Spending time near the Gaza border PDF Print E-mail
By Hillary Weinberger   
Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00
The kibbutzniks are brave, I just watch


The bomb shelter on Kibbutz Holit /Source: Hillary WeinbergerThe bomb shelter on Kibbutz Holit /Source: Hillary WeinbergerWhenever I attempt to explain to someone what I am doing in Israel, their first question is always “What’s a kibbutz?”

A kibbutz is a kind of gated community. It’s a collective community based on a high level of social and economical sharing, equality, direct democracy and tight social relations. A member of a kibbutz is defined by the kibbutz; most of the individual’s status as a person outside the community becomes irrelevant. All members work within the community. They earn no money of their own, and spend no money of their own.  All work profits are for the betterment of the kibbutz; a collective kibbutz financial committee must approve all expenses. Each member relies on every other member to support and maintain the life on the kibbutz.

There are several hundred kibbutzim in Israel, large and small. They are the main agricultural and industrial plants that feed Israeli society. When a Zionist in the diaspora moves to Israel to make aliyah, he or she often moves to a kibbutz, and not to a big city, because it is the kibbutzim that help to sustain Israel.

I have been living on Kibbutz Holit for the past two weeks. It is a small kibbutz, and not a very wealthy one, with only 27 members. In the desert, it is within easy walking distance from the Gaza Strip boarder. In addition to the 27 members who live here, Holit is home to a group of foreign volunteers who have come to learn about and work on the kibbutz only for a short amount of time.

I am not here as a volunteer. I am here as a student, one in a group of 28 teenagers from nine different countries, simply using Holit as an educational center for our own learning, as well as for learning about kibbutz life.

During my first two weeks here, I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with any of the kibbutz members who were not directly involved in my program. We shared meals with the volunteers, but we were curious about the members and their life styles, and wondered why we never had the opportunity to run into them and converse.

Then, finally, I was recently invited into the home of Shaul, a man in his mid-40s. Originally from Argentina, Shaul has been a member of Holit for the past 25 years or so. He didn’t have many questions to ask me, because he is familiar with the program I am here for, but he encouraged me to ask him anything and everything that I could think to ask. Shaul came to Israel as a Zionist, wanting to become a kibbutznik to help Israel progress. When he first got here, Holit had been a much larger kibbutz with more members. When the first intifada happened, and the conflict with Gaza began and the rockets started to fly into the territory, most people fled. Given that, most people can’t understand why we, as students, have chosen this place to be our educational center. After all – we are near Gaza, where rockets fly as they please!

“Why,” I asked Shaul, “did you and others who remain choose to stay?”

“Here is where we have the intelligence to live without fear,” Shaul said. “Here is where we know what precautions we need to take and how to avoid being hurt. Here is where we know exactly what we are supposed to do when a threat comes towards us. Here we have learned how to protect ourselves, and here is where I feel the safest.”
Over the past two weeks, I have been told that I am brave for deciding to come to Holit, under a sky where rockets could fall over my head any day. Maybe I am. But what I’ve realized is that living here isn’t about bravery. It’s about living life the way that you want to live it. It’s about growing and learning and teaching that community is strong. I’m here to live an experience for three months that everyone else here lives every day of their lives. If anything, they are the brave ones. They are the ones who aren’t going to let any force pull their community apart. I’m just here to watch.

Hillary Weinberger, a resident of Providence and the daughter of Zachary and Shari Weinberger, is participating in the Hashomer Hatzair Shnat Hachshara Program. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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