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April 01, 1972 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1972-04-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

sraels
By DANIEL ZWERDLING
IF WOMEN are liberated anywhere,
Americans are told, they're liberated
in Israel.
So I. flew to Tel Aviv looking for a
promised land where sex roles have faded
and the sun shines above men and women
tilling the soil side by side and everybody
lives happily (and equally) ever after.
It's a fairy tale.
Women are drafted into the army, true.
but they work as secretaries, clerks and
nurses. Women fill government posts, true,
but with one major exception) bosses are
always men. But I found the saddest
failure of the women's liberation move-
ment on the kibbutzim.
Woman's liberation was one of the
central tenets of the early socialist agrar-
ian movement as early as the 1880's:
Equalizing men and women's roles, ending
the woman's dependence on the man, and
shichrur ha-isha meha-ol shal sherut, the
"emancipation of the woman from the yoke
of domestic service."
It just didn't happen. I visited kibbutz
Amiad, whose fertile groves of apples and
oranges spread like spokes into the hills
and meadows just north of Tiberias and the
Sea of Galilee.
The ruins of an ancient hostel, on tie.
main caravan route from Jerusalem to
Damascus, crumble beyond Amiad's plas-
tic factory and the cow sheds. r
I walked through the orchards, the
plastics factory, the machine shop, the
animal sheds, the packing plant and the
administrative offices and saw scarcely
any women. I walked through the kit-
chens and didn't see any men. Nor in the
laundry. Nor in the children's homes.

women:

Not

a

model

of

liberation

. Emigrants from Holland, Germany and
England built Amiad 24 years ago as a
first line of defense on the Syrian border.
zThen starting in the early Sixties, groups
of young English men and women left the,
Habonim youth movement and joined the
kibbutz. So, Amiad has both sabres and
vattikim. It also has aged and matured,
passing through all the social stages which
newer kibbutzim are just beginning to
enter.
Women's frustrations simmer beneath
the surface. "It's a latent issue, we zstill
don't talk about it much in the open,"
one of the Englishmen told me. Two radical
men first broached the subject with me;
their wives were reluctant.
"The number of women who are going
to stand up and say 'We aren't going to
accept the old roles' is far and few be-
tween," he said. "If we waited for the
women to say something, nothing ,would
ever change.
When you talk about women's discrim-
ination on the kibbutz, you aren't talking
about the visible signs you see among
the middle class in most western socie-
ties. Women aren't tied to their homes
taking care of the kids, because all of
the children live in children's homes.
Wives don't have to cook their hus-
band's dinners because all kibbutz mem-
bers eat in a central dining hall. Their
small living units don't even have kitch-
ens, except perhaps a small refrigerator
and hotplate which members buy at their
own expense. Women don't stay home on
wash day because everyone's clothes are
cleaned and mended in the kibbutz laun-
dry.
DISCRIMINATION HERE is a bit more
subtle than in America. Theoretically, no

chen, dining rooms, clothes store, laun-
dry, the children's home and school.
Every effort is made to ensure that
the women find satisfaction in these
occupations, that they regard them as
a vocation and fulfil their tasks ef-
ficiently and well . . They also spend
much after work looking after their
apartments, taking care of the child-
ren when they come to spend the eve-
ning hours with their parents .
There are thus few women who take an
active part in public affairs or who are
elected to the kibbutz committees and
to their national organizations.
Few women buck the social expectations
and demand other types of work. One
woman remembers how she and a friend
"decided we didn't want to work with
the children. It created quite a. stir, be-
cause it's always been' accepted that wo-
men will and want to work with. children."
Another told me that "I had a friend
who refused to work in any of the services.
There was a lot of hostile feeling against
her."
MOST WOMEN at Kibbutz Amiad don't
view their role in an analytical socio-poli-
tical-economic framework, -as the symp-
tom of a bourgeois society which exploits
women as menial labor.
All they know is, they hate their jobs.
"Can you imagine how we go crazy
here?" asked a young women in the laun-
dry - a tin shed with concrete floors, bare
bulbs, and enormous rumbling machines
which give off stifling heat, the smell of
detergents and hissing steam.
The kitchens are equally hated - so
much, in fact, that the kibbutz has de-
vised a rotation system which requires
every woman to give up one year to
work in them.
Men can skip the kitchens altogether.
When I asked men on the kibbutz whe-
ther they shouldn't also have to share this
"black work," they said: "There are men
working in the kitchens. They pointed out
one fellow who clears and wipes dining
tables. And he broke years of tradition.
A WOMAN'S lot on the kibbutz used to
be a good one, maybe the best of any so-
ciety in the world. And several women ex-
pressed the hope that "the kibbutz still
has the greatest potential for a woman
being treated truly as an individual."
But somewhere in their development, the
kibbutzim got rflaccid - much like the
vattikim, old revolutionaries who o n c e
struggled and sacrificed but now earn a
comfortable living and are beginning to
adopt the corruptions of the European
bourgeoisie, which they fled.
It's important to understand the history:
when European immigrants first came to
Palestine, they strove zealously to trans-
cend their European culture, ending intel-
lectual and money elitism, and man's ex-
ploitation of women.
In certain ways, they succeeded. Women
hoed beside men in the fields and men
washed dishes next to women in the kit-
chens. Since everyone on the kibbutz re-
ceives free food and clothing and shelter
and medical care, women never looked
to men for physical survival.

