I received my assignment in the warm evening air, head propped in hands. When I bit into the first signs and symbols the next morning, I was already tired. Faraway clouds passing by, that piece of square blue sky, framed by the window in which a familiar figure appeared, with bottles of beer in his hands.
He whispered impatiently: “Why are you still here? It’s time to play. We have a new kid from the northern country. Let’s go to Acre.” I looked at him as though looking into the mountains or into thin air. After indulging in this still act for what felt like a long pause, I jumped over the windowsill. And we broke through the morning light with our heads – except for once before we completely disappeared from the watchful town, his mom called out to caution him. He answered in a deep voice with composure like a real adult does, because he knew the rest of us were silently making jeering faces.
In a loose long train we passed the narrow streets, noticing how the cat, approaching from behind an Arab little girl in pink stripes, cast a polite and anxious glance at her while overtaking her. We ran through the tunnel, out to the open, around the gun turrets, and over the old city wall. Then I found myself rolling on the choppy waves, embracing the temperamental sea. I could trace the whirling wind and reached out for it, but of course it did not even notice my feeble hand and roared away. The sea foam sprayed fresh salty mist onto my face; the pearly droplets that are her daughters danced around my head and wetted my hair.
The cloud grew heavier and the wind blew colder. The city wall was close at hand again. I ascended the parapet and balanced myself on tiptoe between the crushing waves on one side down below, and the scattered puddles on the other on the terrace. The waves tried to pull me back with their thundering laughter “Don’t go! Let’s keep playing!” But the smooth puddles that are the mirrors of the bright grey sky calmed my heartbeat. And I missed the human voices; I had drifted afar. There they were, two muted, black, hardly distinguishable figures at a distance about to disappear around the corner. My heart cried out “Wait! Wait for me!” I tried to speed up but the crenel gaps were too wide for my timid steps.
I went to the sea turtle center twice more over the past two weeks. And new experiences.
For week 2 I went on Thursday and met some regular volunteers there. Among the four coworkers, I spoke with Shir the most. She is a high school graduate and has been working here for a year now as her national service. On that day I realized the toughest work wasn’t touched at all during my first visit. Lettuce!
… I was happy to be invited to go on a trip to collect lettuce for our green turtles. Sat in the car, watching the fields, groves and clean handsome village houses of the nearby moshavim, we arrived at a vegetable company – but it was a big warehouse sort of, waste plastic bags and other materials piled randomly on a sandy ground. In front of the warehouse was a shady working area for their employees. There were two groups of workers, on one side were Muslim women and on the other were Asians. It seemed the two sides didn’t communicate at all. One curious Asian girl came up to me and asked me in English where I’m from and if I work or study here. I explained my turtle mission and learned these people are from Vietnam. Indeed, look at the conical Asian hat!
They cut the bad leaves away from the lettuce and washed it. And it is our mission to take in the bad leaves – bad in human eyes – and fill as many plastic bags as possible. It’s a piece of cake to bring a handful of leaves from right to left. But a hundred pieces of cake is quite a big thing. All the time I bent down and lifted up. The plastic bag was like a black hole, whenever I thought I finally fill it up, Shir would shake her head and violently give it a push – what power of compression that the bag was half empty again. Although dismayed, I kept going. I guess the efficiency ratio between Shir and I was 2 to 1. I was truly happy we didn’t have to continue after I collected three bags. But that was too early for celebration. What comes after loading the giant lettuce babies unto the car is of course, unloading them. Then we teared these bags open and released the lettuce into a metal cart, from there we had to transfer the lettuce again but into another white numbered bag and weigh according to the data on the daily sheet. I am going insane just by writing all these down. In short, everything about lettuce is labor intensive. read more …
A bit history first. On the last day of the summer Ulpan, everyone was asked to go in front and make a small speech in Hebrew about oneself and the future plan here. I remember saying אני רוצה לעזור לחיות בים among other things. The seed of green Zionism was already there even in the earliest days. As the second semester was just begun, I heard from Reuven that he had a friend who helped the sea turtles near Caesarea and it was a once-a-week thing. I carefully remembered this information since. In a recent trip along the seashore from Akko’s Argaman beach with Roy, we found two very big sea turtles on the sand, but dead for long. One of them was entangled in fishing net. I was saddened by the scene and made up my mind to volunteer for this good-natured animal soon. Now that I finally finished the paper draft, caught a break between the stages of research, I have to seize this chance to make the seed grow.
The early Zionist pioneers saw returning to the soil not only through a pragmatic perspective, but also as a means to rebuild, strengthen themselves in body, characteristics and identity. Parallelly, I think practicing green Zionism both does good to our nature and liberates myself from the unhealthy state of office-sitting and computer-staring. So much for the ideological babbling, here is my first day helping the sea turtles.
Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is in Michmoret. It isn’t as easy to reach the exact spot by bus as with nearby places like Caesarea or Netanya. After a constant fear of getting late for the bus or missing the stop to get off since 5 a.m, I got off at Yannay interchange and walked for half an hour to the center. Along the way I passed the Alexander Stream National Park. I should walk inside of its more pleasant and shadier wood in the future, as I was later told that it’s straightforward to reach the center along the beach.
Dotan, a heavily tanned guy in clothes that rejoice to be untidy, received me with warmth and I walked with delightful curiosity among many sea turtles – all in various water tanks. Each water tank has inflow and outflow of fresh underground sea water, underground for stable temperature. One turtle is very uneasy. it constantly splashed the surface with its fins and tried to get out. But I learned this one is blind because of a collision accident and can no longer be released back to the sea. In the same tank is another one, a quieter one. It doesn’t really surface so I could only vaguely see some plate attached to it. This one is called חופש, it lost two left fins due to lack of blood circulation when entangled in fish net. They attached a flipper to help it balance when it surfaces to breathe. This is actually widely reported in the news. I was also impressed by the messy staff office. But that only makes sense for people dealing with wildlife and work often in the sea. Shortly, another new volunteer Avi came to join us. He looked around 50 and was tall and fit. We gathered in the main working place, a space with a dozen water tanks. read more …