Why Operation Kibbutz Yarok Exists

Written by Claire Kotarski, Avodah 2012

Holiness is found in a quarter bucket of straw, half a bucket of sand, a whole bucket of earth, and as much water as needed in order to get that smooth texture: the recipe to create the perfect mud. This summer, with 65 of my new best friends, some of whom are here this weekend, I got the chance to experience my Avodah summer at Camp Newman. That mud was created by us, and molded into a bench, fire pit, and oven to cook our own pizza.

About a mile away from main camp lies Operation Kibbutz Yarok (OKY for short), a part of the camp property that practices and teaches sustainable agriculture and all things awesome. I was given the chance to live there for 2 weeks. I rose only from the sound of the shofar and the rays of light that flooded through our tipi door. We would circle together before breakfast to stretch, meditate, and say “hello” to the sun.

I fell in love with this land. Here I was given the opportunity to shape it, watch it evolve, and witness it as something living. It took our guidance, and it gave it back to us: all of us working for our fair share. I learned so much more in the outdoor environment, and felt so much more inspired. The camp food tasted better with the sounds of chickens roaming and a pinch of sea salt.

I did the things I had promised myself I would do when had more free time during the year. I got things done, and saw the product of my effort. I realized how much it takes to truly feed oneself, and provide for a community. These strangers I met on the first day soon came to be the people I would go to for advice and wisdom. Our bonds grew closer because we were taken out of our element, back to the land.

This place is hard to put into words, and I apologize if what I described is tough to visualize. The smells and sounds of OKY resonate so well in my mind. It brings me comfort to go back to the place when I need, and I am so fortunate for my memories. However, with time, these feelings can fade. I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate what I have learned and my heightened sense of spirituality into my daily life.

OKY has provided me with the holiness of generosity. I learned that you can be independent, but not be afraid to ask for help. I am determined to heal the world with happy glances, and see the beauty in everything. At one point in the summer during t’fillah, we formed an inner and outer circle facing each other. We went around calling ourselves to prayer with the Barchu, holding the hands of the person in front of us and staring at them straight in the eyes. What started as an exercise of discomfort and sweaty hands led to an appreciation of the person in front of me. I actually took time to look. With the light of the fire, I felt extremely human.

Living in Los Angeles, at the heart of the city, it can be challenging to find what calms me. Earth, wind, water, and fire are hard to come by. There are imbalances. Sophie Vener, the specialist at the Kibbutz, told me that she sits at her garden when she feels frustration. She imagines how the plants grow, and how she cared for them, and how they are taking nutrients from our Earth.

Now, while walking in the halls at school, I notice the tree outside my classroom window. I don’t mind if a fly is in the house. Because these are the holy moments I have missed since August, calling me back to the land I love.

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