Welcome to Ne’ot Semadar

The Grand view of Ne’ot Semadar – the kibbutz I’m staying at for the next month or more. It’s pronounced “neh-OHT smeDAR”. Roughly translated, Ne’ot Semadar means “Beautiful Blossoms” in Hebrew. Interestingly enough, the oasis is man-made. Everything there, including the two lakes (!!!) are dependent on miles of irrigation piping and water drawn from the nearby desalination plant.

The kibbutz started in 1989, taking over from an older, defunct kibbutz called Shizzafon that fell apart a couple of years previously.

I took the previous photo with the grand overview of the kibbutz from the top of the local hill, called the Turtle Mountain. Hopefully, this photo can help explain the name.

We’re only allowed to climb the mountain on Shabbat, as there’s an army training ground just on the other side, where the local tank brigade have their practice during the week, and you can hear the guns booming from time to time. But like everywhere else around here, they don’t work on Saturdays.

Here is a a description of Ne’ot Semadar intended for volunteers inquiring from abroad:

Neot Semadar is a small secular kibbutz, located 60 km north of Eilat, in the middle of the desert.

It is based on organic agriculture that includes vineyards, olive groves, deciduous trees – apricot, nectarine, peach, plum, pear, apple and almonds, and a large date plantation. Goats are raised for milk that is processed to cheese, yogurt, etc., There is a Winery roducing red and white wines from the grapes, and a fruit processing plant producing juices, nectars, jams and dried fruit.

These products and the Arts and Crafts are sold on a roadside restaurant-shop.

There are up to 200 people (including children and volunteers) living together and there is a small local school for the children.

The working day begins at around 6 in the morning and end at 16 in the evening in the winter, and during the hot summer season we start earlier, have 4-5 hours of siesta and then continue till 19:00.

There is a worksheet prepared by the work manager for all the people in Neot Semadar, each day anew, according to the necessities of the hour. You may be working in the kitchen, milking goats or picking olives, serving in our restaurant or building with stones, sometimes doing many different things during the working day.

Room and board is provided. There are usually 2 persons in a modest apartment, same sex only (except couples, of course).

The food is vegetarian, with fish twice a week. We eat what is served on the table.

It is a kind of quiet life, with no facilities of entertainment. One is asked to wear decent clothes, no piercing, and to be quiet during meals. Any cellular phones are asked to be left and used in one’s room.

At the centre of Neot Semadar is the Arts Centre, a huge, wonky building that took seven years to build! Inside, there are workshops for ceramics, textiles, painting and more. But I do get the impression that the people here enjoyed building the Centre more than they enjoy using it. Most of all, it is a monument to the creativity, collaboration and consensus decision making processes of the kibbutzniks.

A detail view of the courtyard inside the Neot Semadar Arts Centre.

Another view from the top of Turtle Mountain. This really shows the difference between the desert and the oasis. And you can see the red mountains of Jordan in the distance (those are the mountains where the fabled lost city of Petra is located).

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