A Snap Shot of Life at OKY


Did you ever wonder what happens down the road, just a mile away from the dining hall? Or question why avodahniks return for dinner every day with glowing faces and dirty overalls, sometimes covered completely in mud? Also, where did those new catchy songs those kids sing come from? And what is all this oky and who is sleeping in what tipi?

            My name is Sophie, I live at Kibbutz Yarok year round. I studied permaculture (a design method that aims to create agriculturally productive systems that have the resilience and diversity of natural ecosystems) at Kibbutz Lotan, where I learned the three ethics of permaculture: earth care, people care, and fair share (returning surplus to the earth and people). These ethics have become the backbone of the OKY vision as they correspond with three areas of Avodah (service): Avodat Lev (service of the heart), Avodat Kehilah (service of the community), and Avodat Olam (service of the world). OKY is the co-creation of Avodah classes ’09-’12 and a shiny team of staff members eager to bring forth from the land of Camp Newman a small farm, an experiment, and a stage on which to explore creative ecology and Jewish spirituality.

Summer 2012 marks Operation Kibbutz Yarok’s (OKY) first summer in which youth slept on the land…in two 25 foot tall tipis. Each Avodahnik rotated through OKY and spent two of their eight weeks of camp living in tipis and working to actualize a dream: a Jewish eco-village at Camp Newman inspired by Reform Kibbutz Lotan in Southern Israel. Through working with the land and living in community our little Kibbutz in the woods of Sonoma County became a bustling village full of excitement, trials and tribulations, creative homegrown salads, and a beautiful array of mud-building projects.

Every morning Avodahniks woke to the sound of the shofar blast, calling them to the morning celebration circle, which consisted of a circle of painted rocks in the ‘chicken yard.’ Morning celebration is a practice borrowed from Kibbutz Lotan—a time for daily stretching, qi gong and breathing exercises, morning prayers, and the bean of the day! Every day had a theme based on one of the sephirot, an aspect within the kabblistic tree of life, ranging from strength to humility. When you witnessed someone embody this attribute, you could kindly give them a bean. Toranut (chore) assignments were handed out with beans and once the jobs were completed (i.e. tipis swept, chickens and goats fed, greenhouse watered etc.) we reconvened for breakfast and morning workblocks.

The work accomplished within the workblocks throughout the summer included: double-digging six 15’ long garden beds, creating three terraced garden beds, building and turning compost piles, laying drip irrigation, planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing, harvesting, and cooking…and that is just in and around the garden! While some Avodahniks learned from our plant friends others got to know the earth in a different way, through building with earthen-plaster…or in simple terms, mud. We dug, sifted and mixed earth in order to build a mud brick and glass bottle bonfire pit, a beautiful 20’ long bench built with tires and trash covered in mud (inspired by kibbutz lotan), and our final project was a mud-oven with the story of our summer sculpted and sketched into its dome. We also expanded our chicken coop, thanks to an Avodahnik’s inspired design, and built shade structures for our goat friends—Eitan and Reva. 

In addition to learning with our hands, each week we were graced by special guests who brought experience, knowledge and fun to the Kibbutz. Through our special guests we learned about Jewish agricultural traditions and spirituality, Auryuvedic medicine, dream interpretation, basket weaving, and we even ground wheat berries to make flour that eventually became a rosemary challah for Shabbat!  Our visitors came from Wilderness Torah, Urban Adamah, The Jewish Farm School, Camp Towanga, Reconstructionist Rabbinic College, and more. Once a week we also had a movie viewing in our eco-cinema, barn movie theatre (sheet hanging on the barn wall with a projector). Our favorite film showed was the Greenhorns, a documentary by and for young farmers in America. A film about the very movement OKY is a part of.

So, now do you have an image of what happens a mile away from the dining hall? It was a summer packed with expansive lessons in the garden and deep moments of reflection on the land. Our hope is that one day, not so far from now, campers will be able to spend an entire session at Kibbutz Yarok. In the mean time, I’m here year-round. We’ll keep you posted on ways to stay involved with OKY throughout the year. For more information contact kibbutzyarok@gmail.com. As I enjoy the first round of this year’s apple harvest, a prayer comes to mind that speaks to all we do at OKY: Blessed are you Adonai, who has made your world lacking nothing and has produced goodly trees to give delight onto your children. Amen, May we all recognize the abundance we have and give gratitude for our holy community at Camp Newman, with which we can enjoy life’s sweetest gifts.  



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