July 21, 2014

Like the contrast between old and new, here in Israel the ideological contrasts between community and isolation are ever present. We started off the day in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town built around a ‘makhtesh’, which almost translates to crater. Through millions of years of geological weathering, what were once layers of sediment beneath the surface of a lake is now a naturally induced crater-like phenomenon. Talya, our tour guide, discussed to us both how the crater came to be, and how this exemplifies one of the many beauties that exist in Israel. She explained the fact that you can go to the south of a country and witness the marvels in the Negev desert, then you can travel to the north and arrive at a ski resort. Such a range of climates in such a small country had me thinking about the shift we had just made travelling from Jerusalem to the Negev, and the distinction between the cultures and the people. We left this small village and travelled to the burial place of Ben Gurion, where met Guti to talk with us about his community, the Hatzerim kibbutz.

Talya and Tali at the Mekhtesh in Mitzpe Ramon

 

Among other things, Guti spoke of the ideology of the kibbutz, which dignifies the importance of egalitarianism. After visiting the development town of Yeroham yesterday, this idea of collectivity was fresh in our minds. Both the kibbutzim and the development towns initiated the settlement of the Negev, and their founding ideologies starkly contrast one another. On one hand, at the core of the kibbutzim is the idea of communalism and total equality. While the initial members of the development town of Yeroham were essentially coerced into settling there rather than in Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv. Additionally the first settlers of Yeroham were mostly of Sephardi origins, which also highlighted questions of racial inequality.

hatzerim

Kibbutz Hatzerim during its early years around 1946

 

Although their ideologies blatantly differ from one another, the new has been able to distinguish itself from the old, in both the kibbutzim and in Yeroham. The kibbutzim, once very popular have been forced to shift in several ways since their formation because of modern complexities. However, some kibbutzim like Hatzerim continue to thrive, both socially and economically. Yeroham has been able to shed itself of its rough start, developing tremendously in recent decades in part because of increased communal effort from the students’ community service work to the donation of the independent science center. Both receive little to no help from the central government of Israel but continue to flourish with good management and communal determination. During our travels in the Negev, transitions between old and new were made apparent, as was an overall appreciation for community.    

Hannah Lifshutz

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