t~~~~~~~b:"~~~~~~.Y::.4:".TT':C.SY' A.. LL........L......:..> ' .................. t::~VA.'~. . .
Discrimination here is more subtle ... no jobs are closed
to women . . . but it's a social understanding that women
will work exclusively in the kitchens, the laundry or child
homes.
:::.LY:::: .::::'TV.J . L:":: ":: :": i . :ti". '"t :Y':":? : "'.ti":t'i'i }:.:' ."J}. .:f.^:

They were all women.
"The kittbutz says it's emancipated
women because a wife doesn't have to
mak~e her husband's dinner, wash the
clothes and dishes, and take care of the
children," says Brenda, who works in the
kitchens, which kibbuztniks call the "black
work" (translate 'shit-work'). "The only
difference now is she's doing only one of
those chores for 100 men."
WHAT IS TRUE for Amiad is largely
true for Israel's 245 other kibbutzim. For
although every kibbutz is different- some,
like Amiad, have only 150 members while
other have 1500; some are run by young
first generation Israelis (sabres) while
other rely on the older foreign born (vit-
tikim) - Amiad is a unique blend of all
the Israeli elements.

jobs are closed to women, and some do
work in the orchards and occasionally in
the packing plant. But it's a social un-
derstanding, almost an imperative, that
women will work exclusively in the kitch-
ens, the laundry or child homes.
I picked up a little booklet called Every-
day Life in the Kibbutz at the national
immigration ministry in Jerusalem, and
turned to a special section called Women
in the Kibbutz (there was also a section
on children but none on men).
"The kibbutz woman is a free and equal
partner in the economic and social activ-
ity of the kibbutz and in the education of
its children," the pamphlet boasted, and
then continued:
The women are naturally drawn
towards service occupations, and in
most kibbutzim they work in the kit-

WHAT WENT WRONG? Veteran kibbutz-
niks say that women retired from ard-
uous work in the fields because they lacked
physical strength or dropped out to bear
children - and men replaced them. The
women never went back, proving, say the
vattikim, that a woman's place isn't in
the orchard but in the kitchen, laundry or
nursery.
"It's the old natural way," says Stan-
ley, the kibbutz electrician and a mem-
ber of important all-male administrative
committees. "Women do the cooking and
laundry and are suited for caring for
children. Men do the physical labor."
Women, meanwhile, are toting 50 pound
sacks of laundry and enormous kettles
of food.
Kibbutzim like to think that they have
eliminated class inequality. They have eli-
minated western hierarchies based on
wealth and education. They have also eli-
minated the infinite gradients of occupa-
tional snobbery.
But in their place the kibbutzim h a v e
erected a two level hierarchy based on

