Life on a Kibbutz in Israel

Some of you might be interested in hearing about where I’m staying for my Greek class (see below) – I’m at a hotel that is on a kibbutz. This one is called Kibbutz Tzuba, and it was begun in October 1948, only a few months after the State of Israel was founded. Some of its original members still live here – they are Holocaust survivors who lost everything and came here to start life over in the Promised Land.

We’ve been learning about what a kibbutz is from staying here, and it is quite interesting. The first tiny homes are still standing – we use one of them as our classroom. Originally two couples lived in each little house with a sheet dividing the rooms down the middle – like a small dorm room. At the very beginning, they lived in tents.

Of course, kibbutzes were founded out of a philosophy of socialism – to live in community and hold everything in common. The idea is that even though an individual might not be able to survive on his own, by combining efforts, people gain security from each other. As an American my first reaction is negative, but it seems that this has been many people have lived since ancient times. Whenever resources are scarce, people tend to live in large families or groups who can support each other. Coming to Israel in the 1940s and trying to build an existence out of nothing was that kind of situation, and if not for the kibbutzim, people wouldn’t have survived here.

Early on they tried to be utterly self-reliant, grow their own food, and teach their own schools. They would not hire help, or work outside for others. They would even donate all their clothes and wear those belonging to others. They still have a large communal dining room where we have been eating our meals too. Instead of having coin-operated washing machines for the hotel, they invited us to put our clothes into their communal laundry. Loads are washed in mesh bags to keep each person’s things separate. (I tried this once, and I got back extra bonus items lost from another person’s load – my wash has only been done in my bathtub since then.) (Several pictures of Kibbutz Tzuba are here.)

They also tried to be extremely egalitarian – each person would take on tasks as needed by the larger group, and no person was considered to be the boss of any other. Of course they did have someone who acted as the “organizer,” but each year a new person was elected, and last year’s organizer might next work in the chicken coops. Every buying decision was made by the whole group. I guess in the early years a major debate ensued over whether they would put a teapot in each family’s room. Many were opposed, because they thought it would break down the community that people had when they gathered in the kitchen for tea each evening.

They have large amounts of land and have done a lot of farming. But now they’ve built this hotel because they have a beautiful view and are quite close to Jerusalem. They also have a windshield factory too. They are always looking for new industries to sustain their members and have done quite well – a lot of kibbutzim have not succeeded. They think that within another 5 to 10 years they will have to privatize or reorganize, because people are not willing to make the sacrifices the original members did. About 500 people live here now.

One interesting thing is that the “Cave of John the Baptist” which was in the news a few years ago was found on their property, so they bring people on tours to see it. (It wasn’t that impressed, personally.) There is a water source at the bottom of a valley that was used as a mikveh by Jerusalem residents in the first century. They found a goofy looking figure scratched into the wall that they think is a drawing of John the Baptist. They suggest that maybe early church members went there to honor him, not that he lived there himself. Oh well, it draws tourists.

If you are traveling in Israel, the hotel here is really lovely and it would be a very nice place to stay. For more pictures, see the hotel website, as well as my roommate Elise’s website.

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Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 8:34 am  Comments (1)  

One Comment

  1. Lois, thank you so much for sending your blog address and update. After reading all of them, it brought me right back to Israel in June 1997. And the photo of you on the Sea of Galilee … I could feel the breezes and hear the lapping of the water. So eager to hear of your travels in person. Love and prayers, Marylin


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