East of Hadera

Kibbutz Lahavot Haviva reinvents itself as a residential community.

Kibbutz Lahavot Haviva (photo credit: ILANA SRAIER-PHILLIPS)
Kibbutz Lahavot Haviva

Just 10 years ago, the suggestion of a move away from suburbia to the communal life of Kibbutz Lahavot Haviva would have elicited a “Who would want to live in a dump like that?” response. Today, this renewed kibbutz is a far cry from the isolated, hole-in-the-middle-of-nowhere it once was.

Easy access to Highway 6 has attracted a number of businesses to the kibbutz, as well as a flood of young families eager to raise their children in a safe and supportive environment. Greeted by familiar faces, children freely traverse the pathways edged with pine trees and dotted with rabbits nibbling on the grass. Although the vast expanses of green are hastily falling victim to development, some might say the high standard of living, thriving community life and quality of education more than compensate.
A process of change embraced by old and young alike is transforming Lahavot Haviva into a sought-after location, and a number of Israeli “celebs” have chosen to make this burgeoning kibbutz their home.
Lahavot Haviva was named after Haviva Reich, a Slovakian refugee who made aliya in 1939. She became a parachutist and in 1944, was sent to help Jews in Slovakia resist German occupation. There, she met her tragic end at the hands of German captors.
The kibbutz was founded in 1949 by a group of young and patriotic Hashomer Hatza’ir members from Czechoslovakia. Two years later, the village was moved to its present location, on the ruins of an abandoned Arab village named al-Jalama. Ten kilometers east of Hadera, on the winding Haviva River, the kibbutz commands a sweeping view of the surrounding area – agricultural fields lined by row upon row of avocado and olive trees.
In later years, the kibbutz became inhabited by immigrants from South America, who were active in Hashomer Hatza’ir. David Schlessinger, one of the founders, reminisces about the glory days.
“We had a dream. We identified with our dream.
Without this faith the kibbutz wouldn’t have been established – not only our kibbutz, but all the kibbutzim.”
Lahavot Haviva, which was a collective kibbutz until 2002, underwent a process of gradual change culminating in full privatization. The only remnants of the “old kibbutz” are the signposts scattered around, bearing witness to a history of times gone by. The communist ideals on which the kibbutz was established have long been discarded in favor of a socially active and flourishing community, infusing the ideals of both young and old.
Schlessinger admittedly asserts that he wouldn’t have his three children with him today if the kibbutz had continued the way it was. “A person isn’t born only to work in a dairy farm or vegetable garden, and there weren’t many opportunities for people unless they left the kibbutz.
Today I accept the fact that we are absorbing and when I look around I’m content to live in this community,” he proudly professes.
The kibbutz education system is run by Sandra Klayroff, whose seemingly endless energy ensures that the various educational frameworks comprising the system operate smoothly. Klayroff, a kibbutz member herself, believes the education system is the backbone of the kibbutz, and is convinced that the kibbutz has benefited from the changes.
“Today, there is more of an emphasis on the professionalism of the staff, whereas in the past women were allocated jobs in the educational system whether they were suitable to work with children or not,” asserts Klayroff.
According to her, what sets Lahavot Haviva apart from other kibbutzim is the willingness of the kibbutz to accept new members with open arms. “This projects onto the education system,” remarks Klayroff. “In addition, the system is made up of warm, caring staff who truly love working in education.”
The changes to the old kibbutz lifestyle become strikingly evident when taking a leisurely stroll around the kibbutz. Many clusters of typical kibbutz houses have either fallen victim to merciless machinery or been magically transformed into double-story homes.
Between 2005 and 2009, 51 new families were absorbed into the kibbutz. Around 20 are the children of kibbutz members, and the remainder external. In 2010, a further 28 families were absorbed in the second wave. The policy of the kibbutz is “Build your own home,” according to your preferences, resources and capabilities. Mountains of concrete continue to replace acres of green grass, as houses spring up on the outskirts of the kibbutz. Rows of mostly modern homes are starkly juxtaposed against the more modest homes, once referred to by their occupants as “rooms.”