I Letten
To The Daily:
THE MISUSE of technology in
the air war in Vietnam is appall-
ing. However, the behavior of the
People Against the Air War
(PAAW) and the coverage of Wil-
liam Magruder's (Special Consult-
ant to the President) speech
(Daily, March 17) was equally so.'
Magruder joined the White
House in September, 1972 to fo-
cus America's knowhow to help>
solve problems of health care, pol-
lution, mass transit, energy, and
communications to name a few.
His job is to do exactly what
PAAW wants this nation to do,
that is, to use technology to solve
social problems, not make war.
PAAW has since apologized for
the way they acted. They say they
did not understand Magruder's
job. Little wonder, PAAW did not
even listen to his speech. Perhaps
PAAW now does. Perhaps they will
Undersand that if Magruder's
programs pass Congress (he needs
our help of course) thousands of
lives will be saved from better
health care.
In addition, Magruder's pro-
grams will give our courts and
our legislatures the tools neces-
sary to make our environmental
law stand up in court. At present,
many do not because they lack
the scientific proof. Magruder's
research programs will help pro-
vide the necessary information.
Magruder's programs also in-
clude communication satellites for
child and parent training, for
broadcasting health care and nu-
trition to rural areas lacking such
educational programs today.

Technology for the people

sex occupations: men's jobs, which are
superior, and women's jobs, which are in-
ferior.
The early kibbutz movement thrived on
the work ethic of A.D. Gordon, the grand
seer whb invented the phrase "religion of
labor." Kibbutzim, and all of Israel, have
nourished the image of strong bodies till-
ing the soil, turning desert sands into
fruits and flowers coaxing cornucopia from
the barren wastelands.
Israelis, as a result, place high value
on productive jobs. Productivity used to
be synonomous with agriculture. As kib-
butzim have prospered and branched into
light industry, productivity has come to
mean not fruits and vegetables but profits.
Service jobs - laundry, cooking, raising
kids - don't earn money. They don't pro-
duce. People in service occupations know
they aren't bringing the kibbutz any vis-
ible returns, and they feel bad about it.
SINCE THESE people are women. 'wo-
men bear the occupational stigma of in-
feriority. I asked several men whether
they might enjoy working in traditional
women's jobs - say, in the children's
houses They lauglged.
Israelis, especially men, hate service also
because they feel it detracts from their
image as aggressive, muscular and proud
people who lick nobody's boots. Israeli
waiters are among the most sullen in the
world.
These attitudes burst to the surface at
a general meeting I attended at Kibbutz
Amiad. A young woman had applied for
permission to take a beautician course in
nearby Tiberias, a famous health spa.
Amiad has long paid its members' tuition
in outside courses, as long as they prom-
ise to bring their skills back to the kib-,
butz. But the business manager asked
members to reject this idea because, he
said, it would waste valuable working time
and money,
"She won't earn the kibbutz any money
by setting women's hair do's," he said:
But another man suggested that even the
men might benefit if their women looked
a little prettier. Everyone laughed, and
they voted to send the woman to beauty
school.
WOMEN KNOW not only that their jobs
are socially inferior, but they find them
deadly dull as well. "Kibbutz life isn't a
glorious thing," one woman told me- "The
kibbutz is getting up in the morning and
working a hard day, coming home tired,
sometimes fighting depression when you
can't get the work you want."
A dishwasher said, "look, you may think
there's nothing so exciting about picking
apples or hacking bananas or planting
trees. You may ask 'Why is that so much

We have many problems facing
us, many problems that must be
solved, but we cannot cut off the
hand that feeds us. That hand is
technology. We cannot stop all
tcehnology just because a few mis-
use it. For it we do, the world will
soon starve and pollute itself to
death.
Technology may not be the final
answer, but it is the best place to
start.
-David Fradin, President
Federation of Americans
Supporting Science and
Technology
March 18
SGC fraud?
To The Daily:'
ARE YOU SURE you're fair in
judging Schaper incompetent in
the running of this election?
I won't deny it without proof,
but you might remember the rea-
son he was chosen for the post in
the first place. Schaper was made
Elections Director because of what
those who were on SGC at the time
termed his "excellent" and "ef-
ficient" handling of last semest-
er's election.
So how come he was so good
then and so bad now? I'm inclin-
ed to think the poor fellow is be-
ing used as a scapegoat for every-
one else's abominable behavior.
I hope he does take the poly-
graph tes; then perhaps we can
lay at least that much of this
farcical election to rest.
-Charleen Cook
March 29

