The Israeli newspaper Ha’Aretz ran an unsigned editorial to mark a hundred years since the founding of the original kibbutz. I’m not sure if it’s damning or not, but it does feel like faint praise. Still, the editorial does acknowledge the important role the kibbutz movement played in establishing the State of Israel. “One hundred years after its birth, this may not be the kibbutz’s finest hour,” the editorialists conclude, “but without the kibbutz, Israel would look very different today.” The handful of comments posted about the story suggest the range of emotions that this experiment in socialism can still provoke today.
The newspaper also ran a report on Shimon Peres’s visit to Kibbutz Degania, including a long quote about his nostalgia for kibbutz life:
“When I ask myself ‘Why do I miss it?’ I remember why I should me miss it,” Peres said to the assembled group of kibbutz veterans. “I miss savoring the experience of a day’s work that I learned in Kibbutz Geva. I miss Alumot, from whence we beheld the astonishing beauty of Emek Hayarden. I miss the simplicity of the long walks, the wrinkled khaki clothing. I miss the flowerbeds of Kibbutz Ashdot, the bushels of bananas on Kibbutz Degania, the plywood of Kibbutz Afikim. I miss the dates of Kibbutz Kinneret. I miss the green fields of crops and orchards.”
“I miss the dairy barn, the animal pens, and the chicken coops – from which various smells emanated,” Peres continued. “I miss the wonderful hikes just before dawn and the grazing excursions to Wadi Fijas, where I fixed my eyes to the stars that were born with the new dawn. To this day a vibration courses through my body whenever I hear the name ‘Degania’ – whether it’s Alef or Bet. The order does not matter.”
“I ask myself why I miss it, just so I can figure out to whom I belong,” the president said.