Well, I did my talk about the lessons on kibbutz life yesterday, and I think it went well. (Maybe that’s just the energy drink I had beforehand speaking!) It was reasonably well-attended with familiar and new faces. People seemed to be focused and attentive on my potted history of the kibbutz movement, even if the “comic relief” photos from my kibbutz experiences fell a little flat. I’d hoped there might be more discussion in the Q&A, as I’d promised in my talk’s title, about how the lessons of the kibbutz movement could be applied here in Canada. But most people wanted to talk about big issues like socialism vs. Marxism and Israel vs. Palestine. Several people came up to me afterwards and shared stories of their own kibbutz experiences, which I appreciated.
The Q&A got briefly sidetracked by a woman who showed up early to distribute leaflets and claimed my talk left out “half the story” — how the kibbutz had been built on “stolen land” and with the blood of the Palestinian people. I’d anticipated this objection, but I don’t know if I responded to it satisfactorily. (I felt it was a particularly ill-timed critique, considering a guest worker on a kibbutz in the south of the country had been killed by a rocket fired from Gaza that morning.) Instead, an audience member pointed out that most kibbutzim were built, in fact, on land bought by the Jewish National Fund.
Anyway, I’ll write more about the talk (and post a link to the podcast when it’s ready) next week. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few key points that a good friend, who attended and who lived on a kibbutz (as did his parents), sent me today. They are definitely areas I’d like to follow up in my own research:
A few ideas:
Most kibbutz chalutzim (pioneers) came from Eastern Europe, smaller numbers from the relative wealth and security of North America. Kfar Menachem, where my parents lived, had quite a few Canadians and Americans. This might be an interesting area to explore–why North Americans left relative comfort and safety to live the tough life on kibbutzim in the early days. (One American couple I knew lost both their sons within a few days in the 1967 war.)
Arab Israeli relations: this is an encyclopedic topic of course but again I think some kibbutz members took leadership in forging better relations, learning Arabic and working with their Arab neighbours. When I visited the Arab village next to KM and asked the men who lived there if the kibbutzniks were their friends, they said “Lo chaverim, achim,” Not friends, brothers.
Thanks for the feedback: dialogue is what I hope my talk promoted. And that’s a phrase I think we should all add to our vocabulary: Not friends, brothers. And sisters, too, for that matter!