As I was saying (in the cat selfie post), on Friday my Shishi Zioni group went down south of Beer Sheva to visit and learn about three different ways of living together in the Negev desert:
1. a kibbutz mitchadesh, 2. a religious yeshuv kehilati (community settlement/planned community), and 3. a mixed religious + secular yeshuv kehilati.
Our bus slowly went up the dirt road to Sheizaf.
Half in jest our guide said not to fear the guard dogs because they were tired from having barked all night.
Our busload of older Israelis numbered just about the same as the current population of Sheizaf which is 15 young couples with 20 little kids.
Each family lives in a caravan, the portable pre-fab houses that were set on the ground in 2012.
Or maybe they are big enough to be considered caravillot.
(The Hebrew word caravilla is a portmanteau of the words caravan and villa.)
Itai, who was a driving force in creating this yeshuv kehilati/community settlement, spoke with pride about the young people who were attracted from all over the country to come and establish a new place in the sparsely-populated Negev desert.
BTW, recruitment was done via e-mail and Internet.
Our guide for the morning was Ofir, head of hityashvut/settlement for the Ramat Negev Local Council.
In addition to his help, Sheizaf got backing from Ayalim Association, a 21st century organization whose slogan is "Bringing young adults to live and volunteer in the toughest places in Israel to serve as its newest Pioneers."
This means the Negev and the Galilee. *
See a short video explaining Ayalim's altruistic aims.
Sheizaf is not enclosed within a fence.
At their website you can enjoy a slideshow of the houses and people of the community.
One of the fathers brought up his little son, to the delight of all the grandparents of our group.
Sheizaf is a rare example of a social experiment deliberately mixing observant and non-observant Jews.
There vision is to grow to 250-400 families and when the kids are ready for school to have a mixed religious + secular education for them.
(The practice in Israel today is for a child to attend either religious school or secular school.)
Good luck to these brave and idealistic young people who chose a far-from-easy life!
*UPDATE: I see Ayalim does good work in central Israel as well. This article and little video about their new project in Lod just appeared today. A shipping container village is going up to house the enthusiastic students!