'Daniel Levy: 'The modern history of human settlement here is only 30 years old. I think that's pretty exciting'
have found a
good life in one
of Israel's most
Sam Levy: 'We're removed from a lot of
things. There's not a lot of connection with
the rest of the country.'
FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 1989
am Levy remembers when
Eilat's central bus station was
a wooden shack. The 30-mile
stretch of the lower Arava
Valley was home to three kib-
butzim then. One was Levy's kibbutz,
Grofit. It had a single sidewalk.
Fifteen years after the Yom Kippur
War brought Levy from Detroit to
Israel with a group of Habonim Labor
Zionist youth, life in the country's
southern most region has changed.
Eilat is a growing port and tourist
center, bustling with hotels,
restaurants and shopping malls. The
road to the city is lined with 10 kibbut-
zim espousing Reform, Conservative,
anarchist and old-fashioned socialist
doctrines. Grofit is one of the latter.
Now 22 years old, the kibbutz is a
crisscross of sidewalks connecting
homes, a kindergarten, a Kupat
Cholim health clinic, a swimming pool
and a dining room perched atop the
kibbutz's highest point.
Sam Levy, 40, lives in this hilltop
village with his wife, Yaffa, and their
two sons. In 1977, Levy was joined by
his brother, Michael. Two years ago a
third brother, Daniel, made Grofit his
home. Another Detroiter, Naomi
Blumenberg, moved to the kibbutz six
These former Detroiters comprise
4 percent of Grofit's adult population
— larger than the percentage of Jews
in the United States or kibbutzniks in
Over the years, Grofit has become
the first destination — if not the final
home — of Habonim members from
Detroit. The kibbutz was adopted by
Detroit's Labor Zionist Alliance, which
is trying to raise $30,000 for Grofit's
new communications system to im-
prove radio and television reception.
"Communication is taken very
seriously here," says Muki lelman, who
oversees the system's installation.
"Without it, we're cut off from most of
the country and the rest of the world."
lel Aviv is about as far from Grofit
as Detroit is from Benton Harbor. But
unlike Michiganders, the Arava's 1,000
adults, excluding Eilat, feel detached
from the rest of the country because of
the intervening desert and mountains.
Some enjoy the isolation; for others, it
is an adjustment.
Levy says this feeling of detach-
ment isn't common even to other
Israelis who live far from the center of
the country. The travel time between
Kiryat Shemonah on the northern
border and Tel Aviv is the same as bet-
ween Eilat and Tel Aviv. "But Kiryat
Shemonah is a part of Israel," he says.
"Eilat is not.
"We are, in general, removed from
a lot of things. We don't have the same
weather or landscape. There's not a lot
For Levy, the draw of the Arava is
powerful. "This is one of the areas
where you can settle, feel that you're
doing something constructive and not
stealing land from somebody else," he
Levy was born in Israel while his
parents, Ralph and Jean, were living
here shortly after independence. The
family returned to Detroit in 1949