Not so long ago, the Kibbutz was legendary among travelers as being the place to stop for a few weeks/months. I know it’s what brought me and many, many others over to the Holy Land. In fact, since the Six Day War in 1967, some 350,000 volunteers have come and gone through various Kibbutzim.
Nearly all of the 270-odd Kibbutzim in Israel used to host volunteers. Some came for the fun and sun (see John’s Kibbutz diary extracts), others came for the socialist ideals (or as the Kibbutz movement likes to put it “from everyone according to their abilities, to everyone according to their needs”). But as economic circumstances changed for the Kibbutzim across Israel through the 1990s, their new business model meant no room for volunteers and the cost of their housing and temporary jobs.
Only 25 Kibbutzim now have volunteer programs. In fact, in 2001 only some 100 foreign volunteers came to Israel and stayed on a Kibbutz, mainly due to the security situation that terrorized this part of the world. That number has since steadily grown to some 1500 volunteers in 2008.
And they keep on coming.
In fact, demand is now so high from volunteers wanting to come and stay on a Kibbutz that the Kibbutz Movement is working on getting additional Kibbutzim to open new volunteer programs. Those legendary tales of beery nights and picking bananas in banana plantations and milking cows at 4am seem to have been passed on to a new generation of volunteers…
Head of the Kibbutz Movement’s Overseas Volunteer Program, Aya Sagi, wants another five Kibbutzim to join the volunteer program, as she sees the program as important for both volunteers and Kibbutzim. As she puts it:
The volunteers come out of a desire to live the Kibbutz experience at the same time as they are traveling and exploring Israel… When they go home, they become ambassadors for Israel. There are many advantages for the kibbutz to hosting young people with a different culture, different language… It brings life into the kibbutz, and forces those living on kibbutzim to open their minds.
Looks like our Kibbutz FAQ could come in handy again…