Advance Praise

Chasing Utopia offers a nuanced, unflinching look at the Israeli dream of the kibbutz and its demise. David Leach skillfully weaves past and present, the personal and political, introducing the reader to parts of Israel unfamiliar to many and to the fascinating cast of characters who inhabit these collective communities. The result is witty, darkly comic, and utterly engrossing.”

Ayelet Tsabari

Author, The Best Place on Earth

“Of the many studies written about the kibbutz over the years, few are as brimming with life, colour, and immediacy as this warmhearted and intelligent book which takes us from Israel’s verdant Galilee to its remote desert, from the naïve pastoralism of the early pre-state communes to the technological triumphs and social stratification of privatized communities in the present. As an increasingly dark global mood toward capitalism spreads throughout the world, especially among young people, there is something inspiring about the alternative socialist vision of equality in labour that once thrived in Israel and most critically, as Leach memorably reveals, suggests tantalizing hints of human and ecological renewal in unexpected places (even in cooperative efforts between Jews and Palestinians behind the scenes). In this enthralling exploration about the search for greater significance, at once deeply personal and universal, Leach reveals an imaginative and sharply inquiring mind, a gift for capturing the social complexity of the Israeli kibbutz and the troubled society beyond through humorous, moving, and often thrilling anecdotes. Lively, unsentimental, yet deeply empathic, Chasing Utopia is a new classic in kibbutz scholarship, a vibrant story with real heart and intellect that will generously reward the secret utopian hopes for a better, more cooperative world that reside in readers everywhere.”

Ranen Omer-Sherman

Author of Imagining the Kibbutz: Visions of Utopia in Literature & Film, Endowed Chair in Judaic Studies, University of Louisville

Chasing Utopia is an exceptionally well-researched and beautifully written bildungsroman: a heartbroken young man sets off for a kibbutz in Israel, and over the next 20 years both he and that country experience a coming of age. Former kibbutz volunteers will enjoy an often hilarious romp that’s sure to flood them with memories, and readers wondering about the allure and challenges of utopian communities will find a probing examination that takes them to lesser-known corners of Israel and the West Bank.”

Jessamyn Hope

Author, Safekeeping

“Wonderfully written. Through the story of the kibbutz, Leach captures all that is beautiful and less beautiful in Israel. He looks at the kibbutz in a compassionate way, but also realistic and critical. The personal narrative skillfully integrates with the stories of informants and participants. The book is introspective and reflective, and it can also teach a lot not only about the kibbutz and Israel but also about the international volunteers and their cultures and politics. It is a story about partnership, solidarity, and estrangement in various levels and dimensions. A good read for anyone interested in utopia, Israel, and the way we deal with unfulfilled dreams.”

Oded Löwenheim

Chair of the Department of International Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem