“23 shequels” “You have to make a change in Eshkol, and then the other bus will take you to the kibutz Ein Hashelosha”. I found myself there on a crowded bus at Tel Aviv New Central Station ready to go to the kibbutz that I had been allocated: Ein Hashelosha. It was a hot autumn evening in October and the bus I got on was packed, mainly with soldiers, so I had to stand. I was beginning a journey into the unknown then. Before that, I had spent a few days at a hostel in Tel Aviv where I had the chance to enjoy the lovely walks along the beach and get myself familiarized with the atmosphere of the place.
Back in the bus, I did not have much of a view as most of the curtains were down. I could just see the road and a bit of the scenery through the front window of the driver. We were heading south. Meanwhile the soldiers, male and female, were listening to music, reading, typing on their mobile phones, talking to each other and a few of them glancing at me as I was the only one in plain clothes, standing up and with a foreign look. We arrived at Eshkol and when I got off the bus, I could say that I had a clear sense that I was in the dessert. The weather was hot and I felt the humidity high. Although we have the same sun across the Earth, the brightness of it differs considerably depending on where you are. There, at Eshkol it was completely different from what I had seen before.
The bus to the kibbutz Ein Hashelosha arrived. It was just around 6 kilometers away and I would be there. Before getting to the Ein Hashelosha we passed by two other kibbutz. As expected, they looked like small communities with factories and bungalows. The bus driver let me know that I had reached my destination. I got my suitcases out of the boot of the bus and I stood at the bus stop for a few minutes to enjoy the atmosphere. The part of the day I was in ( the early evening), the tranquility of the ambience, the sand of the dessert in the air in contrast to the wide spread green areas of the kibbutz and the notion of being in an unique community in the world that can be found nowhere else except in Israel, fully captivated me.
After a couple of days I started to work as a volunteer helping an electrician. Soon I began to introduce myself to the rest of the community. I was looking forward to getting to know more about their lives. I found it truly fascinating to talk to the people who had participated directly in the creation of the kibbutz about the reasons that made them do it. Evening after evening I was invited to have coffee by a different family while enjoying an interesting conversation. I felt that what I was being able to experience was of tremendous importance. Not only was it positive for my personal enrichment but also in a further sense of community, I was aware that I was in a very sensitive region subject to a great deal of ignorance and stereotypes by the international community. For this reason, when one is there, he/she feels privileged to have the opportunity to see with their own eyes what is occurring.
One of the first instructions I was taught in the kibbutz was about the emergency procedure to run to the shelters in less than 35 seconds in case a rocket was launched from the Gaza strip. I guess few people have heard of that in my home country. Additionally, during my conversations with the members of the kibbutz, I did notice that they were really surprised at me showing so much interest in getting to know them. They all stated that the media of my country and its population´s main stream thinking are biased toward the Arab side leaving them with the stigma of being the cruel oppressors imposing their military might over a defenseless population. It was then when I felt the responsibility to contribute to providing a more accurate picture of what is happening in that area of the world. Nothing is black or white.
During my volunteering in the kibbutz, I was staying in the volunteer´s house where there was a constant mobility of volunteers. Mainly they came from South Africa and Latin America, though I also had the pleasure to meet Europeans and a couple of North Americans. The volunteer leader showed interest in my initiative to interview the local people in the kibbutz and was of immense support throughout my volunteering.
Also I should thank the founders of the kibbutz for the time they shared with me answering all the questions I had concerning their amazing life stories. All of them abandoned their comfortable lives in Latin America when they were young to fulfill their dream of returning to the Holy Land and create a kibbutz community. In the beginning they faced very hard conditions: no water or electricity, lack of food, insecurity threat from their neighbors and also the hot temperatures of the dessert. But they were following a dream and managed to achieve what they had envisaged when they were teenagers. As someone who believes in dreams, I can honestly say that they are examples to follow. The founders of Ein Hashelosha told me that one of the ideals of the kibbutz was to boost each of their members´ potential. In fact, from my own experience, my volunteering helped me realize that I need to use my motivation in researching and writing in order to contribute to exporting a different picture of Israel that the negative one which has been prevailing upon it for a long time.
I took advantage of my stay in the kibbutz to go more in depth about my feeling of belonging to Israel. I went to the Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora to explore the roots of my surnames, among other things. I found a surname that sounds very similar to my first one in the Memi De- Shalit database of Jewish family names which is located in the museum. I discovered that a great number of Jewish family names are originated from places of origin or residence. “Carasso” and its variant “Caraco” have been linked with “Carasso” in Switzerland and “Karasu” in Turkey. My first surname is “Carrasco”. During my visit, I also learned a wide range of new aspects about the history of Jewish people paying special attention to the time before the Jewish Community was expelled from the Reign of Spain. They had reached a high degree of development taking influential positions of great responsibility in the government and they lived in harmony with Muslims and Christians.
I was amazed by the acts of generosity of the people I met in Israel. For example, one day I was walking down the road towards another kibbutz to visit a friend of mine. It was a hot afternoon. Suddenly from the distance I could see a 4X4 car pulling out the road. When I reached the position of the car, the driver, who was a very nice lady, asked me where I was going and offered to give me a lift. Taking a stranger from a road to save him a long walk is something that really amazed me.
To conclude this article, I would like to say that as someone who follows his dreams with great determination and hope, I strongly believe that I have found a very inspiring place in the land of Israel. One of my mottos in life is that nothing comes easily. One has to persevere and have loads of patient ( “Savlanut”- one of the first words I was taught in Israel) towards the goals he/she wants to achieve in life. And more importantly, spirituality, which is central in my life, became more relevant during my stay in Israel. Now, back in my home country, I am in contact with the local Jewish Community and hoping to make my dream of returning to Israel come true.