ok, blog moved to blog.kvutzot.net
Last week I was at the ROI Summit 2012, which has re-inspired me to tell the world about the Activist Kibbutzim. I have edited the RadJew blog posts, deleting all of the content which was about other stuff, thus focusing this blog on the Activist Kibbutzim. Hopefully I will make the time to keep adding stuff, making this the ultimate online starting point for those who are interested in this blossoming phenomena in Israel. It is an historic time! Last week Kibbutz Mishol (our kibbutz in Nazareth Illit, the biggest urban kibbutz in Israel, formerly blogged here as Na’ama) was officially, formally, legally registered in Israel as an Urban Kibbutz. Also last week, 15 different networks and movements of activist communities legally registered our umbrella NGO – The National Council of Activist Communities. Unlike previous attempts at building such umbrellas (such as Ma’agal Ha’Kvutzot, which nowadays includes about 7 of the independent / non-movement urban kibbutzim and kvutzot) this one actually includes pretty much all of the potential activist community networks. Furthermore, it is genuinely representative of the grassroots activists ourselves, rather than being a philanthropic attempt to represent us by an external agency such as the Shahaf Foundation. I intend to blog more about the Council and our constituent communities and networks, as well as about snippets of our community life – co-housing, skill swapping, time banking, car pooling, cooperatives, social justice projects, and more! Coming Soon…
I’ve been a bit sick today, so it’s only going to be a short post with links to other (good) stuff…
One of my Israeli friends was recently asked if there are any books or websites in English about the whole new urban kibbutz / adult movements / kvutzot thing. He assumed that there weren’t any yet, and was surprised to hear that there are already a few relevant sources:
The first book I know of which includes significant coverage of the urban kibbutzim is Daniel Gavron’s Kibbutz: Awakening from Utopia. There are also a bunch of relevant parts in Mike Tyldesley’s No Heavenly Delusion. The most recent is James Horrox’s A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement, which includes plenty about the new kvutzot. He has also written one of the best short overviews I have seen, entitled Rebuilding Israel’s Utopia, describing the whole phenomenon. After only 2 years, Rebuilding Israel’s Utopia is already rather out of date, since things are growing and developing fast and constantly. For example, Ma’agal Hakvutzot has changed completely since then, becoming a specific network of the independent kvutzot and urban kibbutzim without the adult movements, who are in many ways the biggest players. Nevertheless, it’s still probably the most accurate summary article that I have seen.
There’s also an out of date overview which I wrote years ago here together with a few choice words by Nechemia Meyers. There have been a few other overview articles, but mostly they include all sorts of other wierd and wonderful communities alongside the radical new jewish socialist zionist chalutzim. I guess that it’s understandable that many people include any new young intentional community along with us, but I guess that gives me the opportunity to make it clear that I am not just covering any old group. Those that are not socialist cooperatives internally and / or do not work externally towards peace / social justice / equality might be lovely people individually and collectively, but they don’t really count as RadJew chalutzim, since they aren’t “Rebuilding Israel’s Utopia.”
Here are a few examples of such ‘about us and also them’ type articles:
Although 99% of the radical Jews who are pioneering Israel’s social frontiers in urban kibbutzim and kvutzot are native ‘sabra’ Israelis, there are a small – but growing – number of olim [immigrants] involved. They are pretty much all from the international chalutzik socialist Zionist youth movement Habonim Dror, which historically built about 50 traditional kibbutzim all over Israel from the 1930’s to the 1980’s.
The Habonim Dror Tnuat Bogrim [graduate adult movement] includes people in 3 kvutsot – Yovel (in Migdal Ha’Emek), Ogen (in Hadera) and Aseef (in Netanya) – as well as a number of olim who are in various stages of processes forming new groups and communities. Altogether, they include people who are originally from England, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Holland, Uruguay and Brazil.
Today I got sent a copy of this article, which made it easy for me to decide which inspiring pioneers to write about this time! Kvutsat Aseef are from Brazil, Israel, the USA & Canada. I got to know some of them pretty well when they were 18 years old, trying out life in Israel on a program in 2002. I remember severely pissing them off when I expressed my doubts about the likelihood of them being willing and able to follow through on their ideological ideas in practice. Well, some of them have, so I owe them a sincere apology for doubting them back then, and I also owe them a great deal of love and respect for who they are and what they are building today. They are injecting fresh energy and creativity into their part of the movement, Israeli society, and the Jewish people, whilst maintaining their autonomy and unique essence. Beautiful – yet they are self-critical and therefore modestly unaware of how appreciated and impressive their amazing little kvutza is in the eyes of those who are around them. I enjoy the privilege of having contact with them, and I hope that they are enjoying the world which they are creating as much as they deserve to for their contribution to it.
