Ezuz - Another goat farm, this time in the desert!


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Middle East » Israel » South District » Ezuz
June 9th 2009
Published: November 18th 2009
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Ezuz at dawnEzuz at dawnEzuz at dawn

End of the earth, turned left ...
I had a couple off days following the bike ride to get ready for the next adventure, which was to be another week with goats, but this time in the desert, in a small village called Ezuz. I had found this volunteer job on the HelpX site, so contacted Celia (the owner) and arranged that we would arrive on Tuesday 26th, by bus from Beer Sheeva. We set out at around 2pm and took the train from Haifa to Beer Sheeva, via Tel Aviv. Then at Beer Sheeva we took the bus to Ezuz, arriving at around 9.30pm. The train was filled with football fans all off to Tel Aviv to see the final (of some cup or other) between Haifa and a Tel Aviv team, (Haifa won) so I did not get a seat, and had to stand in a gangway with heavy backpack and people squeezing past me every few minutes, just my idea of fun…not. The bus station at Beer Sheeva was an interesting hive of activity, with a mixed array of people from all walks of life, the soldiers setting off back to base, the street sellers, the kiosk holders, the travellers, taxi drivers, and the Bedouins
Celia - Farm ownerCelia - Farm ownerCelia - Farm owner

A very rosy cheeked but tired looking lady
in their wonderful and intriguing dress and with their ever watchful eyes. I have to say Israeli people have never heard of manners, queuing, or deferring to their elders, no they just sharpen elbows and shove themselves onto buses, into the face of shop keepers or whatever, as if they are the only people in the world. I had been at the front of what I considered the queue for the bus, but before the bus had stopped at the station, there was a stampede of soldiers boots, and before I knew it I was the last to enter the bus, and very lucky to find a seat……and whilst I am moaning, this is another thing about them, they sit on the bus taking two seats and totally ignore you if you try to sit down, so I was squeezed onto the very edge of a seat, with one butt cheek hanging off the seat…..not very comfortable, so you can imagine my delight when the soldier got off the bus at one of the first stops….I only had to bear it for one hour along a bumpy desert road.

Our stop was the last on the line, and by
Milking parlourMilking parlourMilking parlour

...this was very high tech with a milking machine...
the time we got there it was dark. It seemed as if I had been driven to the end of the earth, turned left and we were there, a one bit village (not big enough to be called a town) with not even a horse (but there was a donkey), but it did have a bus shelter! where we were dumped and thankfully within a few minutes were met by Celia, a very rosy cheeked but tired looking lady, who took us home and made us tea. It was late, we were all tired, so Celia showed us the caravan which would be home for a week, and told us not to worry about being up too early next morning, 6.30-7ish would be fine. The caravan was not the Ritz, but it was a bed, a bathroom, a kitchen and somewhere to sit, and I have to say, I quite liked it, it was certainly a few stars better than the accommodation at Yod Fat. Celia provided all the food and I had to cook it, so all was well.

We had a caravan mate in the form of another volunteer by the name of Mark. Strange guy, his
Milking dutyMilking dutyMilking duty

…it starts at 4.45am...
main job was taking the goats out to graze for an hour or so each day, I think the rest of the time he spent in his room drinking cheap Rose wine or raiding the fridge for food. He was a story teller who had had an interesting and varied life. From being a micro-light instructor to helping set up schools in India for young girls, to helping Mother Teresa in the slums (he said he was her undertaker, buried her dead) I would like to believe all he told me, and I am sure there were grains of truth there somewhere, but he did have one head rush with me where he really was not that pleasant, about Celia and Dror, the unimportance of their little lives etc, which I know was drink induced, but it did make me view him in a very different light. He also told me he was waiting to work on a project in Jerusalem run by some Australian ‘millionairs’, that this was why he had come to Israel, but if that was the case, and they were financing his trip, what was he doing in Ezuz, and why was he asking Celia for
The farmThe farmThe farm

Again I asked myself, could I have done it?
money on his day off? He told us lots of strange stories about a book he had written, the charities he had set up etc etc etc, and as I say I would like to believe, but it just did not ring true to me.

The next morning we met at the milking parlour, this was very high tech with a milking machine, no milking by hand here. Our first job was to clean out the milking parlour after the morning milking session, and from tomorrow we were on milking duty……it starts at 4.45am……oh my god, what had I just agreed to. The other things that were needed around the farm were general gardening, helping with the feeding of the animals, labelling bottles for cream cheese and yoghurt, pasteurising the milk and helping to make the cheese. There were signs to be painted and roofs blown off in the winds to be replaced, oh yes and a computerised surveillance system to be set up, not my thing, but Ram took this job, much to the delight of Dror, Celia’s lovely husband. The first day we did some gardening, helped with the milking and generally got to know the place
Amazing sunsetAmazing sunsetAmazing sunset

There is a lot to like about the desert, the solitude, the scenery, the sunsets the simple (on the surface) life ...
and what was expected.

