1970's Kibbutz Volunteers from around the world
As part of the centenary celebrations of the kibbutz movement in Israel, the Kibbutz Program Center in Tel Aviv is reaching out to former volunteers all over the world to reconnect, take a trip down memory lane and if possible, join in celebrations planned for June 2011 in Israel.
The collective blast from the past is being spearheaded by Aya Sagi, director of the Kibbutz Program Center in Tel Aviv and her team.
"Hundreds of thousands of volunteers lived and worked in kibbutzim from the 1960s through to present times. For many of those who came for a taste of the unique cooperative communities in Israel, their kibbutz experience proved to be a watershed in their lives, a never to be forgotten positive period in their travels. We want to pool those memories, energies and ties during this very special centenary celebration, and hopefully our nostalgia for days gone by will bring about renewed interest in Israel and especially the kibbutz movement," said Sagi, a member of Kibbutz Tzora.
Figures recently published by the kibbutz movement show that volunteers from Britain were the largest number from any one country. An astounding 50,000 Brits have lived, worked and partied in one of the 270 kibbutzim since those communities opened their gates to outsiders in the early 1960s, with the largest wave at any one time having been during the 1967 Six-Day-War.
Surprisingly, the second largest number of volunteers came from South Africa with 40,000, Swedes in third place with 25,000, Denmark 20,000 and Germany 15,000.
Hundreds of volunteers over the years have married kibbutz folk and settled down to a life on the farm, others have settled in Israeli cities. Among those who went home one can find famous actors, artists, musicians and politicians, authors and journalists and even a European banker or two!
In latter years it is not uncommon to come across volunteers whose parents volunteered themselves and actively encouraged their offspring to do likewise.
When Sagi took over the KPC only 20 kibbutzim were still accepting volunteers from abroad but with coaxing she has managed to get another 10 kibbutzim on board and is hoping for more to join the ranks of host communities, in order to give all the potential volunteers a chance to share in what was once an almost top of the 'to do' list of young travelers from around the world. Well over a thousand volunteers are presently in Israel in 30 kibbutzim from the northern border with Lebanon (Kibbutz Baram with a large contingent of between 50-60 most of the year) and Kibbutz Samar, a small kibbutz near Eilat, and all points between.
"We see this as a very important project in terms of hopefully activating past volunteers in promoting a different image of Israel in today's difficult climate and influencing others by speaking of their positive experiences when they were in the country," said Sagi.
Former volunteers who want to reconnect with the kibbutz movement are invited to the KPC website where it is possible to register and also find long-lost friends from their volunteering period.
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