WHEN A GOOD KIBBUTZ GOES BAD

Trip Start Jun 20, 2008
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Trip End Dec 18, 2008


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Friday, September 5, 2008

On the cruise that would take me to Israel, I spoke briefly with a pettite blonde and then hung out for hours with a larger blonde.

The pettite blonde had the neck-straps of her red bikini down and played with them, as she relaxed on the deck and sun-tanned her intelligent shoulders.  She was a late-twenties Moscovian.  She liked to read.  I gave her one of my travel stories, which she critiqued.  She sympathized with the main character, a fellow Russian whom she called a "femme fatale."  A fighting lifestyle had made this pettite Moscovian wise in psychology and emotion.  She used her strengths to improve her own situation.

The larger blonde was seated next to me at dinner.  In a deep-ocean-blue dress and a turquoise sweater that covered her bare shoulders, she gleamed.  She helped to get me more of the delicious dinner food.  We laughed at the cheesy performers who worked as evening entertainment.  And then, under the stars, she led me, as we danced the "heel-toe" of her Australian homeland.  A youth full of love and encouragement had made her into a fun, confident leader.  She used her strengths to be playful and compassionate with others.

Either way, I like strong women: women who feel they can look you in the eye, women who'll take the lead sometimes and won't be afraid to also give it back.

"Vika", in the Czech Republic, is unhappy but proud.  She's becoming too proud, though, as she notices no one around her knows the suffering she's known.  Soon, she'll forget how to respect others.  Instead of relinquishing the lead to others, she'll turn to money or personality-killing vices.

When she refused to relinquish the lead to me, back in late-June, I turned to traveling and writing.

Girls want someone who thinks they're special, and whom they think is special.  Because of the challenging way in which I travel, one could also say I'd turned to suffering.  Suffering brings strength.  Thus, with each new trip, I'm attaining new characteristics that a girl might view as making me special.  This is good.  Right now, neither Vika NOR my second-favorite girl in the world likes me very much.

Or, maybe I'm just totally confused?  A turtle-faced Cypriot man who drove me in a sportscar said: when picking up women, "At least 30% of it is the car."

Furthermore, I don't even WANT a girlfriend.  I want to travel.  And for afterwards, I want a whole utopian community full of girlfriends and friends.  But, is such a thing possible?

I arrived in Israel with so little going for me that even the word, "nothing", looked rich in comparison.  Among other things, I needed a place to stay.  Luckily, travelers in Israel have for decades enjoyed staying on "kibbutzim" (kibbutzes).

(Whew!  It's tough work making the transition from a cruise ship to a kibbutz.!)

I wanted to volunteer on a kibbutz.  But, I was ethically opposed to paying an office in Tel Aviv for the "right" to volunteer.  Calling the kibbutzim directly didn't help.  I networked with friendly kibbutz-dwellers on "MySpace", but their help couldn't get me a place.  It was mid-August; I'd sweat into oblivion if I tried to hitchhike from kibbutz to kibbutz.  So, I gave up.

But, then, as soon as I left the northern port city of Haifa, I got dropped off at the gates of Kibbutz Kfar-Mazarik.  And soon I was through those gates and talking with the gate-keeper.

"The kibbutzim aren't what they used to be."  He reiterated what everyone'd been saying.

Sixty-one-year-old Ally had lived his whole life on the kibbutz.  He'd lived in the childrens' home as a child, spending only a few hours a day with his parents.  He with his white hair and comfortable posture, like the two other lifetime kibbutz-dwelling adults I would speak with, seemed like a normal person except without a temper or sense of envy, and with a superior education.

He treated driver after driver with good will, and he told me his kibbutz was seventy-six years old.  Like many kibbutzim, it served as a refuge for illegal Jews during World War II.  It was originally especially for Czechs.  "Kfar" is Hebrew for village; "Mazarik" is the name of Czechoslovakia's heroic first president.

Ally said calmly that the capitalist world is too selfish.  He only reads the Newspaper of the Kibbutzim.  He said my lifestyle is good, but I must beware I don't travel so much I become ill.

I went for a walk.

The kibbutz was sweetly quiet.  The population of a few hundred lived in simple houses separated by cushy grass.  The people got around by bicycle.  The simple houses had complex sculpture gardens or Buddhist gardens in front of them.  I realized that a giant artifact resembling a spider-armed goddess must've been an antique, candle-holding menora.

I was allowed to swim in and camp near one of the most artistic and beautifully-lit pools I've ever seen.  A youthful-looking, giggling fifty-year-old named Ruth kept me company and asked nosy questions about whom I'd spoken with on the kibbutz.  There was evidently no privacy here.  Also, according to Ruth, there was no synagogue, unlike in some of the religious kibbutzim.  I, an open atheist, would miss neither; sign me up!

The next morning, I awaited my meeting with Kibbutz Secretary Mairon in one of Kfar-Mazarik's factories.  The workers were mostly Arabs or Russian immigrants who weren't members of the kibbutz.

Chubby, forty-something Mairon came, and he gave me a tour of Kfar-Mazarik.  He showed me the many acres of beautiful crops.  He said the kibbutz's land had been sand originally, and only through hard work had their ancestors turned it into grass.  Before the Israeli State, settlers had needed to have a watch-tower and a fence in order to be permitted to stay.  At night, when the British patrolers weren't patroling, the settling community toiled to get the tower and fence done.  And in the morning, they had a kibbutz.

We went to Mairon's office.  He said, as a kibbutz officer, he does as the people who elected him want him to.  Now, Kfar-Mazarik divvies up evenly all the revenue the kibbutz and its members who work off the kibbutz make.  Of 230 kibbutzim, it's one of eighty that still does so.  Within two years, Mairon thinks, it will cease to do so and become a capitalist community.

So, how did the socialism fail?  It failed with the restoration of the family.  Different-sized families have different financial needs, and it's unrealistic to think these different-sized families can agree on how much each family fairly deserves.

Mairon's was the last generation of children to live in the childrens' home.  After that, studies began to show that separating kids from their parents is harmful.  Virtually every kibbutz abolished the childrens' home.

Mairon remembers his childhood as a fun, play-filled time.  He's much closer to friends than he is to his biological siblings.

But, kids can be cruel.  Imagine spending twenty-two hours a day with children, if they consider you unpopular!  Mairon and I agreed this could lead to a person growing up bitter and reclusive.

And Mairon said that, even for him and the popular kids, it was difficult to know how to hug and show affection to their own kids when they had them.

Great conversation.  But, I asked Mairon the important question: Could I become Kfar-Mazarik's first volunteer since their kibbutz stopped taking them, a decade ago?  No; unfortunately, they were suffering from a housing shortage, and there was no place for me.

I thanked Mairon and left.  I think one mistake of the kibbutzim was to start rejecting newcomers.

My friend in America recommended I rebel by starting my own kibbutz.  Maybe one day, Johnny, maybe one day.  I wonder what my hometown park would say if I got up the watch-tower and fence by sunrise?


bye, the Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Shtefan; and Avi for rides!
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