FANCY MEETING YOU HERE – Freezing in Kingston but such warm memories of kibbutz
“There’s a guided tour of Kingston-on-Thames being advertised for the weekend, fancy coming?” asks my good friend Rachel Leventhal, who is originally from Liverpool but living in London for many years.
Being as I was in town, had a free weekend and always interested in learning about people, places and history – I jumped at the offer.
Unfortunately it was below zero and apart from Rachel – a volunteer in Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek when I was the volunteer leader in the 1970s – there was one other brave soul at the beginning and then a young Canadian joined us and the excellent seventy-something local guide and historian who apologized before we even started that he was going to cut the tour short because it was so cold!
Shivering and sheltering in a church doorway, we three women introduced ourselves to each other – and what a surprise we all got when it turned out that the other lady, Cilla Morgan was her name, had also been a volunteer on a Galilean kibbutz around the same time that Rachel was in Mishmar HaEmek.
And how did we get to talk about kibbutz you might be wondering?
Well, I had just arrived in London from Dublin and Belfast where I participated in events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of kibbutz. When Rachel introduced herself to Cilla, she then said “and this is my friend Lydia from Israel,” at which Cilla exclaimed: “I was in Israel, volunteered in a kibbutz many years ago.”
Small world but not really when one takes into consideration there are after all some 350,000 former kibbutz volunteers out there somewhere in 40 different countries. But what are the chances really of someone on a mission to reconnect with as many of those former volunteers as possible actually find one when standing in the doorway of a church in Kingston, South London!
Actually Cilla couldn’t remember the name of the kibbutz she had volunteered on so many years beforehand. However, she took my email address and shortly after arriving back in Israel wrote:
“Nice to meet you on the Kingston tour on Sunday, though a little chilly!
I went through my desk as soon as I got home and found the letter I wrote to my parents from the kibbutz. It was called Kibbutz Manara. We got up at 4am to pick cotton until 11am with a break for breakfast at 8am!
The postmark was 1972, so later than I thought.”
Cilla has now registered with the volunteer website set up by the Kibbutz Program Center in Israel in an attempt to reconnect with some of the thousands of others like her who came to Israel, returned home and over the years somehow lost touch and some of whom hopefully attend a reunion in Israel in June.