This section will move pretty quickly, as we will be hitting many spots.
We leave Jerusalem with a hopeful taste in our mouths--the perfect way to end five days of learning, seeing, and understanding. We pass rolling hills of rock and sand. To me, rolling hills are some of the most beautiful sights ever, so this was easy on my eyes for sure. Our guide, Roni, cracks a few jokes and tells a few stories, including one about the Good Samaritan and where that name came from. Anyone who has read the Gospel of Luke in the Bible or went to Sunday School as a kid probably knows the story of the Good Samaritan. I have done neither of these things (though I've heard of the phrase "Good Samaritan" before); this was a learning experience for me.
The Good Samaritan is about a traveler who is beaten, stolen from, and left to die around the whereabouts of our bus at the time of Roni's telling of this story. A Levite and a priest who speak the traveler's language pass him but don't stop to help. Finally, a man from the land of Samaria (remember, this is a word that some Jews use to describe the land that is known as the West Bank today) walks by. He doesn't even speak the traveler's language, but he brings the hurt man to get the needed medical help. Thus, the Samaritan was a good neighbor and is today known as the Good Samaritan. It's the namesake of certain American laws, and it's also Jesus' parable about loving thy neighbor.
After popping our ears a few times, we stop at a place located exactly at sea level. We look around at the rolling hills in awe (I mean, I did because I am always in awe of any rolling hills. Seriously.) and get some fresh air before heading to the Dead Sea, which is 1,410.8 meters below sea level (and its deepest part is about 2,300 meters below sea level). Our ears popped some more. My right ear took about an hour to actually pop. We exfoliated our skin with the mud of the Dead Sea. My skin has never been so soft, and my cloths never so sticky.
On our way to the kibbutz of Ami'Ad now! The Dead Sea is south of Jerusalem, and Ami'Ad is north. Now, we drive by rolling hills of green, which are even MORE beautiful than the rolling hills of light tan we saw earlier. We look out the window and see the villages and farms of Jordan. It's crazy how close everything is to each other.
When we finally get to the kibbutz, it's nighttime. We drove by the Sea of Galilee (as the village of Ami'Ad is right north of the Sea of Galilee and right east of the Golan Heights) and eventually reach a small winery. This winery is incredible: they literally fermented every. Freaking. Thing. They. Could. Think. Of.
Pomegranate. Passionfruit. Dark Chocolate. Pistachio. Coconut. Mango. Plum. Black currant. Strawberry (like the song, Strawberry Wine). Even avocado! Forget red or white wine, mango white is where it's at. The only wines they found unsuccessful were watermelon (too watery) and banana (not watery enough--too… solid). The winery owners didn't let anything get in the way of their curiosity and fermenting; they are truly innovators in winemaking.
Anyway, after our indulgences in everything touristy, we found ourselves at rest in the kibbutz. Now, what is a kibbutz? We didn't quite know until the next morning, actually, but I'll fill you in now because I love this story. So, a kibbutz is an Israeli village with certain… characteristics. We'll get to that.
The kibbutzim (the plural form of kibbutz) originated because of Russian Jews who migrated to Israel after not feeling at home in Russia. The first kibbutz was constructed in 1909. What was going on in Russia at the turn of the century? That's right: communism.
Not the communism you think of when you think of the Soviet Union and the Bolshevik Revolution, and also not the communism you think of when you think of China under Mao--and especially not the communism you think of when you think of UC Berkeley, haha. No, this kibbutzim communism comes from an actual sense of community and cooperation. It's the idealistic view of Karl Marx without the corruption that got in the way.
In 1909, Degania was the first kibbutz to exist in Palestine. Throughout the years of the Arab rule, British Mandate, WWI, and WWII, there would be increasingly larger numbers of pockets of Russian Jewish communities who had just made the trek to this land. Kibbutzim especially flourished in the 1930s and 1940s. The communities functioned, essentially, how a communist society should--as if they were taking the rules straight from the textbook. There would literally be a "community TV" that everyone would share in a public space (this, of course, was way later in the 1900s when modern technology was more widespread). People would work to share their money and food with the rest of their community.
When the first kids began popping out of their mothers, the community was faced with a question. What do we do with these kids? Are they kids of their mothers, or are they kids of the community as a whole? After all, families shared everything with each other. Why wouldn't they share their children as well? Ultimately, the kibbutz decision was to share the children among the community. The children would not be raised in the homes of their families; rather, all kids would be raised in one house, together. They would get times out of the day--a few hours, tops--to meet with their biological parents, but they mostly remained in the house with all of the other kids of the community.
Now, psychologically speaking, this has detrimental effects on certain parts of a child's psyche. The parts that should have been filled with maternal love and familial connection was replaced with either just a void or with the emotional validation of other children in the house. Of course, it wasn't completely a terrible way to raise children either, otherwise it wouldn't have been kept the practice of kibbutzim for so long. Remember, these kids are literally born into the ideas of sharing with each others' comrades. They are raised on the values of the kibbutz--of communism, nationalistic pride, and the strength of a community that works together and for each other.
Now, imagine a whole generation that was raised on nothing but the idea of sharing for the good of everyone. Actually, you don't have to imagine. This is what happened! This generation of Israelis were so, so nationalistic that all kibbutzim villages moved to the very borders of the land of "Israel," such that if you shut off all the lights in the country and kept only kibbutzim lights on, you would literally see the outline of the border of "Israel" from an aerial perspective. It was the kibbutzim ideology that they should be living on the front lines--literally--to serve their country for the good of everyone in their country.
Of course, with the onset of technology and more well-connected media, people began moving out of the kibbutz in search of better-paying jobs for their own families. The idea of pure communism, while it lasted for a while in small pockets, started falling apart. What is viewed as the "American Dream"--the idea of working hard and making a better life for yourself--was the very thing that brought kibbutzim communities to the end of what it had been. Today, there are still communities that consider themselves kibbutz-like, but only in the sense of cooperative living. There are about 270 of these kibbutz communities left in Israel.
We stayed in the kibbutz village of Ami'Ad, a more tourism-based community to show the world what kibbutz living is like. In the next section, I'll be talking about our time in the Golan Heights!
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