I stood on a ladder and painted a rose on the water tower as the sun’s heat waxed, until all that was left was a chill and red. The red was everywhere. On the ladder. On my hands. (ALL OVER my hands, as if Lady Macbeth had suddenly taken up a predilection for paint). On the ground. On my clothes. There was also green, but it wasn’t as prominent as the red, echoing its lesser (though lasting) surface area on the tower.
On a backdrop of gray concrete and fading signs and symbols and spirits, the rose bloomed, bud from bouts of indecision. The only reason there was a rose was because a cactus was too banal. As was borrowing Erez, though it was the only unanimous vote. Alas, it was vetoed, as were others, until on one brisk Jerusalem morning someone suggested, “שושנת ארז,” Erez’s Rose. There was no deep significance behind the name; the only trace of import was in its ability to garner consensus.
Roses could represent prickliness and beauty in a similar way to Sabras, yet its Hebrew resonance is what resonated with a group of 19 new עולים who could have cared more about naming their גרעין.
So we went with roses, despite never once spotting one since moving to Israel, let alone the kibbutz. There were peacocks and there were dogs (so many dogs) and bomb shelters and abandoned buildings and watch towers and a nearby army and rockets and honey and cows and the off-limits avocado fields and gates and rabbits and community and kids and space, but there were no roses. It’s almost ironic to consider that amid all the consequential symbols, we settled on one that lacked any and seemingly all connection not only to us as a גרעין, but also to our home. To our kibbutz.
I painted the rose on the water tower as so many others had done before me, marking their groups and their existence. Now we existed. We were part of this kibbutz’s story whether they regretted it or not, now cemented on an Erez landmark that is almost unavoidable when touring the roads.
With one hand on a paint brush and the other on the side of the tower, my feet planted as securely as possible on the ladder, I felt like a kibbutznik(it). The cows mooed (and smelled) in the distance, and from my height I could see lots. Not everything (there are better viewpoints for everything), but enough. I had paint and cows and a ladder and a water tower and in that moment as I recorded our history (a time bias), I was the dream. I was a chalutz and I was proud.
I am proud to be a kibbutznik(it).
I am proud to be a chalutzah.