Paulyne Pogorelske lived on Kibbutz Ginegar in Israel for several months. Here are her impressions of kibbutz life.
On first impression Ginegar seemed like a large farming estate-wooden buildings full of bales of hay, old carts and tractors.
But Ginegar is more than that.
Indeed, it is a farm-but underlying its agricultural aspect is a much more significant one called togetherness.
Where anybody, be they black or white, young or old, live together as one unit. One family.
My first introduction to this communal way of life was at mealtime, where I walked into a huge dining-room full of wooden tables each laid with the same food.
It seemed plentiful and good-tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onions, eggs, cheese and fresh rye bread.
But then, that was only my first kibbutz dinner.
Each breakfast and dinner, we were served the same things.
It seemed that kibbutzniks regarded food only as a necessity.
“It’s an ideal situation,” one woman explained.
“Our main meal is taken care of for us and we have the opportunity to bake if we want to and entertain in our homes.
“And there is nothing nicer than eating with our friends. Being able to relax and eat without rushing.”
But what this woman and her kibbutznik friends found desirable, I found to be a strain after a while.
At first it was fun. It seemed like a crazy summer camp.
But everyday with the same thing, without any alteration, was squashing whatever communal spirit I may have had.
Their wish for togetherness permeated every aspect of kibbutz life.
In the fields, the orchard, the cowshed, chicken coop and in the kitchen.
I first worked in the orchard.
I was up at 5.30 with the sun barely risen.
There was something strangely beautiful about early morning in the apple orchard in Israel. A certain freshness, a certain peace and tranquility.
I began to understand what the attraction was in this life.
“What could be better than working so close to nature?” one kibbutznik asked me.
Sometimes it seemed, very little.
But while we appreciated and even revelled in the natural beauty of the countryside, “there was still work to be done”.
Work was the measure of everything.
You were judged on your capacity for good hard work and accepted on that basis.
“We don’t have time for mucking around and frivolities. If we don’t work, we don’t eat. If our apples aren’t picked and marketed on time, it’s money lost.
“It’s a principle of any farm,” one kibbutznik told me.
“And here, everyone chips in and does his bit. We’re a communal farm, remember?”
While I might have forgotten, the children certainly didn’t. They accepted their responsibilities as members of the kibbutz.
“If I live here, then we have to work like everyone else,” a boy of 13 explained.
“When we go to school, we go to school. But when we are on holidays, then we can help around here.”
“Our main topics of conversation revolve around the kibbutz,” one old kibbutznik said.
“We like to think there are still ways of making life better here. We still have that dream.”
What dream is that?
“The dream of an Israel where everybody is joined together and works together.
“We tried to do our bit through the kibbutz. It was our duty. Our meaning in life,” he explained.
“We saw that if we wanted Israel to exist as a nation, we had to build that nation.”
And considering that Ginegar was “a land of swamps and mosquitoes” when the pioneers arrived from Russia and Poland, they have gone a long way to achieving their dream.
While the children go to school in the morning from eight till two, and the parents work, certain hours are set aside for visiting and being together,
“We get to see our children more often than city fathers see theirs,” one father said.
“We finish work at two, rest for a couple of hours and then we have the rest of the afternoon to play with our kids till their bedtime.
“And because we have no money worries, no problems to worry about, we are relaxed and able to talk to them.
“And they grow up believing in family life. And that makes the core of a good strong nation,” he continued.
He might have had a point, of course, but their way of life seemed to stamp out all individuality among the children.
They were reduced to models cast of the same mould.
“This is one problem we are well aware of now. That many of the children don’t find the same satisfaction and meaning in this life as we do,” one kibbutznik in his late 60s explained.
What I soon came to realise about general kibbutz work was that it was all the same.
There was no challenge, no sense of adventure or surprise, nothing new to look forward to.
And yet, the kibbutzniks are not stupid or unintelligent. Rather, they are people of the land- first and foremost farmers.
Living a simple basic life; healthy, invigorating, clean and honest.
Without any of the sophistication or pretence that pervades city life.
I appreciated this. Indeed, during my visit, I enjoyed it.