Kibbutz Deganya: Back where it all began

It wasn’t all idyllic. No revolution is, said Peres, making the point that in a changing world, there is the ongoing need to adapt to new realities and to forgo certain ideals and aspirations.

October 5, 2010 04:35
2 minute read.
Shimon Peres kicks off Senior Citizens month

Peres with old people 311. (photo credit: Meytal Yeslovitz)


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Six months ago, President Shimon Peres visited Kibbutz Deganya Aleph, known as the Mother Kibbutz, to join in its centenary celebrations and to congratulate five of its members who were celebrating their own 100th birthdays.

Also present to share in the nostalgia of the event were Ze’ev Shor, secretary of the Kibbutz Movement, and Yossi Vardi, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, whose grandparents were among the founders of Deganya Aleph.

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Shor and Vardi were back there on Monday night, as was Peres, to join hundreds of kibbutzniks who flocked to the Galilee for yet another centenary celebration of the kibbutz movement in general and Deganya Aleph in particular.

Peres was a founder of Kibbutz Alumot.

He said that although Deganya may not have realized all its ideals it paved the way. It was the closest the thing there was to the ideal, he opined.

There were all kinds of myths floating around about the Bolshevism that had taken hold of the country in those days, said Peres, and there were rumors about how the kibbutzniks had become capitalists, When thinking about it, he remembered his own life as a “capitalist” in Alumot.

Initially, he and his wife, Sonia, lived in a tent. Then they moved to a building without a roof. It was covered with sheets of tin, held down by stones.

Rain poured down on the tin and the storm blew away the stones. “We were privileged to see the sky. Sometimes it was blue and studded with stars and sometimes it was grey and glistening with rain.”

Peres admitted to having been a minor capitalist in that he owned two pairs of pants, two shirts and one pair of shoes – this despite the fact that kibbutz property was collective.

He had one pair of grey flannel pants in which he got married. He wore them exactly twice – once in Ben Shemen and once in Alumot.

“This was capitalism below the poverty line, but it was above the happiness line,” he said.

Speaking of life on the kibbutz in those pre-state days, Peres said that he could not identify any similar effort in the human saga to bring out and encourage the best in every human being. Most revolutions in the world exacted a price in blood, he said. The revolution in Deganya and the kibbutzim that followed brought in fresh blood.

It wasn’t all idyllic. No revolution is, said Peres, making the point that in a changing world, there is the ongoing need to adapt to new realities and to forgo certain ideals and aspirations.

The movement which had worked the land had to adapt itself to new technologies and computerization as well as to the new global economy.

Yet even though the situation had changed, the values had not.

Agriculture may have turned into hi-tech, and without that Israel may not have achieved what it has to date, said Peres. Regardless of change, values had to be preserved, he insisted.

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