A view from the Negev

ELKAN’S VIEW 27TH May 2015

Last week I went with two of my grandchildren (and their parents) to spend Shavuot in Kibbutz Keturah which is in the Negev about 50 km north of Eilat.   Keturah was founded by a group of American immigrants in 1973, and although everything is theoretically in Hebrew everyone appears to speak English.

The kibbutz is in the Arava, the sort of dry desert through which the Children of Israel passed on their way to the Promised Land. One can understand here how difficult and soul destroying the journey was. The heat is dry – it went up 37 while we were there – but the Kibbutz has been planned carefully with plenty of trees, some very thoughtful water supplies, and above all a very pleasant swimming pool where most people seemed to spend several hours in the afternoons.

The kibbutz is also the site of one of the largest solar energy fields in Israel. Sunshine is of course a very plentiful commodity in the Negev, and the land is available. The Kibbutz is also involved in bio-technology, fish farming (at Eilat), and such modern matters as a computer repair unit that operates all over the country.

When Masada was excavated a number of seeds were found, and experimentally these were carefully germinated. One of them produced a Judean date palm and this tree, known as the Methuselah tree and grown from a 2000 year old seed, flourishes in the kibbutz.

Religiously Keturah is observant, but there are members from a number of different strands within Judaism. Over the Ark in the beautiful Kibbutz shul was the verse from Psalm 126 “”Shuvah et shviteynu ka’afikim BaNegev – bring back our exiles like streams in the Negev” which when they flow, do so with force. To those who live there from all corners of the Jewish world, and to those of us who had the pleasure of spending a wonderful Shabbat and Chag with them, this verse which we sing at the beginning of Birkat Hamazon, has particular resonance and relevance. We were living in the middle of the rebirth of the Negev.