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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Israel Bike Ride 2010 – Kibbutz Ketura (Guest Post by Carol)

Posted by rabbiart on October 24, 2010

You might wonder how I spend my day while Art is riding. I spend the day mostly on my own driving the route, sometimes sharing lunch with the riders, and ultimately ending up in the same destination. The morning I left for Mitzpeh Ramon, I was honored to be asked if I was transport some crew and an ill rider, which I gladly did, though it meant I wouldn’t be able to see any sites along the way. Unfortunately I had a flat tire, which the crew member very kindly changed for me.

That’s relevant to my journey to Kibbutz Ketura, because I was driving on the spare with no additional spare tire available. I was told to drive directly to the Kibbutz where the garage staff would fix my tire. Before I left Mitzpeh Ramon I hiked around the machtesh, with its spectacular views. As I was hiking back to the beginning of the town, I almost stumbled upon a group of ibexes, just hanging out by the apartment buildings. They are completely comfortable with people and hardly gave me a glance. I on the other hand was a bit nervous – the males have huge horns, and I wouldn’t want to get them angry at me!

I then drove the route for the day, which started by descending into the machtesh. It was scary driving the switchbacks – it’s hard for me to imagine descending on a bicycle. The road was flat at the bottom of the machtesh, and then ascended again. Then the route entered the desert, which was beautiful but almost completely empty. Most of the time I had the road to myself, except when I caught up to and then passed the riders. I stopped to met Art and the others at lunch and then left ahead of them for the kibbutz. Imagine driving long distances in barren desert and then seeing beautiful trees and greenery ahead. That’s what I saw as I approached Kibbutz Ketura.

Kibbutz Ketura is an impressive place. A true communal kibbutz (except as is universally true now the children live with their parents), the members recognized years ago that agriculture alone could not sustain them, especially as the members aged. As a result, there is an entrepreneurial spirit here, not driven by money alone as in capitalism, but by the overall good of the members. The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) is the result of that entrepreneurial spirit, and it is doing tikkun olam, student by student, project by project.

Art and I decided to join the tour of the new solar energy business, which is another example of the entrepreneurial spirit combined with a sense of the collective good. Much of Israel’s energy comes from dirty coal. Kibbutz Ketura is located in an area of peak sunlight, so it seems a no brainer to install solar panels and sell clean renewable power to Israel’s electric company. Four years and many regulatory challenges later, the panels (from China) have arrived, the field has been prepared, the regulatory hurdles have been overcome, and they are ready to begin installation. Though the head of this effort, an American from Boston named Yossi, was coy, he did say that they recognized that this effort shouldn’t be restricted just to Israel. One of the alums, though he couldn’t say much about the project, is working on a parallel effort in Jordan.

The rest of the evening was spent at a rider barbeque and then bed. There is not a room for me on this leg of the ride. We had the incredible good fortunate to meet Mike Soloway during the sojourn in Modesto. Since he is from Kibbutz Ketura, it feels beshert – this is the second time we have been able to stay with him and his wife, Dr. Elaine Soloway. Elaine is on the faculty of AIES, though mostly we shared stories of our children and their first grandchild.

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