A dank and moldy smell rose as I descended the dark stairwell of the bombshelter. I pulled my scarf tighter around my face and nose as the air grew colder and more musty.
I found the belly of the underground refuge filled with flickering candles, laughter, Christmas goodies, and faces from many countries: Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Romania, America, Israel, England, and Russia. We were all volunteers on Kibbutz Einat, located outside of Tel Aviv, Israel. And we were very far from home on an important evening of the year.
Our volunteer group was from Texas. We came originally with 30 young people the summer before, and a few of us stayed on for the rest of the year. It was a marvelous opportunity. We worked in the day, studied Hebrew at night, and had many opportunities to develop friendships with the local Jewish and Arab Israelis and a myriad of volunteers from different nations.
Our group gained favor with the leaders of the kibbutz. They gave us bombshelter of our own to use for worship, prayer, Bible studies, meetings, and parties. They also gave us paint to brighten it up. We slathered the walls with pink!
In the summer when our group was large, it was a sweet retreat and escape from the heat of the day. We gathered there almost daily to have times of worship and prayer together. But we used it less when there were just a handful of us left to forge out the rest of the year alone.
It was the perfect place for a Christmas Eve party for all the volunteers. The American group hosted the event. The kibbutz donated food, and some spent the day in the kitchen creating special Christmas sweets from home.
I made chocolate chip cookies, which none of the foreign volunteers had tasted. They were a big hit. But there were so many wonderful treats to eat– tortes, danish, and apple strudel.
It was already dark outside when we gathered in the bombshelter for our Christmas Eve festivities. We had invited some of the kibbutz members to come. Only a few showed up. We dove into the food, told jokes and stories. At the close of the evening, a German volunteer started singing, “Silent Night” in German. Then we joined her in our own languages. We sang several Christmas carol sthat were familiar to all of us, each in his mother tongue. The beautiful music vibrated the walls of the shelter. That was the grandest place on earth that night and couldn’t have been more beautiful or special if it had been in the most elegant hotel in the world.
The candlelight illuminated the bombshelter and reflected an ethereal glow on our faces as we sang about the Christ child. There was a deep sense of unity and peace as we remembered the baby born in Bethlehem. Tears filled my eyes as the music lifted our spirits and sent us soaring on an evening that could have been the loneliest one of the year for all of us so far away from home.
That moment is branded into my heart and gave me a little taste of what it might be like in heaven when every nation, tongue, and tribe comes before the throne of God to give Him praise–when every knee will bow to proclaim Jesus as Lord and thank Him for coming to earth, for dying, for giving new life.
The evening ended. To my utter amazement when I ascended the bombshelter stairs at the top by the door, I found a group of Israeli kibbutz members standing outside listening to our music. I had no idea of how long they had been listening in the cold, but none of them seemed to mind.
One young man pulled me aside and said, “This bombshelter has been a place of war, but you have made it a place of peace.”
I have never forgotten those words. Every time war comes to Israel, and the bombs are flying–people are wearing gas masks and fleeing for shelter in their underground refuges, I think of the glow of our pink bombshelter.
I remember all the prayers said in that place for reconciliation between Arab and Jew, for peace in Jerusalem, for the eyes of Israel and the whole world to be opened to their Messiah.
Every Christmas and Hanukkah season I am remember that glowing evening, knowing that I had a little taste of “Peace on Earth. Good Will Toward Men.” It happened in a pnk bombshelter–the most unlikely place.
And I want more.
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Wow, does that bring back memories! Our group didn’t have the bombshelter (just the front lawn of the old dining room) but I sure remember the location! And, it reminds me of my mom, of course….and the pictures taken in this little refuge 🙂
Thanks for sharing…
I was in Einat Nov 06 to Jan 07. My Kids, who are still little insist on a story of my days at Einat each night before bed. So we have the orange groves, my failure in the mafia (bakery not the well known welfare/self – help oraganisation), the chicken pens, the celbrations the tarvel to wondeful sites, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on Christmas Eve, and the friendships. Franco
I remember . . .
Bonnie, How awesome to find this Blog on the internet about Kibbutz Einat… randomly found this, and a flood of memories came through my mind of that bomb-shelter you described (don’t remember that it was ‘pink’), and many other awesome experiences. I was there from May-Aug. of ’85 with a group of believers “from” Texas. I remember the bomb shelter on early mornings when I & others had worked in the bakery night shift & so to avoid hot humid weather to catch some rest, I’d go down to the bomb shelter where was nice and cool to sleep. Primarily worked in the bakery, cotton fields, and the kitchen. I’ve shared many stories with family about my experiences there. Would love to go there again some day. All the Best, Mindy
Brings back many memories of worship and seeing God’s faithfulness through joyous and difficult times.
I volunteered on Einat in the summer of 1978–my first time in Israel. I remember the Believers (maaminim), especially their leader, Michael. I worked with some of them in the cotton fields. A Vietnam War Army nurse cleaned out my foot once when I injured it in the Jordan River. She and her friend who held it steady were angels sent from heaven. the nurse wore glasses so I wonder if that was you. Thanks for your blog; lehitraot!
I spent time at Kibbitz Einat in 1972.
I spent time at Kibbitz Einat in 1972.
Also thank you to the Vietman nurse. I spent 2 tours there in 1969 and 1970. I appreciate at that the nurses did for us combat wounded vetrans.
Just corrected a typo in my email address. Sorry about that. I enjoyed my stay there and the people I met. I remember one guy whose name was Isreal, another a soldier who was in UDT but I can’t recall his name, also a husband and wife Rivka who was married to a highly decorated soldier who’s name I can’t recall.
I was part of the first American group. The year was 1968 !!!! I was 19 year old kid. Changed my life.
is it you crazy englishman??????
I just happened upon this article, which must be a few years old, but it stirs up memories and am wondering if anyone else will remember Einat in 1981. I also was with one of the Texas groups and used the bomb shelter in the same manner, because groups before us had earned favor with the kibbutzniks. Such good memories and am still longing to return to Israel! Would love to hear from anyone who was there in 1981!
I spent the Summer of 80 on Einat with a group from our school in Dallas, TX. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I still think of Schmulik (our bus driver to the cotton fields and on tours) Aaron( Bakery boss) and Heikah (she directed traffic in the kitchen!) I think of them often! they made it a great experience. I remember doing Jewish dancing in the dining room after we cleaned up from supper. Now, THOSE were the good old days! Yes, I spent some cool moments in that pink bomb shelter. Actually the contrast was probably 25-30 degrees., so I would take a jacket or be under a blanket. About 110-115 degrees outside. It was like Enghedi in the desert!
What a rush of memories. I remember that Christmas in the bomb shelter. The sweet Christmas songs. The air was thick with the presence of God. I remember playing the guitar and singing. I also remember that those volunteers that were not Christians wanted to celebrate Christmas with a feast. What a feast it was! They held it in an old building and asked us to sing. God was with us. I remember singing “Lion of Judah” and how beautiful the harmony was. I also remember to candle-lit oranges on the pathway. And the wonderful chicken that we had prepared ourselves. It was the best Christmas ever.
You touched my heart…. deeply and yearningly.
there is a kibbutz reunion in Bournemouth UK on 18 August – everyone welcome
check out the Kibbutz Einat facebook page
I love this story!
I was just sharing with a guest at our Christmas party about worsip in that bomb shelter and how the kibbutzniks would listen at times. Lots of fond memories!