The following morning Celia and Dror were off to do a shop and deliver cheeses and yoghurts to the bigger towns, so we were left to our gardening and animal duties after the milking session. I was gaily pulling up weed and feeding to the goats in their pens most of the day until at about 4pm Mark came running up to me in a panic and a dither wanting to know if Celia had told me to feed the weeds to the goats or not as their prize male goat was now dead…………. Oh my goodness, not even 24hours here and I had killed a bloody goat!! What were Celia and Dror going to say……as you can imagine, I was just a little worried that I would be sent packing as soon as they got home, if not, as soon as milking was over that night. As luck would have it they were late home and we were told to give milking a miss, they would do it. So it was the next morning before I had to face them……luckily, Dror is one of life’s laid back, unhurried, unworried people, and all he said
Cafe/BarCafe/BarCafe/Bar

At the end of a hot, hard working day was a godsend, to be able to have a nice cold beer, and a chocolate pancake…sheer bliss
was, you work with animals, you expect the odd death here and there, not to worry, he would take the dead goat to the local restaurant! Yes I was a bit worried about that one, but he meant, out to the desert, where the Wolves, birds and Hyenas would soon get rid of the evidence.

I got on really well with Celia, she was a funny, talkative, friendly lady who had originally come from Kenya at the age of 18. She was also a great story teller, but I know her stories were all very real, about her life on farms in Kenya, her horses there, about her coming to Israel, and why, about her conversion to Judaism, the reason for that, and the process. How she and Dror ended up in the desert on a goat farm. How they along with one other guy had started the village of Ezuz, the struggle, the idea of the village, the struggles since, getting the village going, living there with young children, and how there is a wind of change in the air now with the village. She really was a very interesting and amazing woman, just like Amnon and Dalia
A lovely sitting veranda A lovely sitting veranda A lovely sitting veranda

It seems the main income of the village is from tourism
in Yod Fat, these were two people to be really admired. Again I asked myself, could I have done it? Could I live like this now? There is a lot to like about the desert, the solitude, the scenery, the sunsets the simple (on the surface) life with the animals. The answer is no. I am just not tough enough for this type of life full time. It is great for a week, maybe for a couple of months. Any longer and I think the endless early mornings, the struggle of working in such heat and the lack of company (there are only 16 families in the village and most are younger than Dror and Celia by at least 15 years) would eventually get to me and drive me crazy, not to mention all the scorpions. That said, it is not all bad, the village now even has it’s own Café/Bar, which at the end of a hot, hard working day was a godsend, to be able to have a nice cold beer, and a chocolate pancake…sheer bliss.

It seems the main income of the village is from tourism, everyone seems to have a room they let out for
Making cheese and yoghurtMaking cheese and yoghurtMaking cheese and yoghurt

I worked alongside Celia quite a lot, she showed me how to pasteurise the milk, how to make the cheese, yoghurt and cream cheese.
bed and breakfast. One family has moved in a couple of old buses and converted them to fairly luxury rooms. Another have converted a container and turned this into accommodation. One couple have just taken on some acres of land for fruit trees, another guy has olive groves. There is a blacksmith or metal worker, a guy who does sculpture and of course Celia and Dror who have the goats for milk, cheese and yoghurt, sheep for meat and a few chicken for eggs. They have made a shop for the tourist to buy produce and a lovely sitting veranda for them to have yoghurt drinks on and look at the view. The shop is a converted railway carriage, and is really lovely.

I worked alongside Celia quite a lot, she showed me how to pasteurise the milk, how to make the cheese, yoghurt and cream cheese. We sterilised and labelled the bottles, and filled them, and we talked and laughed a lot, so the week was sadly over before it began, and I would have stayed longer, only I had to be back in Haifa for root canal treatment, and the tooth was giving me jip so I didn’t want to change it. I will go back soon, as Celia and Dror work so hard. I think the odd few days without having to get up to milk, (summertime milking starts at 3.30am so the goats can graze before it gets too hot), would do them the world of good, not to mention, I quite like the goats, they really are little characters, and I like the ritual of milking them.

Well the trip back to Haifa was lovely, we left the village at 6am, so the sun was just coming up, and along the way I watched the day starts in the different villages and army camps. I saw the Bedouins begin their day, I watched the camels wake, and the kids start out for the school bus, and was back in Beer Sheeva by 8am, where we had breakfast and people watched before taking the train back to Tel Aviv. In Tel Aviv we went to the National Museum of Art, which was a beautifully designed building, with some fantastic and some rubbish art (in my humble opinion). They had quite a collection of well-known artists, like Miro, Piccaso, Monet, and one of my favourites Kandinsky, they also had some fabulous scuptures which I enjoyed looking at. After this and a short wander in Tel Aviv we took the train back to Haifa arriving at 7pm, totally shattered, but happy.

Interested in volunteering with Ceilia and Dror, up to date email:- cfriede@yahoo.com

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