I was born on a kibbutz one year after the Six Day War and grew up during the post-war days.
I can still remember the atmosphere in the kibbutz on Yom HaAtzmaut then: the colorful bicycle parade, the party into late night hours, with everybody singing and dancing. There was so much pride in the air! Pride of being an Israeli, a Zionist, and a kibbutznik. We felt like the icing on the Israeli cake, with kibbutzniks taking on a disproportionate part in the fighting, protecting our land. I remember going to the big city as a little child, with my sister, and asking her about our kibbutz in a way that everyone could hear where I was from. So proud, I was.
Today, our home is in the same kibbutz, which is still beautiful and peaceful, and I love it, but the pride isn’t there anymore.
Soon after the Yom Kippur war, a wave of rage from the working class against the old Ashkenazi elites started flowing, and the kibbutzim took some of the fire. The late Prime Minister Menachem Begin used the kibbutzim as a scapegoat on his elections campaign that eventually knocked the Labor party off its ruling position after 30 years.
This rage against the old elites has since widened and is now aimed at the Supreme Court and the press. If this sounds familiar to United States citizens, especially after the last presidential campaign, then, well, as a startup nation Israel was there first. Unfortunately, the kibbutzim were on the wrong side of the fire.
Moreover, new elites have raised this: The settlers in the occupied territories have taken the Zionism spearhead crown from the kibbutzim. By opposing the settlements, the kibbutzim were given the anti-Zionist label. On the other hand, leftist speakers call us “robbers of Palestinian land.”
But as our status in Israel has declined, it was good to know that here in Milwaukee, the attitude towards the kibbutzim is still as romantic as it was in the 1970s. I was invited here to give a lecture about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I prepared myself well, but when I arrived at the location the host said to me “We’ve heard enough about war, let’s hear some positive things – today you’ll talk about the kibbutz,” and so I did.
Our shlichut will soon end, and we will return to our home in our kibbutz. We love this piece of land and the people who live in our community. We have become more privatized, but still keep the mutual help and the values on which the Kibbutz was built on, of whom we are, yes, still proud.
Doron Zehavi and his wife Amit, the Milwaukee community shlichah, have been visiting Milwaukee from Israel with their children for the last three years. They return home this year.