The last was the first

The very, very last guest in the Bloeiplaats Transitium, was also the first, without it having been organized or conceived: Tamarah Benima, rabbi of the municipality of Beit Ha’Chidush in Amsterdam, among others. The team had already cleared and cleaned up all the bedrooms, but when suddenly Tamarah wanted to come and sleep for two more nights, they lovingly made a bed for her again. And so Tamarah slept in and out of the Transitium. And a column devoted to it in the Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad, which we would like to reproduce below, with the author’s permission.


Silent work – by Tamarah Benima

Last week I slept in an asylum seekers center. Or more correctly, a building complex where status holders will be housed. It is located in the North Holland Dune Reserve near Bakkum and functioned as a children’s home for 75 years. st. Antonius, as it was called, was designed by Jacob Fels (not Jewish). The inspiration by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Amsterdam School is still noticeable. It has been vacant since 2011. Unsaleable.

Then something special happened. A handful of volunteers gradually renovated part of the complex into a do-it-yourself retreat center with a fantastic, calming, loving atmosphere. I saw it happen with my own eyes, because I was the first guest to sleep in Bloom Place Transitium and the last. The building has been sold to the COA. There is no better temporary shelter for refugees who are allowed to stay in the Netherlands than this. Artist and coach Malve Dau, who was in charge of the project, painted everything with her volunteers, furnished the rooms with furniture from thrift stores. My mother’s baby wing has been in the common room for a year. Without legs, because they have all broken off during various relocations and shifts over time.

The Transitium is a typical example of the statement from Proverbs of the Fathers: “It’s not up to you to finish the work, but you can’t leave it behind either”. So you have to start. The point is: you sometimes have to see that there is work to be done. And then don’t get discouraged by the thought: There is no end to it, where do I start?! By the way, the word ‘blooming place’ comes from Thomas van Kleef, the manager-monk of the adjacent Zeeveld. Also a place for spiritual workshops, but also where family weekends or company outings are held. My rabbinical thesis and, years later, my last book, I wrote in Zeeveld.

A ‘blooming place’, where you can relax and unwind, would also be a great idea for the Jewish community. The Jewish tradition has a lot to offer, but it lacks the equivalent of a monastery or ashram: a place where you don’t have to (or even are sometimes allowed to) talk, a place where you don’t immediately get involved in a discussion, a place where you meditate ( and not just for an hour), where there is collective prayer as a form of silence and as an interruption of the silence. A kind of Yom Kippur, so to speak, but with healthy food, and a lot longer than a day. I’m not going to set it up. I ‘have’ Zeeveld. But it would be nice if others started on such a project.

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