early kibbutz workers 88 248.
(photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist-Zionist youth organization that helped establish many of Israel's kibbutzim, sent 150 people last week to Kibbutz Holit, a tiny community situated on the Gaza periphery. The visit was part of a broader plan to help revitalize the diminutive kibbutz, which is home to just 25 people.
Liad Levy, Hashomer Hatza'ir's Swiss emmissary, told The Jerusalem Post that it was vitally important to the organization's ideology that "we go to the 'Wild West,' to the country's extremities and help build communities."
As such, the youth movement brought 150 people from Europe to Holit to participate in a four-day assembly. Movement members from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria were joined by observers from the US and Australia in attending the gathering to partake in talks held by its European representatives about the movement's future.
"By going and living at places like this, we give the people of these communities the power to help us. Why should they always be the recipients of kindness? It's not something that comes from above," added Levy.
Oliver Braunschweig, the European representative in the movement's World Secretariat, noted that Hashomer Hatzair was looking to innovate and the assembly helped the movement's various branches learn from one another "the concept of a 'kehilat bogrim,' [a community in Israel of alumni] - it is new to Switzerland, but in the US, South America and Israel, it's well developed."
Another member, Dimitri Berliner, 16, a youth leader from Brussels, explained that the gathering was "a great way to get to better know each other and learn other countries' traditions."
"Hashomer Hatzair is more politically active than many other youth organizations," stated Braunchsweig.
Referring to the protests over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's decision to break off diplomatic relations with Israel in response to Operation Cast Lead, he said, "Demonstrations were held at Venezuelan embassies around the world earlier this year."
Asked about the decision to send the movement's members to a kibbutz in close proximity to the Gaza Strip, Levy underscored Hashomer Hatzair's sense of commitment.
"There are many people who talk about helping Sderot, for example, but we are going to these places and living there... We don't support Sderot through mediation or finance; we simply go to the area," he said.
As a Zionist movement, Hashomer Hatzair recognizes the importance of bringing its members to the home of the Jewish people. As Mariana Boycheva, a Bulgarian representative said, "It's one thing to sit in Bulgaria or wherever you are, but it's another thing entirely to come here and connect to Israel; it's not just another country on the map. By coming here, we are planting a seed in our minds - as we've already been here and now recognize this place, if we come back, we'll be able to reach out and feel a part of the community."
"The location of the conference, Kibbutz Holit, is not random," declared a press statement summarizing the week-long assembly. "The kibbutz, situated near the Gaza Strip, has been the home to the movement's three-year educational and cultural center for the past three years. Hundreds of students have been sent there for cultural and educational training."