Since March, and our wonderful Purim party, all of the celebrations on Kibbutz Nirim – my home on the border, and also throughout the country and probably around the world, have been celebrated and signified virtually. Passover, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror and Independence Day, were all celebrated through Zoom or camera screens. Finally, yesterday, for Shavuot we ventured out into the open.
Shavuot is one of my favorite holidays. Religious Jews celebrate this holiday as the completion of the counting of the Omer and commemoration of the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. On kibbutz we celebrate it by rejoicing in the fruits of our labor. Aside from the impressive demonstrations of modern agricultural prowess, climaxing with a live exhibition of the behemothic combine harvesters in action, we usually enjoy a performance of a medley of dances, danced by people of our community of all ages who have practiced for weeks ahead of time. Our communal area is lush with samples of the harvests from each branch of the kibbutz. We sit at tables on the lawn surrounding our swimming pool or some other common green area. The dinner is usually buffet, dominated by dairy foods, quiches and blintzes and a wealth of choice brought to the table by each family contributing their favorite dishes.
2020, however, was celebrated differently. On this occasion, we were all tiptoeing tentatively out of the shadow of COVID-19. Instead of buffet, the kibbutz team prepared picnic baskets, handed out to each family. Rather than sitting at tables, we had picnic pods where families spread out blankets and sat in groupings, distancing themselves from others, on the front lawn of our recently renovated members’ club house. The dances were relatively few this time, since it had not been permissible to gather together to learn and rehearse during the weeks prior to the holiday. Instead, we screened a number of clips documenting the different agricultural, service and educational branches of the kibbutz, as well as the report made by the CEO of our produce branches.
For the grande finale I stepped WAY WAY out of my comfort zone, stood on the upper balcony and led the entire audience – young and old – in a dance with ribbons which I taught on the spot, wrapping up the celebration with smiles, music and high energy. (I was amazed that it actually worked! I had been sure that I would be the only one on my feet way up there, and dancing!)
Life isn’t perfect. Security-wise this Corona period has been relatively quiet, yet the simmering threats continue to bubble over from the other side of our border- less than 2 kms away. The news of drastically rising new Corona cases in other parts of the country threaten to close down our schools again. Yet despite all that, our cultural committee on Kibbutz Nirim found a way to commemorate and celebrate as safely as possible in these trying times, in this place I love: my community on the border.