Winter in Tabgha
Just because I have not been making regular Blog posts does not mean that our corner of the Sea of Galilee is quiet. The winter months are the slow season for the Meeting Place, but the volunteers take the opportunity to become very busy with “General Cleaning.” Over these few weeks, we take apart windows, stoves, sinks and beds to scrub every inch of Tabgha. For someone who has trouble remembering to clean his own room, I can think of only one reason we were all able to remain cheerful and motivated throughout the process: we are all very excited about the groups coming back. Having worked with and been visited by so many wonderful groups throughout the Summer and Fall, we all knew how important this place is to them, and looking forward to seeing some of them again definitely made the hard cleaning much easier. There were also several other projects that we worked on throughout the months, including a complete makeover of the Dalmanutha area in front of the Sea, and (of course) making sure the lights are all working!
In these quieter months, many of the volunteers have taken the opportunity to go traveling. One of the top destinations for us is of course taking the opportunity to visit the organizations that so often visit us. We were able to spend two days driving throughout Palestine with Majida as she visited the families, volunteers, clinics and schools that she works with. The experience of seeing where our guests come from, and also seeing the people who help support them the entire year round, was an incredibly valuable and special experience for us. Equally valuable was another recent trip, this time not to an old friend and guest, but to a new school just beginning to look into the possibility of spending some time with us in Tabgha! We really hope that the opportunity will work for them, so that they will be able to appreciate this wonderful place, and we will be able to make some new friends.
German and English and Hebrew (oh my!)
Over the past few weeks, Tabgha has at times been very busy, but at other times very quiet. Some of the groups who were planning on coming to Tabgha had to cancel their plans at the last minute, because they were not given clearance to pass the border from the West Bank. It was very disappointing for us that these groups couldn’t come, but we hope that next time they’ll be allowed through the border. One group from Bethlehem was allowed through, and Tabgha was once again filled to the bursting point. Lifegate is a Palestinian rehabilitation center for mental and physical disabilities. In the true fashion of Tabgha as an oasis of German in the Holy Land, several of the volunteers and residents from Kfar Tikva, another DVHL location. Lifegate and Kfar Tikva are old friends of Tabgha, and over the past several years have built a very deep and important connection with each other. We were also joined at this time by groups from CJVM and the Goethe-Gymnasium Ibbenbürren also joined us.
Moshik explains the Sukkot Feast
One of the main activities during this time was working with the guests and other volunteers to construct a Sukkah. A Sukkah is a large, temporary tent, built to celebrate Sukkot, the Jewish holiday celebrating the time after the Exodus from Egypt wandering in the wilderness. Our Sukkah was built with palm leaves, and decorated inside with paper chains, garlands and lamps. We celebrated the completion of the Sukkah by singing traditional songs (a mix of Hebrew and German), eating specially made candies, and even performing a few short plays. As always, it was hard to see this group go, though we will be seeing some of them soon at our upcoming weekly football (that’s Soccer to the other Ami’s reading) match in Kfar Tikva. 0
Over the past few weeks, Tabgha has been hosting several German high schools and universities. We’ve been doing a lot of fun things with them, including accompanying them on their day trips around Israel, as well as having a “Ora Et Labora” day, where the group learned about work and prayer by helping us to clean up Tabgha in preparation for the celebration of the Multiplication on November 12th.
I am Peter Blattner, one of the new Tabgha volunteers for the 2011-2012 year, and I will be trying to keep you all up to date on some of the exciting things happening in Tabgha and the Begegungstatte. It has been hard to say goodbye to the volunteers from last year, who taught me an incredible amount about Tabgha, the people who live and work here, and the guests who stay with us. They demonstrated the deep connection that is formed by working in such a fascinating and important place, and I can only hope that I will be able to bring as much to Tabgha as they did.
At the moment, we are hosting a summer camp from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. One of the first things you should know about this group is that there were only two adults with the group. The children with the group are actually volunteers, and they do an incredible job helping to care for the handicapped members. Seeing young individuals take on such responsibility, and really rise to the challenge, is amazing.
Us with the children
We were given the opportunity (Paul let us take the afternoon off) to spend most of the afternoon and evening swimming in the pool, eating, and even having a dance party with the group, and it was hard to see them go.
The following group to arrive in Tabgha is also someone familiar to the place. Akram Ali Okkah will be arriving with his group for the physically disabled, and it was great to see him again. Akram’s program emphasizes the importance of physical activity (he is also the head of the Palestinian Paralympics Committee) and integration with the surrounding communities. These words took on a lot more meaning when the delighted volunteers heard that the group would like to spend the morning working alongside as we clean up the pool!