Bernie Sanders and the kibbutz conundrum

Polls indicate that the Vermont senator is threatening to overtake Hillary Clinton, who pundits presumed was the unchallenged front runner in the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders (photo credit: REUTERS)
Bernie Sanders
(photo credit: REUTERS)
What do you do when you want to know something? You go to Google.
Google handles a mind-boggling 3.5 billion searches a day. That’s an average of more than 40,000 queries every second of the day and night. (You don’t have to take my word for it – you can Google it.) Although it has become the repository of almost all human knowledge, it has its limits. There are things that people search for that it just cannot tell them: How to make money for free, how to fly to Atlantis, how to get away with murder, and more. These are among many weird actual queries that are received, although the most puzzling – or possibly disturbing – real question that people type in Google’s search box may be, “How do I Google something?”
While some things are unanswerable, the most powerful search engine ever created by humanity should certainly be able to supply a key biographical fact about a major US presidential candidate, right?
With the US presidential primary season about to kick off (the Iowa caucuses take place on February 1; the New Hampshire primary is the week after), polls indicate that Vermont Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders is threatening to overtake Hillary Clinton, who pundits presumed was the unchallenged front runner in the Democratic Party.
Who is this Bernie Sanders? Google tells us much about him. He was born almost exactly three months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland whose families were killed in the Holocaust. He is a talented folk musician. He earned an undergraduate degree in political science in 1964, and, shortly after spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz.
As Israelis, his presence on a kibbutz intrigues us. Knowing that a kibbutz stint can have profound influence on one’s outlook, we have a natural interest in knowing which kibbutz he volunteered at. We might be interested in contacting our fellow countrymen who knew him to find out what he was like during that period. Many of us can vote in the US, and we would like to be able to get a better idea about the man and his attitude toward our country and issues that are important to us.
What kibbutz was Sanders on? Google it! What you will discover is that nobody knows. Not Google. Not Wikipedia. Not even his only sibling, an older brother named Larry, who himself was a kibbutz volunteer, although not at the same time or on the same kibbutz.
What a Google search does reveal is that you are not the first to wonder what kibbutz Sanders was on. A wide range of journalists, bloggers and others have already tried – fruitlessly – to uncover this information, which has become one of the most intractable secrets about one of America’s most public personalities.
Google generously discloses a wealth of information about other celebrities who have had kibbutz experiences: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld – who recently performed here to sold-out crowds – spent two months at Kibbutz Sa’ar; reportedly somewhat overwhelmed by the early hours and hard work, which he frequently found ways to evade.
British movie star Sacha Baron Cohen, perhaps best known for his role as Borat, spent a year volunteering at kibbutzim Rosh Hanikra and Beit Ha’emek.
Actresses Sigourney Weaver and Debra Winger, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Bob Hoskins of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? fame, and others have also been on a kibbutz in one context or another (look them up...).
But the intractable question remains: Where did Sanders volunteer? Not willing to give up without a fight, I, like other investigative journalists before me, emailed the question to every Sanders legislative and campaign address that I could find online.
No response was ever received.
What option is left when there seems to be no other way to get desired information? One crowdsources, throwing open the question to as many people as possible via the media and Internet.
You will recall that last month, the Antiquities Authority found a mysterious artifact inside a structure in an ancient cemetery. Stumped by a mysterious 8.5 kg. gold-colored metal artifact unlike anything they had seen in the past, they turned to the public to try to determine the nature and purpose of the object.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post, people across the country did their best to solve the enigma by identifying the object.
Responses poured in. Speculation included that the photographed item was an expensive ancient double-ended honey drizzle; a rolling pin for pastries; and a burial ornament possibly connected to resurrection of the dead.
Ultimately, crowdsourcing succeeded; the item was correctly identified. It was not an ancient tool at all – but rather a “gilded Isis Beamer” – an “energetic protection” device sold online by a German firm to ensure energy harmony in “your home, [at] your PC workstation and when travelling [sic].”
Might crowdsourcing help solve the Sanders conundrum? Might a Jerusalem Post reader remember seeing Bernie Sanders in Israel? In the name of full disclosure about candidates and in a pure quest for truth and knowledge, we appeal to our esteemed print and online friends to help solve the mystery of which kibbutz Bernie Sanders volunteered on – or alternatively, to help speculate/explain why this information is ultimately unknowable.
Operators are standing by...
e writer is an assistant editor at The Jerusalem Post.