Catalan volunteers in the kibbutz: in search of the last socialist utopia | Culture

Socialism was being practiced on the shores of the Mediterranean. The most idealistic Israelis founded communal farms that spread out on the fringes of that tragic lot called the Promised Land. An arid territory to recover and where to sow the epic of the new man, the one who worked the fields during the day and studied Hegel after sunset. In the early sixties, Eulàlia Sariola, 77, heard about this mix of Marxism and Zionism in her native Barcelona: “It represented the complete opposite of the dictatorship that I knew and traveling there became my priority.” His is one of the voices heard in Kibbutz generation, a documentary by Albert Abril premiered at Filmin.

The film tells the story of a group of young Catalans who, during the Franco regime, undertook a separate trip to the kibbutz. Only a few had Jewish roots. Most, moved by their convictions, boarded a boat in the port of Barcelona that took them to Piraeus, where they obtained a visa to later fly to Tel Aviv. At that time the Israeli agricultural communes hosted numerous international volunteers. Coming of age, Sariola became one of them and spent five months in Dvir, in the northern Negev. The camp was governed by a principle etched into the collective consciousness. “Each one worked according to their possibilities and received according to their needs. We had a house, clothes and food, but the money did not exist ”, relates this translator of the Hebrew.

Although not Jewish, Sariola discovered her linguistic vocation in the Israeli desert and two decades later she studied philology between Barcelona and Jerusalem. She landed on the kibbutz in 1963 with her then husband, whom she married out of the desire to “know other possible worlds.” So getting married was the only way to look abroad. As did the half thousand members of the Dvir community, she got up at five in the morning. A truck was driving them to those fields filled with the scent of dill and thyme, peach and lemon trees. Harvesting ended at three in the afternoon, after breakfast and lunch breaks. Among these, there was also time to take a break in the shade of the olive trees and taste fresh lemonade.

Alicia Fingerhut, second from left, with her mother, brother and a cousin on the Israeli-Lebanese border during their visit to a kibbutz.
Alicia Fingerhut, second from left, with her mother, brother and a cousin on the Israeli-Lebanese border during their visit to a kibbutz. FINGERHUT FILE

During the project’s gestation, the director of the documentary traveled to Israel four times. He spoke with a score of Catalans who knew the kibbutz. He discovered that in his youth future political personalities such as the socialist Josep Borrell, now vice president of the European Commission, wandered there. In addition, in the 1960s the Jewish state organized visits aimed at descendants of the diaspora. “This is how they were soaked in their lost culture,” says Abril. Although the productive activity of the kibbutz accounted for the majority of the primary sector of a fledgling country, its propaganda importance was no less. Under the scorching sun of those fields the idea of ​​a new Jew was forged who, as the thinker Vicenç Villatoro maintains, “denied the clichés of anti-Semitism through his own existence”.

Inma Puig Antich, Salvador's sister, executed by the Franco regime in 1974, during her stay in 1966 on a kibbutz in Galilee.
Inma Puig Antich, Salvador’s sister, executed by the Franco regime in 1974, during her stay in 1966 on a kibbutz in Galilee.kibbutz

In such a way that the stereotype of a milky and wandering, cowardly or stingy Hebrew was opposed by the image of another stronger and more attached to the earth. The same reddish earth that Imma Puig Antich, 75, stepped on during her two-month stay at the kibbutz of Amir, located in Galilee. Sister of Salvador, an anarchist militant and one of the last victims of Franco’s vile stick, she undertook the trip in 1966 perhaps convinced that the definitive battle for freedom was being fought in the Middle East. But as soon as the culture shock arrived, it was tremendous: the local peasants complained about their elongated nails, because they accidentally pierced the apples when they pulled them from the tree. “I agreed that I would cut them if that happened, although it was not like that,” recalls this educator with a laugh. After the working day the assemblies took place, and after these, the dances and dinner.

Cleaning, laundry and food were done in shifts. Couples were a recognized institution, although the general assembly had to approve their union. Up to the age of 16, the children lived – divided into age groups – in cabins different from those of their parents, in such a way that care fell on the entire community. “I discovered that men could be friends and companions,” evokes Puig Antich in the film. “Unlike in my world, the collective interest prevailed over the individual.” Over the decades that individual has been gaining ground in the 270 kibbutz that still remain in Israel. Only one in four abides by collectivist norms. Some of them became alliances of small companies that are listed on the London and New York stock indices. The market has imposed itself on utopia, also in the land of Abraham.

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