Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kibbutzim! 7/25/08

Well, as promised, I would like to discuss kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz). As I have learned, this phenomenon arose during the second aliya (waves of immigration of Jews to the Holy Land before World War II), which comprised of primarily young, secular, socialist Jews who created what are now lovingly known as kibbutzim (“collective gathering” in Hebrew). So these amazing Jews were somewhat the hippies of their day, but with amazing work ethics! They incorporated work as literally a part of their worship. Everything was based on efficiency for them, even to the point that they would have all of their children stay in a “children’s house” to be raised by just a few of the kibbutz members so that the rest of the parents would be free to get more work done, particularly the mothers since ten moms at home with one kid was, to them, less productive than having nine mothers working and one at home with ten kids.

Definitely logical, and not too different from the babysitter/day care lifestyle that many live today. However these parents were not motivated by being known for their great careers, or having more money, or even had a need to work to make ends meet. Rather, all that they did was for the benefit of the community. And all members of the community, without exception, were paid the same salary, whether they were the babysitter or the accountant for their kibbutz. Everything had a role to fulfill according to their abilities and all were equal partakers.

Now, this may seem a little like a real life practice of the satirically proposed society by Socrates in Plato’s Republic wherein children are raised communally, not knowing who their parents are in order to be trained as effectively as possible. Now, Socrates, I believe, was not saying this with 100% seriousness, and of course, the children of a kibbutz do know their parents and have meaningful relationships with them. You may get the impression that this is just like every other Socialist idea, that is, great and idealistic on paper, but tragic and horribly flawed in practice. And, yes, I admit, what I saw of them was definitely a little bit strange according to my tastes. The kibbutz I visited was out in the Negev, the harsh desert area in the south of Israel, and it had a cult-like appearance with a settlement out in the sticks that relied solely on itself for sustenance, but these people were pretty great! They value work and they work together wonderfully. Think about it, there are no poor among them. Crime is nearly nonexistent. Could the City of Enoch that scripture talks about being raised up to heaven because of the perfection of its people been based on a similar model? And David Ben Gurion, arguably the man who single-handedly held the young state of Israel together, after his initial retirement from politics, actually moved to a kibbutz- maybe they are not just for the socialist hippies after all.

Now, I’m not about to move to one- a few of their policies were rather odd to me, such as the required psychological testing of all applicants and the 2 year trial period where you actually give up your life and move in only to have your fate of being a permanent member of the kibbutz up to a vote of your fellow community members. Can you imagine? Quitting your job, selling your house, beginning a new communal life and living happily for 2 years only to be turned away because you’re not popular enough! So interesting, though! I enjoyed my stay and learned a lot about sharing, something that I am not always so good at, and working for the benefit of others as much as yourself.
Well, now that I have probably unintentionally convinced my parents that I am a new Junior Commie, I will throw in another lovely sideways photo from the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Shalom!

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