Kibbutz Program




Lydia Aisenberg



This month saw the return of a large number of kibbutz volunteers to the Givat Haviva campus touching on a spot of nostalgia for International Department staff members and striking up hopes for the continuation of such seminars in future.


The forty-one young folks hailed from 15 different countries and are presently volunteering in 11 kibbutzim from Ein Gev in the north down to Samar near Eilat.  Spending anywhere between a few months to a year volunteering on kibbutz they were from England, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, Poland, USA, Denmark, Holland, Colombia, Germany, Argentina, South Korea, Ecuador and Sweden.


Two and three day seminars for kibbutz volunteers were a common feature for the International Department for over 15 years but a culmination of events, the second intifada of the year 2000 and the privatization of two-thirds of the 270 kibbutzim in the last decade or so brought closure for the very popular specialized kibbutz volunteer seminars.


Within the framework of centenary celebrations of the birth of the kibbutz movement, Aya Sagi – director of the Kibbutz Program Center in Tel Aviv – succeeded in convincing the Israel Foreign Ministry of the importance of volunteers being given the opportunity to learn more about Israeli society, history and current affairs, recognizing the potential of their being good will ambassadors for the State of Israel upon their return home.


Since the 1960s hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world have volunteered in kibbutzim.  The largest number from any one country hailed from Britain with an astounding 50,000 participants.  Next in line South Africa with 40,000, Sweden 25,000, Denmark 20,000 and Germany, 15,000 – and in latter years it is not uncommon to find second generation volunteers with either mum or dad (and sometimes both) having volunteered in their younger days.


"The volunteer seminar at Givat Haviva gave us plenty to talk about all the way back to Kibbutz Hofit," emailed Josh an American and one of the volunteers from that kibbutz.  "I intend putting to good use what I learned during this seminar and thank you for all your efforts."

Another volunteer, Nick from Australia, presently working in the gardens of Kibbutz Nir Oz, emailed he was thankful for the opportunity to participate in the seminar which he had found interesting, informative and would definitely recommend to others.


Volunteer leaders have also been in touch with the International Department at Givat Haviva to pass on their thanks for organizing the seminar and to comment on how elated their volunteers had been when they returned and full of information to pass on to their peer group.

Efforts are now underway by the Kibbutz Program Center to contact as many former volunteers as possible through a website set up for the project at www.kibbutzvolunteers.org.il


"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 Aya Sagi.

When Aya 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 hoping for more to join the ranks of host communities for young people traveling the world and experience also what was once one of the items on the top of the 'to do' list of travelers.



The artical in GIVAT HAVIVA websit