tel Aviv are a blur. I remember the White House hostel, dance parties on the beach, smoking joints with soldiers, drinking cheap vodka and rarely getting back to my own bed. The kibbutz office in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, had told me to come back in a month's time. I told them they were taking away my dream and I'd have to go back to the UK. The lady at the office had phoned around and finally left me a message at the Hostel to get in touch with her. There was a place at a Kibbutz on the Jordanian border, at the top of the west bank, near the 'town' of Beit She'an - if I wanted it, it was mine.

I got on the bus, and headed north.

I worked on Kibbutz for a couple of months - dragging irrigation pipes from one end of a field to the other, picking dates, picking mangoes. Before they'd let me do the outside work though, I had to do two weeks in the plastic's factory that was on-site. It was dreary work, I spent my days cutting circles out of cardboard sheets. But the fumes from the plastics helped to numb the boredom somewhat...

I'd never had to do manual labour before, having lived a princely life at my parents house, and the work in the fields was back-breaking. It didn't help that it was usually done with a chronic hangover. Work always started at five am, to beat the heat of the day. It was over by lunchtime and I'd get to sit in the sun, drinking the cheapest vodka with my swedish room-mate.

When we worked in the fields, we always had to have a kibbutznik with us - because they were the only ones allowed guns. We couldn't go out to the fields without armed protection, as the fields were bounded on at least one side by the Jordanian border and the big fence and dirt track. Soldiers in Israeli watchtowers watched our every move, and boy did those soldiers laugh when, while driving the tractor, I accidentally ran over the kibbutznik assigned to us one day. They soon took me off tractor duty.

One day, I was in Jerusalem for some R&R and I - quite literally - bumped into someone I knew from back home. I didn't really know him, but we knew each other's faces from the Birmingham nightclub scene. He was working in a hotel in Jerusalem - a real cheap dive. I stayed with him for a couple of days and we hang out at clubs with guys home on leave from the army, still with their Uzi's around their shoulders. We drank and got stoned together, we rolled our way back home up Ben Yehuda street at four am feeling very exotic and very out of control.

He asked me if I'd go back to the kibbutz and get my stuff, come back to Jerusalem and stay with him. He'd find me a job while I was away.

I agreed and headed off. How my life was to change.

14 commentaires:

Lola a dit…

I'm very interested in this one - I did the kibbutz thing, very differently from you, and I've a two-inch manuscript sitting on the shelf that I wrote afterwards about the high jinks. Have you been back? Israel seems very different these days (I'm assuming that it's a while since you were 19). You will be telling the next part of the story, won't you?

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Hi Lola, where was your kibbutz? It's such a strange little world they have, isn't it?

You know what? I've never been back. In fact, Israel is the only country that I vowed I would never to return to.

I'm thinking this tale is a three-parter - you have been warned....

Lola a dit…

I lived in two: one near Beit She'an but not near the border, and the other on the Sea of Galilee. This was in 1987-8, and I wrote about it at length in 1989 but have never re-read the manuscript - that's one of the things I'm hoping to have time for over the summer.

amy a dit…

I love your blog! Fantastic adventures, great writing. PS Thanks for your counsel re "les Ch'tis"...

Valleys Mam a dit…

man of many facets - enjoying

aims a dit…

I remember when you first commented on my blog - you told me that you left home and when you returned you were a changed person.....I have always wondered about your journeys...

Your words got my attention back then and they certainly have once more - and always...

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Amy, likewise. Keep on coming back!

VM, thanks - I'm not sure how much I'm enjoying writing this tale though...

Aims, as I write this part of my history I have you in mind. Your own personal tale has been so good to read and you often say how hard it is to write some things down.

This is the first time I'm finding that myself. This tale, as you'll find out, truly is the story of my growing up...

Medbh a dit…

Vodka hangovers are the worst.
Excellent story, Travelling.
I look forward to parts 2 and 3.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Medbh, vodka hangovers are just nasty. And this was nasty vodka!

I can still remember how bad it tasted - no matter what we added it to, it all always tasted bad.

eguinan a dit…

Good grief! You certainly do have an exciting past, don't you!

I get the feeling it's what you're not saying that's even more interesting!

Swearing Mother a dit…

I know just how your Mum must have felt when you bogged off to the Kibbutz at such a tender age.

My son also bailed out when he was barely out of short trousers, have always wondered if it was something I said or if it was just his sense of adventure getting the better of him. Hope it was the latter!

Tell me it all worked out well, or I'll start worrying about you too.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Enda, you may well be right - but more is on the way...

SM - you know, I think she put on a very brave face, but she's since told me how upset she really was. I was young, what did I know?

It turned out fairly ok...see part two. three, four...

softinthehead a dit…

My brother was on a kibbutz upon on the West Bank in the mid-80's and he has plenty of stories to tell - unfortunately one involves being in jail!! Coincidentally my husband got a job there around the same time and we all moved out there for a year and lived in Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv - we have one or two tales too! :)

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Softy, I'd love to hear some of those tales...