The next day was intensely busy—although it began with a slow and frustrating drive into Tel Aviv during rush hour traffic. We managed to reach the offices of Michael and Bracha Chyutin, husband and wife architects, just a few minutes late and had a brief but fascinating conversation about Michael’s interest (and recent book) about the architecture and especially urban planning of the Israeli kibbutz, as well as how it connects to earlier utopian schemes and experiments.
Then we rushed over (and got a little lost) to Tel Aviv University, where we met Assaf Razin, a leading international economist and also a former member of Kibbutz Shamir. His parents were part of the founding generation and were greatly disappointed when he decided to continue his career elsewhere and not remain a member. We had a long discussion about his life and philosophy. While Dr. Razin remained largely focused on academic work, he also briefly acted as chief economic advisor to Menachem Begin and vainly tried to warn his administration of the hyper-inflation that would eventually cripple the Israeli economy and set in motion the privatization of the kibbutz movement.
We had a brief break in which we met (and had some fabulous Turkish humous with) Jerry’s cousin Eitan, a former computer whiz who gave it all up to become an oud player (a stringed Arabic instrument a little like a lute).
Then we parked at Rabin Square, which was filled with booksellers for Hebrew Book Week, and walked around the very area where Prime Minister Rabin had been assassinated by a Jewish nationalist extremist for his peace efforts.
At the Book Worm, a literary café, we had a free-changing chat with Jonathan Paz, director of the film The Galilee Eskimos, and Joshua Sobol, Israel’s leading playwright, who wrote The Night of the 20th, a critical take on the early pioneers who settled the first kibbutzim—and set in motion the future state of Israel. He told us his play deals with the split between “moralists” (who want to consider the ethics of their behaviour) and “activists” (those who feel action must be taken right now)—a tension that has haunted both the kibbutz movement and Israeli politics ever since. (The raid on the Gaza flotilla could be seen as another example of the triumph—and failure—of acting before truly considering the consequences of those actions.) Afterwards, both men chatted in Hebrew about an upcoming collaboration on a new film.
Finally, we grabbed a coffee with Lavi Ben-Gal, the 37-year-old director of Eight Twenty Eight, a brilliantly quirky documentary about his early life on his kibbutz (Nitzanim) and his debate about whether to stay or to go. He was as funny in person as he is in his film.
All in all, a busy day that left our heads spinning with fascinating people and new ideas.