GESHER HAZIV — YESTERDAY AND TODAY
"The area we were about to settle, though once fruitful, was now deserted and ravaged. The once-flowering olive groves and orange plantations were dead or dying, unworked by their fleeing owners, the empty mud-shack village of Aziv attesting to their precipitous flight. The low-slung wrecks of British army buildings, surrounded by their barbed-wire concertinas, were our only shelter. What water there was had to be brought by tank truck each day and sufficed only for cooking and tooth-brushing. A shower was a once-a-week luxury obtained by piling on the back of an open truck and traveling ten miles. Electricity was a distant dream. Cooking for a hundred and fifty people was miraculously and tiringly done on small kerosene camp stoves. Children could not be accommodated because of our inadequate housing and impossible sanitary facilities; and they and their mothers (remained in Shavei Zion, a village some five miles away. The area itself was still dangerous; Arab infiltrators, alone and in groups, made an alert watch necessary.
"Sources of income were nonexistent. In order to rehabilitate the orange groves, which had been planted with cheap Arab labor and donkey cultivation in mind, every other row had to be torn up, intensive irrigation introduced, and extensive reclamation of the trees them-selves for a period of three or four years undertaken. Houses had to be built. Cows and chickens had to be bought, and crops planted on land which had to be cleared of stones. Machinery had to be purchased. All this had to be done immediately—and with no money."
This is a first-hand description of Gesher Haziv ten years ago. Even those of us who lived through this period find it difficult to realize that this is what Gesher Haziv was only ten short years ago. The changes are so varied we will have to discuss them one at a time.
Water—today we have our own well and pumping station. Although additional sources of water are being sought in order to expand the areas that are devoted to intensive agriculture, the days of water rationing have long been a thing of the past. Green lawns and flower gardens surround every house. Citrus groves, bananas, vegetables, even pasture for the cows, are raised under irrigation.
The "dream of electricity"—we long since graduated from the kerosene lamp to our own generators. Today we are connected to the national electric supply—a step forward which permitted the unlimited use of electricity for light and power.
"Cooking on a kerosene stove"—the primus stove, as it is commonly known, is practically an antique. Cooking is done in a modern stainless steel kitchen by means of steam, gas, and electricity. Meals are eaten in a large airy dining hall overlooking the sea. Chaverim sit on comfortable chairs at formica-topped tables for four. The British army building which we converted, so tastefully we thought, to a dining hall, is now the children's clothes storehouse. The long tables and benches are a thing of the past, although they occasionally appear when extra seating is needed for a holiday, to remind us of "days of yore."
The first two prefabricated bungalows, which were set aside as an infants' home and a kindergarten, have developed into an infants' home able to house twenty-five children with its own kitchen; three nursery school buildings, each built to house ten to twelve children; two kindergartens, each capable of absorbing twenty children; and an elementary school, consisting of four large modern classrooms, dining hall, library, music room, and science room. A regional high school operated by Gesher Haziv, Chanita, and Metzuba is located in Gesher Haziv. This school is the culmination of many years of deliberations in which members of Gesher Haziv took a leading role in calling for - the establishment of such a school. Today, some eighty students are studying there. A member of Gesher Haziv has been the director of this school since its establishment, and others are active op the teaching staff.
The four bungalows which were put up the first day no longer exist. The area where we pitched the tents in which we lived the first years is now covered with young orange trees. The hill on which we built our first bungalows is now covered with bungalows of various shapes and sizes, which were put up in the course of years. These now serve as housing for newcomers to the kibbutz and are the home of this year's Workshop. The great majority of chaverim live in what is commonly termed "permanent" housing. This refers to houses built of concrete rather than of wood. Since, in Gesher Haziv children sleep with their parents rather than in the children's house, the housing unit for a family consists of two rooms. In addition the unit consists of a porch, kitchenette, and sanitary facilities—all of which have today become standard in kibbutz housing.
It is obvious that this progress in the consumer sector (housing, food, clothing) had to be accompanied by progress in the production sector. Of the thirty-five hundred dunam comprising Gesher Haziv, two thousand are under irrigation. This includes almost four hundred dunam of citrus groves, to which reference was made at the beginning of this article. The remainder are young trees which have been planted in the last few years and which will be bearing fruit within the next few years. Almost three hundred dunam are devoted to the raising of bananas—a crop which has also become an important export crop in the country, although not reaching the dimensions of citrus export.