This argument is blatantly sex-
ist and should be considered ir-
relevant in the context of the
trial.
Not only does Harris deny Da-
vis the intelligence and political
consciousness by which. she doubt-
lessly lives; he also vulgarizes the
principle common to all revolu-
tionary politics, namely that in-
dividual love must form the foun-
dation for political dedication and
social struggle.
-Susan T. Hitchcock
March 28
To The Daily:
WE ARE treated to yet another
Bill Jacobs masterpiece of self-
vindication (Daily letters, March
30). This one is bettler than usual:
he accuses his opponents of "Mc-
Carthyism" and then decries the
use of smear tactics.
We neither know nor care about
the petty machinations of student
power brokers. However, Bill Ja-
cobs' appointment of David Scha-
per as treasurer of SGC lends
credence to the charges that
Schaper fixed the election. After
all, he stood to gain from a
GROUP victory.
One grows weary of reading Bill
Jacobs' turgid prose in this col-
umn. Having been declared the
victor in this fiasco of an elec-
tion, he should be gracious enough
to shut up.
-Patrick McLain
Ann Grover
March 30
In yesterday's letters col-
umn, the last two Para-
graphs of the letter from
Don Koster were inadver-
tently omitted. They are as
follows:
Further, Nancy Wechsler is a

better than washing dishes?'
"It may sound romantic, but first of all,
agricultural work is outdoors. You spend
all the time in the sun, in the fields. In
the kitchens I spend my days in hot steam,
And there's a feeling of accomplishment,
of planting something and watching it
grow, caring for it, nurturing and then
harvesting it when it reaches maturity. I
find that very exciting. What do you get
out of washing dishes?"
OLDER KIBBUTZNIKS, the vattikim,
resist talking about the "woman's prob-
lem" (ba-ayat ha-chavera) in terms of
woman's liberation.
"I asked my wife, who works in the
kitchen, maybe she'd like other work bet-
ter?" says El Chanan, who helped found
Amiad 24 years ago and recently retired
after nine years as business manager. "She
said no, she couldn't handle the agricul-
tural work. With all the beautiful things
we hear about women's emancipation, the
women don't want to do the physical work-
Theoretically the women could work with
men but they're not interested."
And a yoi~ng woman from England told
me, "I don't want to be equal to men. I
don't want to work the bananas or spend
all day in the orchards." She works the
kitchens but enjoys her job, because she
is the manager and can "organize and
plan the whole operation."
Still, El Chanan and other veterans sense
that women are unhappy and are going
to create some serious problems. They of-
fer one solution: Make women's jobs easi-
er. Even a radical man said: "If you
asked, 'What is the first thing we should
change here,' I'd say 'Reduce women's
working hours.'"
SO KIBBUTZNIKS have been talking
for months about building a giant, ultra-
modern central laundry and kitchen which
would serve several area kibbutzim. That
would make difficult, dull work easier -
equally dull. But it would also give women
more free time - and consequently, El
Chanan says, the kibbutz must find some
interesting courses or varied tasks for its
women.
Kibbutzniks don't think about creating
new fulfilling, productive, jobs as a solu-
tion but only in terms of diversionary hob-
bies.
It's a bit like the "emancipated" Amer-
ican housewife who needs something to
do after her husband has made enough
to hire a maid and cook, send their clothes
to the laundry and send the kids to a
boarding school.
A year ago, some women on the kibbutz
thought they icould discover the fulfill-
ment missing from their work in their
children, by reverting to old traditions
which the kibbutz worked so hard to abol-
ish.
The entire kibbutz was embroiled in bit-
ter debates over proposals to return chil-
dren to the homes, which some women said
would give them more of a sense of wo-
manhood, of wholeness.
When the proposal actually came up for
a vote, 80 per cent said no. They figured
there must be some other route to a wo-
man's happiness.
But on a small kibbutz, as El Chanan
told me, there's not much else for a wo-
man to do. "In the towns, girls could work
as salesgirls or secretaries or as barmaids,"
he said. "Here on the kibbutz we don't have
any shops or bars."

t

4

A

the l irhiwx Datt"

-Associated Press
Angela
To The Daily:
THE ANGELA DAVIS trial has
now begun, and state prosecutor
A. W. Harris is trying to convince
the jury and the American public

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