Page 11 - C.A.L.L. #29 - Winter 2007
P. 11


             The Communitarian Scene from all Over and Under
             Compiled (and partly translated) by Joel Dorkam

             Here  in  Israel  what  we  like  to  call  ‘Volunteers’  (a.k.a.  interns,
             guest-workers, work-exchangers, co-workers) are simply strangers
             who  come  to  stay  with  us  for  a  limited  period,  working  for  their
             upkeep, living amongst us without sharing most of our benefits and
             duties. In a way they contribute to our culture and they certainly
             enjoy great popularity with our youngsters. They provide valuable manpower at crucial peak
             seasonal times. When they return home they frequently become ambassadors for Israel and
             for the kibbutz. Sometimes they reappear after many years with wife and children to show
             them ‘my kibbutz’ and refresh old memories.

             But - there is a but too - sometimes they bring along certain habits and customs and ideas
             which don't quite fit in with ours and may spell trouble. Things like drugs or alcohol abuse,
             dishonest  practices,  sexual  promiscuity  and  occasionally  even  violence.  Research  done  on
             these subjects indicate that these visitors have long-term effects on our lifestyle, for better and
             for worse.

             Sometimes a volunteer stays on and on and on, becoming either a full-fledged kibbutznik - or
             a pain in the ass, depending on the circumstances. We have half a dozen of the first kind at
             my  kibbutz,  who  eventually  converted,  married  and  became  esteemed  members  of  our
             community.  Other  places,  having  experienced  some  kind  of  trouble,  or  simply  lacking
             accommodation, are not taking them any longer. One shining exception is kibbutz Bar'Am in
             upper Galilee, as reported in a recent issue of "Green Leaves" by Ohad Hay:

             Thomas Berger (25) from North Carolina, an American student of Journalism at Haifa University,
             returns almost yearly to work as a volunteer at kibbutz BarAm, where he first arrived 5 years ago.
             He has friends here, 30, 60 and even 70 years old with whom he discusses politics. This year's visit
                                                  was especially moving, "like coming home".

                                                  Thomas is one of 64 volunteers presently staying at Bar'Am.
                                                  Contrary  to  most  kibbutzim,  who  shut  down  their
                                                  volunteers    programs    for   economical     and   other
                                                  considerations, the volunteers scene at Bar'Am is alive and

                                                  "We  have  volunteers  from  India,  Turkey,  U.S.A,  England,
                                                  Denmark,  Sweden,  Poland,  Australia,  Ecuador,  Brasil,
                                                  Columbia,  Mexico,  South  Africa,  and  Korea"  tells  Aviv
                                                  Gutman, the volunteers coordinator for the last 2 years. He
                                                  has had to refuse dozens of applications from people who
                                                  hear about them from friends, or who have stayed here in
                                                  the past and want to come back.

             What inspires hundreds of people from all over the world to come back every year to Bar'Am, and
             then  subsequently  refuse  to  leave?  Part  of  the  answer  stems  from  the  good  conditions  (5-days
             workweek, monthly trip through the country, Internet, Playstation , and no less important - a pub
             with free beer!) A central factor is the ambiance. The amazing landscape, the relative isolation and
             the great number of co-volunteers creates a sparkling, young society with which it's fun to stay
             along. Any criticism or complaints? From the many conversations I have had, I get the feeling that
             it is almost utopia. You just don't hear anything negative from them".

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