The rest of the irrigated land is devoted to sugar beets, vegetables, pasture, etc. In accordance with the tendency to encourage kibbutzim to specialize in industrial crops, cotton and peas for canning and seeds have been planted. A successful experiment was conducted last year: raising tomatoes and cucumbers under plastic cover so as to induce early growth and thereby appear on the market with vegetables early in the season. Field crops, such as wheat, rye, sorghum, and hay, are raised primarily to supply our own needs. One of the major branches is the chicken house, which has expanded each year until, today, the egg production has reached seven thousand eggs a day.
The dairy barn reflects the general crisis which the dairy industry is undergoing in Israel. The industry has reached the point of overproduction, and the country is faced with the problem of whether to cut down the number of herds or to find ways and means of utilizing the dairy products without drastically reducing the farmer's income. So Gesher Haziv is faced with the problem of whether to maintain the dairy barn at its present size when, in order to achieve maximum efficiency, it should be enlarged, or whether to eliminate it completely, although this act would be a blow to the internal economy of the kibbutz.
Just as in the case of the dairy, Gesher Haziv reflects the general condition of agriculture in the country; so, through its ten years of existence, the meshek. has reflected the social changes in Israel. The kibbutz was formed at the period of mass immigration to Israel. Many Americans who had come to Israel as volunteers in the War of Liberation were in the country. Gesher Haziv became a center for many Americans who wanted to stay in Israel but were not certain of their future plans. Because the meshek felt that one of its functions was to encourage, in every possible way, aliya from the English speaking countries, all comers were welcomed. This naturally led to a considerable turnover in the population during the first formative years. However, despite the inconvenience caused by this constant influx of people to whom the idea of kibbutz as a way of life was secondary to their desire to have a place to live till they settled in the country, the kibbutz was enriched by virtue of the fact that it was not isolated and remote from the happenings in the country.
As a mifal (official settlement) both of American Habonim and the Tnua Hameuchedet movement in Israel, the kibbutz was always closely tied to the youth movement. Early in its career Gesher Haziv sent, and continues to send, madrichim to the Israeli movement and shlichim (emissaries) to the American movement (plus a shaliach to Australian Habonim). To this day, many chaverim have maintained personal ties with the youth movement and are deeply concerned and interested in all that goes on. The kibbutz, as a whole, feels a responsibility and obligation to the movement. As people get older, they begin to assume obligations in various other aspects of organizational life in Israel: the army, the party, the regional government, the kibbutz federation, the movement, etc.
The fact that Gesher Haziv was settled by a group of people somewhat older than the usual garin also played its role in our development. The average garin does not have children when it establishes its kibbutz. There were twenty-five children about whom Gesher Haziv had to be concerned from the very first day. This concern was, on the one hand, to set up suitable housing for the children and to train a sufficient number of teachers, kindergarten teachers, and children's nurses. This was an immediate financial burden and a drain
on manpower which is not a usual occurrence in a young kibbutz.. On the other hand, the presence of children led to an early discussion on the question of whether children would sleep with their parents or in the children's houses. We have seen that this question is one which is of little concern to kibbutz members who do not, as yet, have children. By the time that there are a sufficient number of children in the kibbutz so that the question begins to trouble the young parents, the permanent housing has usually been built; and the problem of changing the buildings becomes an insurmountable financial burden.
Because of our situation, the question was raised at the very beginning, long before permanent housing was built. It was decided to postpone any permanent building until the final decision on lina nifredet (children sleeping with their parents as opposed to sleeping communally, i.e., in the children's houses) was taken. After discussions that lasted well over a year, the chaverim voted by an overwhelming majority in favor of lina nifredet. Although this system had been in existence in four of the oldest kibbutzirm in the country, the subject was widely discussed in the kibbutz movement only after Gesher Haziv put it into practice. Since then, one other kibbutz has followed in the footsteps of Gesher Haziv and two other kibbutzim have taken decisions in favor of Una nifredet and are now in the process of making the technical changes which are necessary in the buildings in order to carry out the decision. The subject has been widely discussed in the various institutions of the kibbutz movement and in many individual kibbutzim.
