My experience in Kibbutz Hatzerim is so imbedded in my mind that I can easily recall the people I met during my stay there. For the first time in my life I met persons from other continents. At that stage I had lived in France and Great Britain but here I had the opportunity of meeting people from other fascinating nations.
All the volunteers I met in the kibbutz were young people, except an English guy who was in his forties. They came from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, North America, Wales, France, Holland, Germany and Japan.
They all had different reasons for coming to the kibbutz. I was very surprised to meet a German guy in this little settlement. He was a Christian and he wanted to give his personal minuscule contribution to the Jewish community because he felt guilty and ashamed of what the Nazis did during World War II.
I could see exactly where he was coming from and I could relate to him. My father, during that war, was in the Italian Resistance. He was caught and sent to a transit concentration camp in Bolzano, in the north of Italy. In the camp there were Jewish prisoners as well. He survived.
For others the reasons for joining the kibbutz were much more superficial. A guy from an English little town, reckoned that his home town was a hole and the most boring place on the face of the planet. That is why he was in Hatzerim, he wanted to escape from his environment and look for adventure.
There were also some travellers on their OE, for example two Canadian girls and two Californian guys, and for them the kibbutz was a sort of stop over. They had the chance to experience another culture and in the same they had a break and a rest from their long, tiring, exciting journeys.
A few people were university students. They had a year off from their studies and wanted to do some volunteer work in a country with diverse customs and a different religion. Their plan was to go back home with a fulfilling and enriching experience of life.
There was a French guy who was a teacher back home and came to Israel to have a break from his profession. He used to work in the kitchen and he reckoned that the most dangerous job in the world was cutting tomatoes…
He made us wonder… He started a relationship with my room-mate and he came to visit me in Parma, my home town, later on. Many people did actually.
For the first time I met a New Zealander and that was a turning point in my life. This chap was boasting all the time about his country, that he called “NZ”. He said that it was the most striking place in the world, “God’s own” as he use to name it. He talked all the time about those strange places with exotic names I never heard of. I thought: “Well, I will have to go and have a look myself one day… “
Many years later I did. That is why I am here.
There was also a young Dutch girl. When she arrived nobody wanted her as room-mate. I was the only one happy to share my room with her. She was always grateful for that. She used to swear like a trooper and loved to shock and provoke people. We were not shocked, we were amused…
There were two South Africans. At the beginning I could not understand a word of what they were talking about. I never heard such an accent.
The girl was a stunning blue eyed girl. She said that a few years before she was very overweight. Nobody wanted to date her. By working on herself with dieting and attending the gym regularly she managed to change her looks dramatically. She became absolutely beautiful. She used to say: “Before nobody wanted to go out with me, now they all chase me. I am not very impressed… I am the same person.” She was from Muizenberg, not far from Cape Town.
The other South African was a guy. He was incredibly blond. Almost white. It was extremely easy to spot him. He had a very gentle nature. He smiled and joked most of the time. He missed the plane back home. One day I was in the pool and from a distance I saw a fair-haired head. I thought: “It cannot be him, he left.”
I approached the blond lad and yes, it was him. He said: “I never left. I got to the airport too late… ” He laughed. He did not seem very worried, he was busy getting a tan…
There is much, much more to tell but I am running out of space…
I can just say that we all had a great time together. We worked in the morning and usually we spent the afternoon in the pool. A beautiful Olympic pool. That was our favourite meeting place.
In the evening we met in someone’s room and talked and joked till late.
We all found what we were looking for and life was beautiful.
If you are interested in the different occupations I did in Hatzerim read my closing article about the kibbutz.