Hazerim is one of the most successful and largest kibbutzim. There are about 1000 residents currently of which 400 are adult members. There are lots of children. Other residents include solo soldiers like the ones in Ben’s program, Ulpan students, and guests like us.
Yesterday we spent some time with the woman who coordinates Ben’s program here on the kibbutz. Her name is Tali and she and her husband, Zev(?) talk with us over coffee after lunch. After meals, or at least after some meals, the cafe next to the dining hall is open. Inside there are tables and chairs and an espresso bar. Without the exchange of money you go and order a coffee, help yourself to a few cookies and sit and talk. So we did this and we learned a lot about the history and structure of Hazerim.
Afterwards Tali and Zev took me, Bernard and Sasha on a tour of the Netafim plant that is on the kibbutz. It is where they make the irrigation drip hoses that are a central part of their economy. The technology belongs to the kibbutz. While all the drip units are made here in Israel they are shipped to 12 other plants around the world where they are installed in to the hoses. The hoses are sold and used everywhere. There were few places we could think of that don’t sell them. The tour started in the corporate offices in a room that featured big black and white photos from the first days of the kibbutz. They showed a barren and empty desert landscape with the hard working and committed young people that started this place 60 years ago. Quite a contrast to the green and developed campus of today with neighborhoods, gardens, trees, and criss crossing pathways used by kids, dogs, couples, elders in this electric carts, baby carriages, bicycles — all to say it is a teaming and lively environment.
The other business that Hazerim owns is a jojoba company — growing and processing the oil. Hopefully we will get a tour of that before the end of this trip.
By the time the tour of the plant was over we walked through the heat of the afternoon back to our apartment. Along the way Tali pointed out the first building constructed, in the days when everyone was living in tents. It has very small windows and very thick walls intended to provide protection from possible Egyptian bombings. It has since been the medical clinic and several other things. On it is a sculptural tribute to a young Syrian Jew that came in the early days. Having grown up in an Arabic culture he provided a bridge between the Russian Jewish settlers and the local Bedouins. He was shot before he reach 20 years. When you sit in the cafe and you look at some of the people who are clearly in their 80s you know that they have seen this place through much change, challenges, growth. It is something to have a vision for a different way of living — kibbutz life — but then to build that life here in what is really not a very hospitable environment is really something impressive.
The rest of the afternoon included coffee on the porch, some time at the pool — a very active spot on a shabbat afternoon. Saturday is the end of the weekend here. Sunday people return to work.
After sunset we walked to Michal’s house where we were treated to an Italian dinner at a long table outside under a meandering tree that would have provided shade had it been daytime. We met Michal’s husband Avi and her son, too. Her two daughters had already left to return to the places where they are working, one or both of them in the army now.
So our first Shabbat at Hazerim comes to a close. We finish the evening finalizing our travel plans for the next few days. Jerusalem on Sunday.