Hakhel Seminar: Day Three

by guest author Sara Shalva, Lev B’Lev member

What a day! Continuing our exposure and exploration of the history of the development of communal life in Israel, today we visited and toured 3 urban kibbutzim.  In the morning, we woke from our home stays with families Garin Ometz and in the bus shared that we were so impressed and inspired by the generosity and openness of our host families.  We then dealt with some hard questions about Zionism and the nature of many of the mission driven intentional communities located in the periphery of Israel, dedicated to helping at risk populations.   Much of the discussion was in the shadow of the recent elections and the reality that many of us were very disappointed with the results and concerned about the future of Israel under this leadership.


Our first Kibbutz visit was to Mishol, an urban kibbutz in Nazareth Illit.  Now the largest urban kibbutz, we had a lovely home made breakfast and a wonderful tour and presentation.  I was most interested in learning that kibbutz functions in small groups, makes decisions based on consensus and works hard to differentiate between methods and values.  For example, Mishol uses consensus as a method of decision making, but the value is the impact of consensus—the transformative power of sitting with people and discussing an issue in an open and vulnerable way.  Another important take away from that visit was the emphasis on a kind of antipathy toward rigidity, or static rules.  Reacting against the formality of old fashion kibbutz constitutions, members emphasized the structure and platforms for organizations were merely means toward forwarding the mission and purpose of the kibbutz but not ends in themselves.   Therefore they made up new processes as they are needed, changing and adapting in every situation.


Our next visit was to Tarbut, a new movement of artist communes.  We visited the oldest urban kibbutz in this new movement, which is around 8 years old.  There, we met young idealistic members who were artists and performers focused on living out their socialist Zionist values and combining those passions with their identity as artists.  The visit was profoundly inspiring.


After a picnic lunch in a park, we continued to one of the oldest urban kibbutzim, Kibbutz Tammuz.  Founded in 1986 in Bet Shemesh and located in their building in 1999, the kibbutz hosted us for a lively discussion and dinner.  Most striking about this group was there lack of intense ideology.  In their early time, they were purcived as radical, establishing a new kind of kibbutz, urban, focused on renewal and a different balance of private and public.  Still communally sharing money, the kibbutz allows people to work where they want and study when they want, a strict and intentional departure from formal agriculturally based kibbutzim of the past.


Finally, we settled for the evening with a lovely family in Garin Yachad, an orthodox family, warm and welcoming.

Learn more about the Jewish Intentional Communities Initiative here.

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