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Sol 'Shlomo' Etzioni (1929-2007)

It is with great sadness that I report of the passing of our beloved secretary Sol (Shlomo) Etzioni.

Sol was born in Australia and spent his youth as a member of Labour-Zionist Youth Movement Habonim. It was here that he began his life as an educator, a guide, and an inspiration to Jewish youth.

 

His first taste of communal living began in 1951, when Sol went to live on Habonim's training farm in Springvale, Melbourne. The idea was that Sol and his contemporaries would learn what it was to live and work on a 'Kibbutz', before emigrating to Israel and doing it for real. Sol remembered communal life as being very primitive, and described the unlined fibro huts as follows: "[without even] electric light to give the illusion of warmth. There's nothing that casts a cold spell over... dreams of sun-scorched Israel more than dressing in pitch-dark in freezing cold - literally freezing, for the rain-puddles froze over solid - to learn Hebrew...[Those two years] enhanced my maturity and expanded my horizons...I found that I could live in close quarters with others whom I didn't necessarily like."

 

Leadership by example is a concept that Sol imbibed from growing up in the youth movement. He duly fulfilled the highest goal of Habonim by arriving in Israel in 1954, and joining Kibbutz Tzora. There he spent most of his career as a high-school Chemistry teacher, with a hiatus from 1962 - 1964, when he left the kibbutz to become an emissary of both the Kibbutz, and Israel itself to a whole new generation of Habonim Youth in New Zealand. It is no surprise to find many of the people that Sol worked with during those years in New Zealand following his example, and can today still be found on Kibbutzim in Israel.

In recent years, as Kibbutz Tzora has undergone many changes, Sol recognized both the need for change in today's modern reality, whilst always retaining his strong belief in communal living and shared responsibility. In January of this year he wrote thus: "The problem is that no one wants to put more money into the public purse - by means of a progressive 'income tax' - and this means inevitably that there is pressure to reduce communal services even further. The fact that almost everything is judged by its cost means that there is pressure to shut down 'unprofitable' activities".

Similarly, even though Sol described himself as not being political, in this sphere too he saw the complexity of issues and never expressed a dogmatic one-sided opinion. He could recognize Israel's imperfections but it always pained him to read over-the-top criticisms, or even being blanked by communities outside of Israel. In setting the record straight on his beloved Israel, he always called for fairness and even-handedness in any criticism, whilst stressing Israel's legitimate concerns and it's right to live in peace and security.

When most pensioners would be taking their foot off the gas, Sol was looking for a new challenge and in 2000 he became the secretary of the International Communes Desk. His belief in communality and his many years as an educator, combined with his dedication, enabled Sol to bring the communal scene in Israel to the world and the world communal scene to Israel. He courteously ran our meetings with patience and humour and worked tirelessly behind the scenes: corresponding with communities around the world, hosting visitors that came to Israel to learn about Kibbutz, editing the content of the website, attending conferences all over Israel to promote the Desk, fundraising, proof-reading this publication, etc etc.

Sol is survived by his wife Rene, 3 children, 8 grandchildren and the many, many people, all over the world, who have learnt from Sol, been inspired by Sol - a true leader by example.