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September 19, 2003 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-19

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This Week




from page 21

Honey Cake

Tastes just like

best investment."
Matievitz is one of 60 young people,
all in their mid-20s, who are members
of the new kibbutz. Kibbutz Eshbal is
situated on a scenic hill, surrounded
by picturesque Arab villages and with
the mountains of the upper Galilee in
the background.
The kibbutz still looks very much
like the old-style kibbutzim: There are
modest houses dispersed among lawns
and narrow paths, and a water tower
in the middle. One relatively large
building houses two groups whose
members have been together since
their youth-movement and high-
school days.
Each group functions as an inde-
pendent economic entity; several such
groups form the kibbutz community.
Every kibbutz member has his own
room, but the kitchen, showers and
toilets are shared — as in the early
days of the settlement movement.
So far there are no children, so the
question of whether the children will
spend nights with their parents or in
the youth houses that young kib-
butzniks used to use remains up in the


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The crux of the matter is that this new
kibbutz model makes economic sense.
Despite its relatively young age, Eshbal
is one of the few kibbutzim in the
country that is not in the red.
"We make ends meet," says Inbal
Ron, who works with Ethiopian
youths. "We control our expenditures
tightly — and it works."
There are six other like-minded kib-
butzim scattered around the country,
in addition to 40 belonging to various
communal organizations. Among
them are four urban kibbutzim —
communal groups that live and work
in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Sderot
and Tiberias.
"We believe in the power of educa-
tion," Matievitz says. "Despite the
general mood of despair, we believe
that through education we can change
things in this country."
It is really something new,"
Marshak says. "These people ask
themselves Kennedy-style: Ask not
what your country can do for you, but
what you can do for your country"
The paradox is that places like
Eshbal have not yet been recognized as
legitimate settlements by the Israeli
government, despite "establishment"
support from both the Kibbutz
Movement and the Jewish Agency.
Small membership is the Achilles'

heel of these kinds of kibbutzim:
Small communes of just a few families
do not attract significant investment.
At Kibbutz Pelekh in the upper
Galilee, some 21 members recently
joined a veteran kibbutz to try and
form a new, larger community.
For the past 10 years, a small group
of 10 families — all couples in their
40s and 50s and immigrants from the
former USSR — had manned the set-
tlement. They barely scraped by living
off the chicken coop, the cow shed
and a kiwi plantation.

New Blood

The Russian-speaking kibbutzniks
liked their cultural isolation — but
when young, Israeli-born kibbutzniks
showed up, the immigrants were
infected by the youths'
We welcome their enthusiasm,"
says Misha Bleiniss, a former electrical
engineer in his late 50s who now is in
charge of the chickens. "But I cannot
deny that we are concerned about the
cultural gap. I am not sure there is
enough work for everyone." _
The young kibbutzniks are corn-
prised of two groups, one from veteran
kibbutzim and the other from cities.
They try to be respectful of kibbutz
tradition but want to bring the kib-
butz into the 21st century. They also
want to focus on education, environ-
mental projects and an arts center.
"We want to learn from the mis-
takes of the old kibbutzim," Lilla Not
says. "We do not concentrate on the
communal values. We will try to allow
for individual expression within the
The principle is similar to that at
Eshbal — small groups function as
independent social and economic enti-
ties within the context of a larger com-
Ya'acov Oved, a professor at the Yad
Tabenkin Research Center and a
member of Kibbutz Palmahim in
Israel's southern coastal plain, has
studied the phenomenon of commu-
nal life for many years. The phenome-
non of a return to communal life is
not necessarily Israeli, Oved says: He
counts more than 3,000 communal
settlements throughout the western
Is this the comeback of socialism?
"That's taking it a little too far," Oved
says. "But it is certainly an indication
of the determination of certain groups
within human society who have not
given up on the hope of creating a
more just society through joint
endeavors." El

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