Shlomo Shalmon (1923-1998)
Shlomo Shalmon, who was for years Secretary of the International Communes Desk and co-editor of CALL, passed away on the 24th of October, 1998, on his kibbutz, Gesher.
Shlomo was born in Vienna, Austria. As a member of a Zionist youth movement, it was only natural that he chose the path of a pioneering life, and in 1938 he came to Palestine. After a short preparation period at the largest kibbutz, Givat Brenner, Shlomo and his group founded Kibbutz Gesher (" Bridge") in the Jordan Valley. Landscape gardening was his first major occupation, together with battling the insect pests in the citrus groves and the cotton fields. Besides building up the kibbutz - together with his helpmate, Naomi - he took an active part in defending it during the War of Independence (1947-8).
But education beckoned and he ran courses teaching Hebrew to new immigrants. Then the kibbutz sent Shlomo to study at the Kibbutz Teachers' Seminar, and for 16 years he taught Gesher's children of all ages - even Grade 1 in the kindergarten! The list of subjects Shlomo taught at high school reflects the vast range of his interests and knowledge: English, Hebrew, Biology and the Land of Israel. Later he specialized in Geography and Natural Sciences and taught these subjects at the Oranim Teachers' School, which is part of the Haifa University.
While his academic degree was in Geography and English Literature, research of all kinds and writing and translating poetry were Shlomo's major hobbies. One year he spent helping and advising a new kibbutz, Kadarim. "This", he often said, "was the happiest year of my life."
In the course of time, Shlomo became increasingly interested in urbanistics, researching the developing tendency of kibbutzim to change from an exclusively rural settlement to a community that bore more and more urban characteristics. On this subject he published articles in English, German and Hebrew, lecturing at ICSA and other academic forums.
In his later years, Shlomo literally lived the contact between the kibbutz movement and the communes around the world. The young-old Secretary of the International Communes Desk made connections with an ever-widening circle of communities, spoke about them and wrote about them. Shlomo took special interest in the rapidly developing communal movement in Germany. He wrote a book on the Kommune Niederkaufungen, in which he drew a true-to-life portrait of this successful group. This book appeared both in Hebrew and in German.
It is hard to fully appreciate Shlomo Shalmon's immense contribution to Israeli (and other parties') efforts to create contact between communes all over the world. He was active in all aspects of the ICD's work in trying to build a network of intentional communities, constantly stressing the over-all importance of ecology and care of the environment. He believed deeply in community life as an antithesis to the corrupt, dehumanizing capitalist system. His vision was to have the kibbutz movement, together with all the different - secular as well as religious - communities the world over, become the driving force towards changing the agenda and life-style of millions.
At regular intervals, Shlomo would appear in Yad Tabenkin and enter the Library, his special hat always on his head. With his satchel suspended from his shoulder, his body leaned forward, eager to get to his tiny room and to jot down even more notes in his notebook. He was the king of notetaking - at all times and in all places. Despite the continuing activity, his room remains orphaned. To this very day, his presence still hovers over the tiny room, which makes up the Communes Desk.
May his memory be blessed!
PS. It has been decided, most appropriately, to give the name Bet Shalmon to the newly formed center of the Integrierte Gemeinde near Jerusalem, in memory of a true comrade of communal living.