I warmly welcome any comments posted from anyone who would like to give Aseef some virtual public encouragement! (Critiques or questions are fine too!)
(You can also see a pdf of the original article here).
In a dark period of my life, when I believed that kibbutz was dying out (along with ideology in general) and that there was therefore no place left to live according to both of the values of freedom and equality, Kibbutz Tamuz was one of the places which saved me from despair. As one of the first urban kibbutzim in Israel, they opened my eyes to the new methodologies which could house my radical values and implement my visions for a better life and society. They re-inspired me to believe in the eternal nature of values in a postmodern world. They renewed my faith in humanity.
Unfortunately, their website in English seems to have gone down (the Hebrew site seems fine), so I have uploaded a bunch of stuff which I hoarded from an ancient version of their site, as well as some old articles and a BBC radio clip. It’s all rather out of date now, to be honest, but hopefully the inspiring effects of their radical Jewish pioneering will overpower the past-the-use-by-date stagnancy of my hoard:
So, there’s this blog called Galus Australis which has got me all fired up.
In particular, the Bring Back Jewish Youth Counterculture post by Joel Lazar has provoked me into posting about another inspiring bunch of Jews, although I was planning to stay blog-quiet for another couple of days until Thursday, honest ‘guv. Have a look at it, and you’ll probably see why I felt the urge to post prematurely!
This time, I am loudly, proudly blowing our own trumpet, since I live in Kvutsat Yovel in Kibbutz Na’ama of Machanot Ha’Olim. Inbal and Yair, who are featured in the article, are my close friends, neighbours and life partners. Our kids are in kindergarten together. We share our money (and pretty much everything else too!). Nevertheless, I reckon that the nepotism and immodesty are legitimate, and I’ll try to explain why…
I love it! I love them! I love our kibbutz!
That might sound simple – and it is! At least once a week, something happens here which reminds me how lucky I am to have found my way into such an exceptionally inspiring community and movement. I prefer who I am becoming, as a human being and as a Jew, when I think of myself as being influenced by this environment. The people in Kibbutz Na’ama are honestly the most wonderful people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. There are just so many lovely people here, it overwhelms me. I know that there are lots of fantastic people in the world, but how come so many of them are concentrated here together?!? And how did I earn the right to live amongst them?!? It all seems quite unfair on the rest of humanity, to not have a share in the profound satisfaction which being a part of this gives me. So many people here are committed, passionate activists; they are creative, artistic and cultured; they are modest, honest, pragmatic and idealistic; and most of all, they are nice! However ridiculous and subjective this all may sound, they really are nice, warm, and friendly – perhaps to a somewhat nerdy extent – these are really, really good people, doing really, really good things.
Don’t misunderstand me – it’s still a work in progress. We haven’t reached utopia! People here are far from perfect, and the society we are building is flawed: there are constantly tensions and disagreements; misunderstandings and relationship breakdowns; and even some selfishness and loneliness. We are human beings, warts and all. It’s just that, as far as I have ever experienced or heard of, this happens to be the about the best collection of 100 human beings that it’s possible to find together in any one place and time, and they are living together as a Jewish community, working (very hard) building a grassroots movement for peace, social justice and equality in Israel and ultimately the world.
I reckon, therefore, that the extent of my love for these people, for what they believe in, for what they are doing, and for the strength, meaning and fulfillment which I gain from them daily, earns me the legitimate right to blow our own trumpet, loud and proud.
The HaNoar HaOved VeHalomed (Working Studying Youth) graduate adult movement ‘Dror Israel’ is by far the biggest network of new kibbutzim and kvutzot building peace, social justice and equality throughout Israel. They were the first of the classic Zionist youth movements to make the revolutionary shift from traditional agricultural / industrial kibbutz settlement to social pioneering, and are arguably the most ‘hardcore’ of all the new chalutzim.
The Urban Kibbutz in Acre gets some good coverage in the Young Communities Video by the Jewish Agency for Israel. Young Communities is a bit of a watered down, generic image which the Jewish Agency and others use for fundraising purposes. Young Communities includes some rather less radical folks alongside the pioneering kibbutzim and kvutzot which I am blogging about. Nevertheless, most of the footage and commentary is focussed on the totally radical Acre dudes.
Whilst we’re on the subject, there is another Young Communities video here and also a rather tasty little booklet which they made. There is also a related Israel program called ‘Shnat Kehilla‘ for 23-35 year olds to try out life in one of the Young Communities (including urban kibbutz) with it’s own slightly different edit of the video, as well as a facebook page with a whole bunch of info and photos about various communities.
