We stayed two nights at the Kibbutz Kfar Haruv. Our last morning we had a tour of the kibbutz and learned about its history and how it works. This particular kibbutz was founded in the 60s by mostly young people. Over the years the way it is run has changed with the times. Back in the 60s the members voted on everything and shared everything. Each member received the same amount of money and work assignments were handed out according to the needs of the group. In 2004 some major changes were made; now kibbutznik have more choice in work and their salaries are managed by themselves.
We met our guide Luna who showed us around the kibbutz. Our talk was in a safe room, or bomb shelter. After seeing Syria in the distance I realized how much on the edge of danger these people live. The baby houses have access to the underground shelters so that the care givers do not have to take them outside in case of an emergency; they only have to get them downstairs.
Back in the 60s a kibbutznik did what was needed. For example, if a person were a teacher, but if there were no teaching positions, the person might be assigned to work in the laundry. Now each person is responsible for managing their own lives and money and has much more autonomy in deciding life choices. However, the attitude toward children and educating of the kibbutz kids is fascinating. Now there are still the children's houses, but kids spend more time with their nuclear families. There are the kids' houses for activities after school, and kids stay with their same group all the way to age 18; they do sleep at home. The kids go into the army at age 18 (2 and a half years for the young men, a year and a half for the young women); after that experience most travel for a while before deciding on the next step. Most go on to university. The children are not members of the kibbutz; they can decide to apply, but their membership is voted on. At Kefar Haruv the vote must be 50% plus one for a person to be accepted. Now some people move to the kibbutz and live there without becoming members. Another change is that people must build their own houses; there are temporary homes for folks while they are building. Because they are used to working and being with a group, these folks frequently wind up in leadership positions.
A couple of people talked about the changes, sometimes with a bit of nostalgia. My impression was that there were so many idealistic activists, many from the US, back in the 60s who were a big part of the foundation of these places. The kibbutzim have changed as the founders changed; however, a large percentage of the children go on to university and many do come back. This kibbutz has bought a business that makes components for irrigation systems, water treatment systems; it is high tech. In the kibbutz dairy there is equipment that separates the solids from the liquids in the cow manure; everything is recycled. There is an impressive attitude about the place; it was amazing to me that these folks perched on the Golan Heights above the Sea of Galilee go about their daily lives the way they do with the Syrians so close. I suppose the closest I have ever felt to that sort of thing is back when we had lahaar drills in case of eruption of Mt Rainier. Probably Syrians are more unpredictable than a volcano.
Our group peeled potatoes to get a very small dose of what it feels like to contribute to the community; we ate lunch in the community dining hall. LIfe in Israel is complicated, but people do seem happy. I think the political situation simply makes the folks more aware of the thin strip of pavement over the abyss; sort of like driving over the Florida Keys I suppose (which I haven't done yet, but imagine it must be like that).