The kibbutz is not only a community where people work and have their basic needs cared for. The kibbutz is also a community which strives for a cultural life on a high level. During the course of years, the English-speaking chaverim had to make the transition from their mother tongue to Hebrew. For many, especially those who came to the country with no knowledge of Hebrew, the transition
was not easy. Today, although English is still heard in private conversations and English books and periodicals are read by many (including the non-Anglo-Saxons), the problem of language is no longer a problem. At first, the general meeting was a bilingual one where every remark had to be translated into the other language, so that
meetings were twice as long as they need have been. After that, only Hebrew was spoken, but there was a "translation table," where a running translation of the proceedings was given to those who needed it. The final stage, of course, is the meeting in Hebrew with no translation necessary.
From time to time, even today, when newcomers arrive, there are those who are in need of explanations; but the "translation table" is a thing of the past. The majority of chaverim read the Hebrew press. All chaverim can enjoy a play or a lecture in Hebrew. The Gesher Haziv "Little Theatre Group," which has been in existence since the first days of the meshek, has always performed in Hebrew. For the last few years, the group has worked with a professional director and has won wide acclaim for its high standard. The choir has also been a mainstay of the mesheks cultural life for years. A glance at the weekly calendar of events in the meshek indicates the variety of interests which find expression in the kibbutz a rehearsal of the dramatic group, a choir rehearsal, square dancing, six different Hebrew classes on various levels, an English class, a botany circle, an English literature discussion group, an exercise group, a movie, an oneg Shabbat. This does not include meetings of various committees and the weekly general meeting through which the kibbutz functions.
Gesher Haziv is still in the process of determining how to express Jewish tradition in its cultural life. This, too, is a reflection of a more general problem in the country as a whole. The celebration of the holidays such as Pesach, Shavuot, and Purim poses no problem. For the first three holidays the kibbutz has found a form which is a synthesis of the ancient Jewish tradition and the agricultural community in which we live. Purim has become a carnival—a night of revelry and merry-making. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not as simple. In the kibbutz) these days have become a time for reviewing the year's accomplishments—cheshbon hanefesh, auditing of the soul—in this case, the soul of the community.
For several years, Gesher Haziv has conducted services in the meshek on the High Holy Days. This was primarily because of the presence in the meshek of a large number of parents of chaverim. But there were a number of chaverim who, in previous years, had gone to Nahariya for the services and who welcomed the opportunity of conducting them at home. There was active participation of many chaverim, and the large number of school children who took part in the services was completely unexpected. What will be the future development of this trend? It is impossible to predict at present. What is clear is that there is a strong desire in the meshek. to find some form of Jewish expression. This desire, which exists in many places, is given special impetus in Gesher Haziv, where the population consists of a large number of Anglo-Saxons who come from communities where there are strong ties to Jewish traditions and customs, which have found expression not only in the Orthodox manner. In addition, there are many non-Americans who were educated as Orthodox Jews. Although they put aside Orthodox ritual, they want something to replace it. What that "something" will be, perhaps the next ten years will tell.
Thus Gesher Haziv has, in the last ten years, undergone drastic
changes—both physical and cultural. Undoubtedly, the next ten years will witness other changes. Perhaps the physical appearance of the
meshek. will not change as radically as in the last decade, but the next decade will see the first sons and daughters of the
kibbutz become active in its operation. They will, without a doubt, have different attitudes from their fathers on many questions, the majority of whom were not born in Israel nor raised in a
kibbutz. Many of the problems which are today unsolved will no doubt find their solution by Gesher
Haziv's twentieth anniversary. Just as in the past, solutions have not been influenced by the particular composition and atmosphere of Gesher Haziv, but have reflected the trends in the country and in the kibbutz movement; so it will be in the future. The next decade will, no doubt, bring its own set of new problems. The kibbutz has, since its inception, been a dynamic form, constantly adapting itself to meet changing conditions, as will Gesher Haziv, being part of the kibbutz movement. In some things it will probably be the initiator and forerunner, and in others it will be a follower.
MENUCHA KRAINES, Gesher Haziv, 1959