Almost 5 years to the day, I posted a blog here about a memorable experience I had in Israel many years ago. You can read the blog here. In my forthcoming book I emphasize the significance and importance of relationships for change, transformation, wholeness, and what have you. I cite many examples from personal experience – sort of testimony – to illustrate the fact that what one needs is, one, the intention or the will to step out of one’s “comfort zones” and two, an open mind. With that, possibilities for connection and relationship are everywhere.
My journey to Kibbutz Regavim
Having expressed the desire to live in a kibbutz for three months as a volunteer, my friends at the Swedish Theological Institute set about finding a suitable choice. They did not have many choices because I was already in my early thirties. Volunteers were mostly high school and college kids. So they found Kibbutz Regavim.
Located near Caesarea, Regavim could be reached only by train, if using public transport, and there was only one service per day to Binyamina train station. My plan was to travel by bus from Haifa after a weekend tour with my Ugandan priest friend, to Netanya, then Hadera and then catch the train to Binyamina.
I arrived in Netanya a little before six. The sun was orange over the Mediterranean Sea to the west where it appeared to be sinking into the water. It was calm and comfortable in late Spring and the sea breeze a soothing feel to the skin.
It was the first time I was in Netanya – I might have passed through between Jerusalem and Haifa but this was the first time I was there for an extended time. I roamed along the beach for a while, then up and down Sderot Weizmann, Yehuda Hanasi and Perach Tikva hoping to find a cheap motel for the night then take the bus to Hadera and the train to Binyamina. Then I realized I was in a wrong neighborhood.
I decided to seek help. It was Sunday, the first day of the week, businesses were still open and I spotted a real estate office. I walked into this rather small office with a couple of desks. There was only one person behind one of the desks, so I asked him if he knew of any cheap motels in the area.
He looked up at me and said, “There are many hotels on the beach”. I almost chuckled at the suggestion but I thought he misunderstood my query. “I know, but I cannot afford a hotel room on the beach”. I explained to him that I needed to catch a train on Monday from Hadera to Binyamina and to Kibbutz Regavim. He looked at me quizzically then repeated what he told me. “There are many hotels along the beach”.
I started to turn around to leave his office when he asked, “Do you really need help?” I told him I did. He told me to come back after an hour and he would see how he could help. I went back an hour later and found him closing his office.
He told me, his name is Avner, that he and his mother and a younger brother lived in a Moshav nearby and if I really needed help I was invited to stay the night with them. A stranger, from nowhere! Was this chance, or coincidence? You decide.
So he took me to their home. His mother was recently widowed, they had just finished the shiva, the seven day mourning period after burial. His younger brother, Moshe, was seriously wounded in combat, he still had a bullet lodged in his head. He was active, even drove a special car, but he was disabled.
This family took me to their home, a complete stranger, from a strange land, of a different nationality, religion, culture and while they were still mourning. They welcomed me like one of them. And that is the point of this story: differences are in the mind.
The following morning when I left to catch the bus to Hadera, Imma, (mother to Avner and Moshe, and now mine too), said to me, “remember you have a home in Israel; this is your home, come back any time”.