This week I got a new toilet tank. I know. That doesn’t sound so earth-shattering or life-changing. And it isn’t. But this toilet tank triggered a few memories and those are usually worth writing about. It’s especially well-timed because this is the first post in the second year of my blog (hooray!) and the toilet tank reminded me of how I got to Israel in the first place.
Back in February 2001, I began kibbutz ulpan on Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. Half the day I would study Hebrew and half the day I would work somewhere on the kibbutz. I began my kibbutz life in the kitchen and I was put in charge of the dairy cart – cottage cheese, soft white cheese (like sour cream), sliced cheese, and whatever other dairy products were available. Needless to say, I couldn’t even look at dairy products after a while, much less eat them. This was a great weight loss plan!
Ma’agan Michael is a rich kibbutz with multiple income streams including tropical fish, edible fish, bananas, cactus fruits, and a few other small industries. But their big moneymaker is Plasson. They make plastic plumbing parts and ship them all over Israel and internationally.
After my stint in the kitchen and noticeable weight loss, I begged to be outside, so I transferred to the banana fields. I knew how to drive a manual transmission so I was an asset as a tractor driver. But when it was too hot, we weren’t allowed to work outside and I spent one, possibly two, days at the Plasson factory. We were put to work putting plastic rings (washers) of different shapes and sizes into a plastic bag. We did it BY HAND!!! Seriously, it was the longest day of my life. I’m not really cut out for factory work. But I did my job and I have a memory tucked away of once having worked at Plasson. So every time I see a Plasson toilet tank, I think of my time on the kibbutz.
The truck and one of the tractors that I drove.
Tying bunches of bananas.
Looking back now, I can see that the 5 months on the kibbutz was a transitional time for me. Life was not really moving forward the way I had envisioned. Taking a time-out on the kibbutz gave me the opportunity to truly see it. Moreover, I unexpectedly felt very drawn and connected to Israel and my Jewish heritage. I had been to Israel many times before, but I never felt like this.
I went back to the US that July and had a difficult summer trying to figure out what I was going to do. And then 9/11 happened. Watching the chaos and trying to comprehend the tragedies unfolding on my television screen made me realize that life is short and I would not accept a “life of quiet desperation.”
For my 29th birthday the year before, I jumped out of an airplane – freefall for 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), parachute for 5,000 feet. For my 30th birthday a few weeks after 9/11, I jumped out of a life that no longer made me happy. Life in Israel was my parachute.
Some of the best sunsets in the world are at Ma’agan Michael!
Environmental side note:
In Israel – and probably a lot of other places – we have two flushing options. The small button is for small flushes and the big button is for when you need a big flush.