Ten-year-old Gaya Maman, who starred in the popular A view of the houses with Highway 6 in the background. (Arnold Bear) David Broza is among the artists who appear on the weekend at Berele. Israeli show Beit Sefer Lemusika, moved to Lahavot Haviva with her family. Originally from Hadera, the Mamans were looking for a place near their family and the kibbutz fit the bill.
Gaya smiles bashfully as she describes her integration into the community. “I was very warmly received. In the beginning I thought it would be difficult, because the children are very close, but they accepted me very easily.”
When asked her opinion about the homes on the kibbutz, she said, “I think the old houses are very important, because they belong to the people who founded the kibbutz, and we need to preserve the old kibbutz. Their houses are also very nice; it’s a kind of division between the kibbutz of today and the old kibbutz.”
Lahavot Haviva has become a nesting tree for a significant number of businesses. You can buy new tires, undertake iron works, order medical textiles or grab some dim-sum, all within a matter of meters. Every weekend the resonating sound of live music filters through the walls of Berele, a stylish, privately owned music club hosting many of Israel’s top artists.
The kibbutz itself benefits from several business ventures. Gal Yam, the shared dairy farm on Kfar Glickson, is a profitable asset, yielding nine million liters of milk a year. The 170 hectares (420 acres) of orchards, part of which are the fruits of a combined ownership with Granot, are an additional source of income.
What started off 30 years ago as the production of clothes for the workers has developed into the successful Lehavit enterprise, a factory producing advanced textiles for the medical industry. The factory is characterized by the humming sound of needles gliding effortlessly over material adeptly manufactured into a variety of garments. With Ruth Chanash at the helm, these top-quality garments are made to World Health Standards and designed by experts in the field.
Within close proximity of Lehavit lies a derelict area that once housed a dairy farm and poultry pens. There are plans to develop this area into an industrial park, and possibly even bring Coca-Cola to the kibbutz to open up a logistics site for the North.
Omri Galperin, an enthusiastic travel journalist, writer and director of a number of Israeli television projects, and promotions movie producer, moved to Lahavot Haviva from Herzliya five years ago. Although he had his reservations about making the change, Galperin and his family are very content in their banana-colored, country-style home. A love of people and culture, coupled with an appreciation of nature, convinced him that he had made the right decision.
Two years ago, Galperin was approached by the head of the community to head the culture on the kibbutz and develop the community. “Actually, I told her that I didn’t think I could take that on my shoulders because it takes lots of time,” laughs Galperin, who has been planning the cultural events on the kibbutz ever since.
But putting aside questions such as how New Year’s Eve should be celebrated and the like, an issue of paramount importance has presented itself: How can the members build a community that unites the values of the newcomers and the pioneers? This is no easy task, but the kibbutz is on the right track.
Former IDF spokesman and present owner of Strategy & Consultation, Avi Benayahu, arrived at Lahavot Haviva in 1975 at the tender age of 16. As an active member of Hashomer Hatza’ir, he reveled in the kibbutz spirit.
“Everyone, from the youngest member to the oldest, thought about the kibbutz,” says Benayahu. “People hardly thought about the ‘I,’ the family. It was in the genes, in the DNA of the kibbutz.”
But humans have a natural inclination towards developing, and this led to the downfall of the old kibbutz system – one in which “people were like blades of grass, each with his job,” explains Benayahu.
“If one person rose above the rest, the kibbutz had a lawnmower to cut the grass so that each blade of grass would be at the same height. This made it very difficult to rise to the top.”
Today, Benayahu is in favor of privatization, which has its advantages. “Firstly, it brought people back to the kibbutz – not to the kibbutz approach, to the settlement,” he maintains. “The system is out – the community is in. Secondly, nobody compares himself to his neighbor. Everyone looks only at himself.”
Lahavot Haviva has undergone a complete makeover.
From the ghost-like settlement it became in later years, with few children and not much atmosphere, to the flourishing community it embodies today, the kibbutz’s changing face represents an exemplary system which has put Lahavot Haviva on the map.