Kibbutz Program


From the weekly Hebrew Newsletter “B’Yizreel”, Kibbutz Yizreel, October 16th, 2009

 Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get at least one phone call or email from Israel or abroad, asking about the possibility of being accepted as a volunteer on our kibbutz.  Sadly, we are unable to accept more volunteers without finding work places for them in advance, not always easy.

When the phone rang last week, from Tel Aviv, Nicholas from Denmark introduced himself.  I prepared myself for the opening question, “I want to know is there is a possibility of my being a volunteer on your kibbutz?”  But no….his request was to visit Yizreel for one day, before returning home.  “For one day…?”  I asked.  His reply, “In the early 80’s my parents were volunteers on your kibbutz; they worked together in the almond orchard, fell in love” (not the first time for romance to begin in the almonds..) “and later married, and that is how I came into the world.”

Nicholas wanted to visit Yizreel to see where his parents met and he asked if he could sleep over one night.  I invited him to do so, but explained that on the following day I would not be on the kibbutz, but would arrange for someone to receive him until my return.

And that is how Nicholas, aged 25, arrived on Yizreel.  Ofri received him and did some serious investigation work to find the family who had ‘adopted’ his parents during their stay (part of the kibbutz experience which volunteers get on our kibbutz).  Ofri asked Nicholas if he had any idea which family had adopted his parents.  All he knew was that they had a four year old blond boy, named Shai.  Ofri’s questions led them to the home of Ilana and Michael Shani.  Ilana opened the door, and after a brief introduction immediately remembered Nicholas’ father who was  a regular visitor at the Shani’s home.  Over coffee Ilana fished out an old photograph album, and found a picture taken nearly 30 years ago, of Peter, Nicholas’ father.  Nicholas was quite overcome and photographed the picture to take back home.  The meeting with the Shani family was warm and special.

By then I had returned to Yizreel, met Nicholas, and took him on a tour of the living areas, agricultural and industrial branches (much changed and developed since the 80’s).  He was most impressed with what he saw and photographed many corners of the kibbutz, especially places which were in existence then, to show his parents.  I also presented him with a kibbutz t-shirt, and his father’s registration card, filled out on his arrival nearly 30 years ago.

Next morning I took him to Afula to catch the bus to Tel Aviv.  He thanked us and the kibbutz for giving him such an emotional experience, and promised to tell his parents and friends of his unforgettable visit, which, to his surprise was still one of the “co-operative stream” – or a ‘nature reserve’ amongst kibbutzim.  Nicholas is studying photography and works as a photo-journalist for one of Denmark’s largest newspapers.  To complete his studies he is obliged to present a photographic exhibition of a subject of his choice.  He is seriously considering returning to Israel using Kibbutz Yizreel as his subject – the place where his parents met and later married, and the source of his existence in the world.

Arnie Friedman, Volunteer Co-ordinator, Kibbutz Yizreel