That’s it, I am not in the kibbutz anymore. Well at least not physically but in my head I am still there.
This experience was really incredible, and I understand now why most of the people I know that have been there said that.
One of my biggest question when I arrived was, why people come here? What kind of people do you find volunteering in a kibbutz, especially in 2013? And why? When I told my parents I was going, they wondered why was I doing this to them? It was cool in the 70’s but you can do fruit picking in France right?
It’s not the 70’s anymore
The volunteer movement changed a lot because the reason for volunteering changed. The movement started because of the war, kibbutzim needed help to keep working so people who would go there, were more politically engaged and wanted to support the kibbutz, they would also be older sometimes leaving university or taking a break from work.
And some stayed in Israel, they are now married or have children! I have seen a lot of ex volunteers in my kibbutz!
But let’s go back to the one I met, during these 3 incredible monthes. I can’t really say they are politically engaged some don’t really know much about the situation. My self I don’t really have an opinion, its’ very complicated.
However even if we come from all around the world and have big cultural differences, I could see some similarities.
I was also very surprised to see big group from one country. For example they are so many Korean! I didn’t expect that! Same goes for South American and South African. Of course there were some of my fellow Europeans! But mostly Scandinavian, I don’t really know why it’s a bigger thing in some countries but it is not even related with being jewish because not many volunteer were jewish.
Need to leave
The reason for volunteering are often very similar: You are in a situation, you have to make choices. You just finished high school, or quit a job, finished university or had a bad break up, kill your self at work or realize actually you hate it so much. So they need a change, a big one. Travels are literally a way to distance yourself from your problems.
In my case, I was feeling I was going nowhere in France, I had no career started, my friends where living far away, nothing much to look forward, feeling I don’t belong there. I didn’t feel I was ready to work, the situation in France make you feel quite miserable when it comes to work. It is quite depressing especially in my field. I wanted to do something different where I don’t have to worry and I can meet people, learn about another culture. Two friends I met in England did it and the experience they described me seemed so amazing, I started to look for information. Sometimes it can be your parents that have been there and encourage you to do the same, or maybe you find out about it randomly while looking for what to do during a gap year. It seemed to be a great opportunity for me I had the time to do it.
I think it is indeed a break, all the everyday worries you have back home are not there: worry about cooking, doing your laundry, transportation, paying your bills.. Yes sometimes work can be tiresome, you can have a hard day, but you know that you won’t stay there forever, that cutting carrot isn’t your life, that it’s ok if you put an apple B in a a box of apple C (well maybe you won’t work in apple anymore ) it’s very unlikely you will wake up in the middle of the night worrying about your job (maybe just wondering if tomorrow is your day off…).
Therefore you can focus on one thing: enjoying the moment!
My home away from home
I didn’t expect to feel like home that quickly, to feel so good in a foreign country so easily! I think everything is different in the kibbutz: It’s more intense, but also relaxed and more spontaneous. The first week, even if I was new I would never feel alone because you will always find someone to talk to or hang out with. You build friendship and trust people faster than back home,and I think it’s because people feel that here no one knows them, we are equal. It’s always surprising when you here a volunteer saying “Oh back home I was a lawyer “or a journalist or some other “serious job” because here this one packs apples or works in dinning.
It really becomes a family, a feeling I have even more now I left. I was really amazed that with all these different nationalities and of course cultural differences everyone is so open and welcoming. You can’t be good friend with each volunteers but overall there is a sense of community and being together that is very strong. I think you feel free to be your self as cheesy as it sounds but it’s the truth for me. There are no expectations from people so you can feel more free.
This environment makes you feel safe, like you are in a bubble.
People may not think of this feeling of safety before going, especially because going abroad is in a way putting your self in danger, in a “strange” environment. But unconsciously we want to feel safe and it makes even more sense knowing that a lot of us when we arrive, are trying to escape our problems. We hope that when we go home everything will be better even if often the problems are still there waiting for us but we grew up in the meantime. No matter how long you stay, the kibbutz changes you.