Growing up on a kibbutz

The World

The kibbutzim began popping up in what was Palestine around the turn of the 20th century. These farming communes were carved out of the rocky soil by a generation of idealistic European Jews. They combined Zionism with Communism. This sociologist says their goal was to create a new, better human, �The people who started kibbutzim were new immigrants. They came with a feeling of rebellion that they didn’t want this religion, they didn’t want this way of life, they didn’t want this mentality. This is what made it so, I think, extreme.� Those born on the kibbutzim were nourished on Communist ideals. Kibbutzniks took Karl Marx literally, �From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.� When their children were born, the kibbutzniks deposited them in what were called children’s houses. The children lived in communal quarters apart from their parents until they left to start their military service. Some recent studies suggest this social experience was a deeply damaging one. This Israeli filmmaker wanted to explore the issue. He’s made a documentary called �Children of the Sun,� it’s about the children’s houses. He says, �When the kibbutz went one more radical step, when they tried to destroy the tradition of family of mother, father and kids and tried to create a new family, the family of the kibbutz, it’s always a lot of emotion because it’s so extreme.� Children ate and slept together in dormitories, boys and girls shared showers together until their early teens, they celebrated birthdays and holidays together in the news houses, even gifts like a new sweater or a toy truck were communal. The filmmaker interviews dozens of adults who have grown up in the communal homes. Their faces don’t appear in the documentary. Instead, he shows archival footage from the kibbutzim. In this clip, the filmmaker shows a man who talks about his mother and father, though he never called them that. He says, �I called my parents Rachela and Yaakov. Why not mom and dad? Because it was bourgeois, I never in my life said the word �mother,� I still can’t say it.� this sociologist says the theory was that too much affection would weaken the child, �So children had to be raised with the same affection from everyone, and mothers were not encouraged to show emotional attachment. They often were told this was going to damage the child psychologically.� The strict communal life was intended to breed an army of citizens taught to sacrifice everything for the kibbutz and country. to some extent it did. The kibbutzim produced a disproportionate number of Israel’s political, military, and intellectual leaders. The filmmaker says they also produced adults who have trouble with intimacy. This man says that’s true up to a point. That man, who’s now 44, grew up in a children’s house. He says his years there helped him develop some useful coping skills, �So I have the ability to be in the room but not to be, like, I create my own intimate place without an intimate place. It’s a disconnect even if I’m around many, many people.� He says by the time he left the kibbutz in the 1980s, the children’s houses had largely been abandoned. Since that time, many kibbutzim in general have fallen on hard times. But the filmmaker’s mother still lives on the kibbutz where he grew up. He interviews her but he doesn’t identify her as his mother until the end of the film. He then coaxes his mother to sing him a lullaby which he sang to her when he was a child. It’s about a boy going to sleep as war wages around the kibbutzim. The man claps and says �now you deserve a cup of tea, right mom?� it’s the only intimate moment in the film and it’s the only time he calls her that.

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