On Shmita

Camille Lerner

About Camille Lerner

I am a multimedia artist, writer and musician living in the UK. My work focuses on dissecting binary modes of thinking, especially those surrounding gender and disability. I like to creatively explore altnerative ways of viewing myself and the world around me, I see this as a radical practice. I grew up in a very goyishe town, away from most of my Jewish family, I always felt disconnected and like an outsider but at the time I didn’t understand why. A few years ago I began reconnecting with Judaism and seeking out a Jewish community that was right for me. It feels like I have been piecing myself back together, the more I learn, the more I understand who I am and why. In November I attended a Shmita retreat organised by Miknaf Haaretz, it was a powerful experience and the first time I have ever felt like I belong. In the future I hope to be a part of a self-sustaining intergenerational community that tends the land mindfully and adapts to the needs and capacities of its inhabitants. Many disabled people are forcefully disconnected from nature, I want to change this, as a way of resisting ecofascism.

About On Shmita

My work is a series of interconnected poems (the last one is a prose poem) that I began writing while at the Miknaf Haaretz Shmita retreat, which took place in Snowdonia. They started as scribbled notes I made over the weekend, while amongst oak trees, next to a river that fed into a nearby lake, with mountains all around us. It was amazing to be in nature and around people after being confined to my house for so long. In the past year I have become drastically more disabled due to a chronic illness, that I’ve had for a long time, getting worse. It has forced me to learn how to rest and let myself be cared for. Many people at the retreat were anxious about allowing themselves to rest, someone said they were afraid of sinking into “the void”. This made me realise that I am “the void,” I am what ‘well’/non-disabled people are the most afraid of, I can’t work and I am mostly unproductive. It was great to be able to talk openly about this with everyone, I hope that it made them less afraid so they can allow themselves to rest. These poems are a continuation on this theme, as well as some other aspects of Shmita, like accessibile ecology, and the complexity of my experience of being disabled and Jewish. While the retreat was fantastic and I am glad I went, the retreat centre (Cae Mabon) was very inaccessible and I was super ill for 2 weeks afterwards. But I expected this and was prepared. The retreat attendees were very supportive and accepting. I didn’t feel like I had to act like I’m not disabled, I felt held. This is an important and often overlooked aspect of accessibility that I touch on in my poems.