A Kibbutz Summer in Israel
As crazy as it may be to go to the Middle East, it can be even more insane to miss out on a such a country and experience. A summer working on a kibbutz was the hook to several years of travelling for me. Wanting to know how different people live and experiening another culture and way of life started what has become a passion.
A Kibbutz itself is community of families who work together to be self-sufficient, and in most cases sell and exchange their produce to make a profit. The produce of the community is usually either agriculture; farms growing fruit or keeping livestock or production and manufacturing with a factory on site. There is also often accommodation such as small hotels or hostels for tourists and placements for archaeologists.
Several years ago, I travelled with ‘Project 67’ who organised the ‘kibbutz package’. The package included: an introduction meeting and briefing lead by the organisers (which was held in London), an arranged flight to Israel and airport pick-up once there, one night accommodation in Tel Aviv and then a placement at a kibbutz provided. Today the Kibbutz Program Centre does exactly the same.
In our late teens and seeking an adventure, my sister and I anticipated an extraordinary summer. Not to be disappointed, we met up with a group of other volunteers on our first night in Tel Aviv. Wondering the town with a slice of pizza in hand, we were surprised by the typical shops. Tel Aviv we discovered is as modern as any European city. Fashion, clubs, junk food and people enjoying night activity, not what we had expected having only seen the destruction and desperate images in the media.
After a quick swim in the warm night sea and then some rest in a hostel, we were whisked to the placement office. Dispatched to the north of Israel at a small kibbutz community named Ramat Hasolfet, we were welcomed off the bus and assured that the kibbutz had been expecting us.
Kibbutzes vary in size and are located all over Israel. Ramat Hasolfet is a relatively small one. It takes in volunteers to help its work force and provides language, culture, historical and political seminars for people wishing to learn more about Israel and stay for longer periods.
Within the community compound, individual families have their own houses but share common baby care, meals in the dining room, sports facilities and day-to-day life. The work and community living isn’t about making a personal profit but working together for the good of the community.
Far removed from the stress of city life or worrying about making the rent, this kind of living and work takes on a different meaning. That’s not to say it isn’t demanding, mundane or hard at times. Work is either in the agriculture, tourism or services sector. I spent time gardening, working in the plastic factory, helping in the child care and assisting in the kitchens and dining room. It is possible to ask for a change of duty if one really wasn’t suited. I discovered that working nights in the plastic factory was nearly impossible for me and the heat in the garden tiring!
In return for 8 hours of work a day, meals, accommodation, laundry and a monthly allowance is provided. It is also possible to accumulate days off each month when it is possible to visit and travel. It can seem like quite a strict organisation, and it is necessary to sign a contract and agree to their medical check, rules related to drink consumption and follow the basic site regulations.
At Ramat Hasolfet, as well as the immediate community, there were also a large number of other volunteers. In fact with other volunteers from countries all over the world, it made the mundane work a small part of the experience. Evenings were a good time to meet other young people, go to the pool, see a movie or go to town.
Of course there is always a risk when working in a country like Israel. Public transport can sometimes be stopped and searched, it’s common to be travelling amongst armed soldiers and travelling alone is never advised. Women do have a difficult time and are approached. Finding a reliable company to organise the kibbutz package and give reliable advise on the current local situation is invaluable.
At the end of two months of work, my sister and I did a quick tour of Israel. It was interesting to see historic sites, barter at the street markets, wonder around the labyrinth of Jerusalem’s old town and experience a mud bath before floating in the amazing dead sea.
We briefly stopped at Elat, Israel’s beach holiday destination, before crossing the border into Egypt. After a mad taxi journey we stayed at a Bedouin village. Lit only by candles and offering minimalist accommodation it was backpackers haven. Finishing in style, our Israel & Egypt experience was completed with a slow camel riding to swim in a blue lagoon.
About the Author
Israel is a great country to gaze at the amazing stars at night and listen to the silence of the desert. If you share a love of travel, travel stories or historical biographies, why not check out ‘Sunflowers in the Desert’ on www.keepitcoming.net and my web page CreativeArts