With a group of about twenty American teenagers, sponsored by the American Zionist Youth Commission, I spent the year between high school and college in Israel. We studied in Jerusalem, worked on a Kibbutz, the semi-collective called "Moshav," and worked independently in a city (I chose Haifa). Kibbutz was a startling experience for me, a real contrast to the materialism of American culture and the emphasis on material success that was so prevalent in the Jewish community where I was raised. Yet my experiences in Israel made me question the role of Zionism, which had ceased to exist as a potent ideology in the state of Israel in 1960. When I returned home I wrote the person at the American Zionist Youth Commission who was in charge of the "Year Course" program, distancing myself from further involvement.
Jan. 2, 1961
Dear Mama and Dad,
I had another wonderful weekend at Kibbutz. There is one boy there I admire so much. He finished army service and a year's service in the youth movement of his party and now he's back on Kibbutz. He is very brilliant, reads omnivorously, speaks English and French (for a sabra on kibbutz--unusual) and plans to quietly make his life on Kibbutz. He says all he wishes is to work very hard in the orchard and return to his books, words, and a nite's rest. He is so at peace with the world. If what you want in your life is Kibbutz, I truly believe you can be the happiest in the world. Don't worry, Kibbutz is not the life for me, I'm sure. I wish it were. It's such a wonderful life. They have their hi-fi's, books, allotments of plays, concerts, plus all the cultural and social entertainment that comes regularly to Kibbutz. Of course, these are the established Kibbutzim, Sde Boker, where Gail is going, is right in the middle of the desert. There are about 3 blades of grass on the whole settlement. I hear Mrs. Freedman is upset that delicate Gail is going to be stranded with a bunch of sheep and Israeli pionneers for two months. Mrs. Freedman should get to know her little darling a little better. Gail is not in the least delicate, except for her temperament. Hard work does not mean coarseness or a hardening of one's character.
[p. 2]The most gentle people I've ever met are from Kibbutz. Perhaps it makes some of Emily Post seem a bit unimportant, but I think its advantages are far greater. I went to visit Golda the other nite. She was going to the movies so I didn't have much time with her, but she seems well
[p. 3]and really feels she has matured here. It's so true. The values that in the U.S. were your parents' or society's are challenged here--and so they are either changed or become your very own. Whichever way it is a beneficial change, and Golda feels proud that she has found herself.