by Jack Walton
Spending two and a half months in a closed agricultural community with nothing around but the dessert, wildlife and the mountains may not seem appealing to most Jews from a comfortable suburb near London. Certainly at the begining of my time at lotan I was overwhelmed by new experience and phenomena. Staying in the ‘bhustan’ neighborhood challenged me to live my ideology by keeping a vegetarian kitchen, learning how to recycle and how to conserve water. However, once the three weeks were up I was equipped to enter the next part of my lotan experience by working in the dairy. Starting work was challenging and I found myself constantly out of my comfort zone during my first few weeks. Kibbutzniks are tenderly indifferent and help was difficult to ask for at first. However, the help that I asked for did come and I was left with enoungh independence to make mistakes and arrive at my own conclusions about how my work should be done. Although much of the work involved being knee deep in cow muck and standing in sewers there was plenty of variety to keep me interested. I helped milk the cows which is done almost non stop 3 times a day(fortunately my work hours didn’t require me to do the 2am milking) although my main role was to work in the nursery with the calves. I was able to bottle feed newborns and lassoo older calves and this was almost always enjoyable. The people I had the chance to meet were always fantastic and up for conversations. From the Indian volunteers at the dairy to the shin shins( Israelis our age on a gap year before the army) the kibbutz atmosphere is warm and welcoming to outsiders such as myself. My time at Lotan was unforgettable, and although it was hard adjusting to the new and alien setting the lessons I learnt were invaluable and I will carry them forward years to come.
by Sam Prettyman
Lotan for me is two and a half months of life changing experiences. The place itself was a whole new world to me with such a tight knit community that I lost track of why you would ever live in a city. The people on the kibbutz showed me how fleeting life is with some people staying for just a month such as the green apprenticeship group compared with some the founding members who have not only lived there all their lives but also seen children and grand children grow up in the kibbutz environment. The work for me was also an ethical epiphany. I was working in the reffet (dairy) and as I started there I saw some of the conditions that the cows were in and it really changed my prospective on the industry as a whole. However this time in the reffet also gave me time to do my job with care and passion striving to improve as much as I could for the cows through my maintenance role. On the whole working in the reffet was an important ethical period for me and a real opportunity to work with some truly outstanding people. Finally I think we wouldn’t have got through our time on Lotan without our madrichim: Debby, mark, and Matthew. They supported us and we found out how to live as a kavutsa
by Joe Shotton
I’m aware how generic and typically gap yearish this will sound – but Lotan was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. Learning about communal living in such a real and practical way was an incredible experience. Lotan was privatisated only a couple of years ago, so everyone remembers how it was prior to that and the transition itself. Talking to so many people about the largely reluctant decision was fascinating! Work was sometimes difficult but immensely satisfiying. I worked in the Mata (dates), clearing the branches that had been cut from the trees earlier in the year. It was tough to stay motivated for an entire day (and month), but was one of the most valuable parts of Lotan: working on a mindset to keep going. Strangely, despite Lotan being a fairly isolated community, it felt like we were given plenty of freedom. There were so many people to meet and bond with: the shinshins (pre-army Israelis), volunteers, people on the Green Apprenticeship scheme and of course members of the Kibbutz itself. It was strange going from my relatively structured life in the UK to having so much free time and being around so many new people. Lotan is one of the few places in the world where truly everyone wants to talk and be your friend, and I met so many amazing people that I’ll stay in contact with long after shnat. Overall, it was a real challenge to leave, but with the rest of shnat laid out in front of me, I know there’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty, before the last revolving day is through.