We said goodbye to Mark and his wife, and drove a short distance to Kfar Aza, where we met Sofie Berzon—actually at a gas station café because her husband had just come home from a late shift. She is a photographer whom I had discovered on the web who has done some intriguing creative work based on her community’s close proximity to the heavily fortified border with Gaza. Her latest project involves Saturday walks along this border with a cheap plastic camera to take shots of the wall and desolate military materiel. Her photographic approach gives an almost dream-like quality to her stark documentary subjects. She talked a lot about the challenges aofout being an artist on a kibbutz, her friendship with a fellow female photographer in Gaza (who she has only been able to meet a handful of times), the anxiety of living in the shadow of war (a kibbutznik was killed last year by a mortar), and the power of photography to bear witness and even alter our perceptions of a place.
Afterwards, we drove north and stopped in Motze Elite, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, to chat with Daniel Gavron, an English-language journalist and author of one of my favourite books about the kibbutz movement: Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia. Published 10 years ago, his book ended on a pessimistic note about the ultimate prospects of the kibbutz to remain anything other than a comfortable rural neighbourhood. Today, however, he told us he has seen a resurgence in the movement, especially focused around the small communes being formed in the cities by ideologically motivated youth groups. It was fun to chat with a fellow author—or rather complain, as authors usually do, about short-sighted publishers, woeful book marketers, and other perils of the trade.