My Village experience
"I spent one year 2008/09 in the „Kfar“ how we say shortly – doing my Austrian civil service. My motivation to come here was simple. Having to do obligatory service, I saw the vastest possibilities for me in doing it abroad – yet even away from Europe; having the chance to live one year in another culture, learning a different language and doing something really help- and useful.

Israel was my choice, as I have had three wonderful months, when I came first in 2005 - heartwarming months, in this country of outstanding beauty and dramatic conflicts, which go deep down into the essence of human soul and behavior. It is sincere friendship, hospitality and the amazing and diverse music of Israel which attach me to the land – after visiting more than 30 countries in the world.

I found Kfar Rafael to be the right place for me, as it's community life, away from ordinary city bustle, yet close to Beer Sheva – the unique “capital of the Negev”. Unique, because it differs from other Israeli cities, being a centre of Bedouin life, immigration from Ethiopia and Russia. Having developed from a dusty outpost of pioneer life on the edge of the desert – it transforms today to a young university city, with a bunch of clubs, street coffees in the old city and growing urbanity. Yet it still has its rough charm, which European minds can find difficult to recognize at first sight.

Back to the Kfar: I was positively convinced of the grade of profession how the working criteria were described beforehand. I liked the idea of the diverse workshops which offer the handicapped villagers manifold ways to express themselves creatively and to live a prosperous life according to their abilities. The most I looked forward, to be able to spend most of my working time outdoors, in the splendid, warm weather of this land: as Israel has more than 3500 hours sunshine in the year, more than most places in the world.

The work is fulfilling, as you take responsibility for those 1-3 villagers, or khaverim (hebr. for friends, or members) who are given into your care. Kfar-life is very regulated, in advantage for the khaverim's feeling well and secure – something which enables us co-workers to live up to the needs of somebody more important than ourselves. It is very pleasurable work, bringing you close to those you care for. Spending the whole day (except noon breaks and sleeping time) with your villagers brings up a connection and understanding for the human being, which cannot be seen in regular, comparable institutions, or in ordinary working-places.

In so far the Kfar is a place out of time. One starts to understands her/his khaverim without words (as very few even don't know to articulate themselves) and what is left is pure human communication – fixed on gestures, looks... You start to recognize each other on the level of the voice, and you will find yourself positively, slowly growing to be listening more to the small things and the inside.

Kfar life is asking physical and soul work, but it nearly comes from itself, as any good learning happens. Community with the other co-workers is also very essential. Yet every “generation” of co-workers will have their own spirit. In my year i.e. we were very mixed in age (from 17 to 35 years old), about 10 were Israelis and the rest Europeans (Austrian, English, German and Polish), sexes equally distributed. Yet we shared a common interest in hiking, so our co-worker trips (usually there is one each year, organized by us and paid by the Kfar) were very nature focused – with desert camping, common cooking on bonfire, mountain and canyon hikes, white water kayaking, etc. It is definitely one highlight in Kfar life. We usually also make fires and parties after work on two sites outside the Kfar, which are already desert places: in the Wadi, or at the lake - which is dry for 50 weeks of the year :))

“Out of time” means in the Kfar that on the one hand side, you will feel as if time flies like nowhere else: suddenly three months feel like three weeks. But simultaneously, when you think about one certain moment really three weeks ago, you will believe it was at least three months before. This is an observation, many other co-workers share with me. It also tells about the intensity of life and work in our place.

Coming back to the hard facts, I want to mention a few things: Often people told me: Take care not to get shot when you go to Israel.” Well, there is no other country I feel as safe as in Israel. Statistically it is much more likely to be a victim of a car accident in Europe, than of a terror assault in Israel. Matter of fact. And the main thing is, don't be afraid at all.

Another, practical thing to know about life here: You will get pocket money, which is at the moment 600.- shekels/month. It's a nice amount of money which enabled me to go out from time to time and even to make short holiday trips into Sinai, and twice to Jordan, without adding private money. Apart from those holidays (2 weeks in summer, and another 14 days split into Pessah, Sukkot and long weekends) you will have two nights and one day off per week. With Beer Sheva close to the sea, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and of course the whole Negev, you have many places and things at hand to do. Actually, after my year, I recommend to do a plan what to see, because you will find it hard to manage in the end, if you are eager to know Israel.

My best wishes to you,

Maximilian from Vienna,

ex-coworker of Ommy (Omer) "

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