Shabbat Shalom (by the way, check out my Parsha)!
PS I have a few Google Wave invitations to give out now – write me your email address if you want one!
Why is it that ‘commune’ sounds like something totally radical, whereas ‘kibbutz’ sounds like something rather old and stale? Strangely, I doubt that it has anything much to do with the fact that kibbutz has been around for 100 years. I think it’s because the kibbutz was so successful and influential (for a while, at least) that they became culturally legitimate and therefore even semi-mainstream, even though they are essentially a type of commune. The word ‘commune’ still conjures up images of cults, hippies, drugs and orgies, or at best some very extreme environmentalists, whereas kibbutz, despite the socialism and often heroic social activism, is associated with Jewish State-building and national responsibility.
So where does Urban Kibbutz fit in to that picture? Radical activist communes or mainstream national institutions? Originally I was thinking that I would only write about one cool community in each blog entry, but I guess that I am already getting impatient…
Instead, I will introduce you to 4! So, click the links, read about them, and get inspired!
The first two are historical attempts which no longer exist – Efal & Shaal: The idea of building an urban kibbutz only really started flourishing all over Israel relatively recently, but the roots go back a while. I thought it was important for people to know a bit about the historical background, as well as the modern cutting edge.
The second two – Reshit & Hadar – help show the wide range of today’s grassroots phenomenon: Reshit are middle-aged orthodox families in Jerusalem, whereas Hadar are secular 30 year olds in Haifa. By the way, Hadar isn’t actually their name – it’s just a name I gave them because that’s where they are! The full description would be something along the lines of “HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed Tnuat HaBogrim [Dror Yisrael] kvutzat kvutzot mechanchim ironi b’Haifa” (the Working and Studying Youth graduates’ adult movement [Freedom Israel] urban group of groups of educators in Haifa” – rather a mouthful! Anyone know if they have a shorter name?
I’ll blog on more inspiring radical communities next week. In the meantime, if anyone has any responses, critiques, suggestions or ideas, I’d love to see your comments on the blog!
There are so many incredible, radical chalutzim [pioneers] working towards social justice all over Israel today that it’s difficult to know where & how to start revealing it all to the world. There have been a bunch of articles in newspapers and even PhD doctorates and books written about some of these new activist communities, but most of them are in hebrew, and even the bits which are in English are spread about all over the place, so that they are not easily accessible. Without knowing a bit about the ‘scene’ in general, it is also difficult to see the wood from the trees, and so many people wouldn’t even know where to start looking.
I have been fortunate and privileged enough to have gained massive personal inspiration from many communities, movements and networks of kvutzot [groups] constantly since first stumbling across them in 1996. They have had a profoundly positive effect on my Jewish identity and have helped transform me from a run-of-the-mill, middle-class diaspora would-be lawyer into a radical and proud pioneer.
Whenever I have come across relevant articles, I have tried to collect them in order to share the love with other potential pioneers. So, I figure I will try to share a bunch of it via this blog, starting with Kibbutz Eshbal, who are amongst the most hardcore pioneers I know. Their work with Israeli Arabs in the Gallil, unrecognized Bedouins, and rehabilitating Ethiopian youth at risk are undoubtedly some of the most sexy social justice projects in Israel, but even those are only the tip of the iceberg. The Eshbal folk are amongst the most demanding of themselves in terms of their personal revolution, reconditioning themselves out of their typical post-modern capitalist socialization and rebuilding themselves and each other according to their radical values and visions. They are literally creating an entirely new society amongst themselves, whilst simultaneously spearheading the creation and development of the biggest nationwide movement of young activist kvutzot in Israel. This is grassroots social action at its finest. Here are a few links to get started with…
http://eshbal.org.il/ (HEBREW ONLY)
john is coming to stay with us for the weekend. john & dawit are african refugee kids who we have unofficially adopted in kvutsat yovel. they walked and hitchhiked from eritrea to israel about 2 years ago, and were scooped up off the streets around the old bus station area in tel aviv by people from our movement. now, thanks to a special arrangement we made with the education ministry, they study at a boarding school during the week and stay with us over weekends & holidays. our decision making process to bring them into our home and take responsibility for them was simultaneously terrifying and inspiring, but the reality of it has turned out to be much less of a big deal. i’ll post a link to a relevant video here when I get a chance –> UPDATED: I posted the video in Hebrew and will try to find one with English subtitles, which I think exists, somewhere… UPDATE 2: GOT IT HERE!