Sophie Reiss, a participant on the BINA GAP Shnat Sherut year, writes about Shabbat in the Communa.
Our weekdays in the Shhnat Sherut are long, with most of us out of the apartment for 12 hours a day volunteering. Shabbat is a time for us to take a breath, relax, and refresh as a communa for the upcoming week.
In the Shnat Sherut, we have alternating weekends, one where everyone is in the communa, and the next we are free. The Israelis go to their families’ homes and we are either hosted by them or we are free to travel. During communa weekends, we are in charge of all of our own programming. This is typically led by the culture committee, which is made up of four communa members (including me). The culture committee comes up with a plan for the weekend, and organizes at least one activity for the communa.
This past communa weekend was nothing short of amazing. We all slept in late Friday morning, then spent the rest of the afternoon cooking, cleaning, and running errands. Growing up in a secular home, I wasn’t used to the idea that Fridays are for deep cleaning and cooking extravagant meals. However, from the program’s beginning it became clear that this was something that’s very important to the Israelis, and we’ve all grown to enjoy the routine. We typically have music blasting throughout the apartment, people rushing around the kitchen preparing dinner, and everyone else working together to get the apartment clean. It’s a really nice feeling to spend the morning and afternoon in the communa apartment after a week of rushing around the city for our volunteering.
Dinner came around, and we all sat around the table and enjoyed the amazing food we had all cooked. We have a communa tradition that during Shabbat dinner, we go around the table and say what we appreciate about each other. It’s always really sweet and ends up taking up a lot of our time because we all have so much we want to say about each other. After dinner, we all grabbed some cake that had been baked and gathered on the floor of one of the girls’ rooms to play card games (another communa tradition).
Saturday morning, half of the communa woke up a little earlier than the rest and snuck around the apartment, preparing the day’s activity. A week earlier, the culture committee had asked for volunteers for a secret activity. The six volunteers pulled the names of the other six communa members out of a hat, and were told they needed to take the name they had pulled on a date on Saturday. I was a volunteer, and I was taking Lin, an Israeli from the communa. I planned a picnic for us, with chocolate covered strawberries, coffee, music, and painting. We sat outside in our garden and had a really fun time. Afterwards, the sun was setting, so a few of my other roommates and I went down to the beach to see the sunset. It was so beautiful, and such a nice start to a new week.
GAP Shnat Sherut