1970's Kibbutz Volunteers from around the world

As part of the centenary celebrations of the kibbutz movement in Israel, the Kibbutz Program Center in Tel Aviv is reaching out to former volunteers all over the world to reconnect, take a trip down memory lane and if possible, join in celebrations planned for June 2011 in Israel.

The collective blast from the past is being spearheaded by Aya Sagi, director of the Kibbutz Program Center in Tel Aviv and her team.

"Hundreds of thousands of volunteers lived and worked in kibbutzim from the 1960s through to present times.  For many of those who came for a taste of the unique cooperative communities in Israel, their kibbutz experience proved to be a watershed in their lives, a never to be forgotten positive period in their travels. We want to pool those memories, energies and ties during this very special centenary celebration, and hopefully our nostalgia for days gone by will bring about renewed interest in Israel and especially the kibbutz movement," said Sagi, a member of Kibbutz Tzora.

Figures recently published by the kibbutz movement show that volunteers from Britain were the largest number from any one country.  An astounding 50,000 Brits have lived, worked and partied in one of the 270 kibbutzim since those communities opened their gates to outsiders in the early 1960s, with the largest wave at any one time having been during the 1967 Six-Day-War.

Surprisingly, the second largest number of volunteers came from South Africa with 40,000, Swedes in third place with 25,000, Denmark 20,000 and Germany 15,000.

Hundreds of volunteers over the years have married kibbutz folk and settled down to a life on the farm, others have settled in Israeli cities.  Among those who went home one can find famous actors, artists, musicians and politicians, authors and journalists and even a European banker or two!

In latter years it is not uncommon to come across volunteers whose parents volunteered themselves and actively encouraged their offspring to do likewise.

When Sagi took over the KPC only 20 kibbutzim were still accepting volunteers from abroad but with coaxing she has managed to get another 10 kibbutzim on board and is hoping for more to join the ranks of host communities, in order to give all the potential volunteers a chance to share in what was once an almost top of the 'to do' list of young travelers from around the world.  Well over a thousand volunteers are presently in Israel in 30 kibbutzim from the northern border with Lebanon (Kibbutz Baram with a large contingent of between 50-60 most of the year) and Kibbutz Samar, a small kibbutz near Eilat, and all points between.

"We see this as a very important project in terms of hopefully activating past volunteers in promoting a different image of Israel in today's difficult climate and influencing others by speaking of their positive experiences when they were in the country," said Sagi.

Former volunteers who want to reconnect with the kibbutz movement are invited to the KPC website where it is possible to register and also find long-lost friends from their volunteering period.

You are most welcome to enter our website www.kibbutzvolunteers.org.il and click the link "Find your friends" which will show you a map with all of the Kibbutzim in it. It is organized like Facebook and you can search for the Kibbutz and write to your old friends.
Here's the direct Facebook link:

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barry mosselson
was in nachel in 1956 on kibbutz hasonolim 1956 in the army in 1960 got married to lola amd went back to israel and lived on kibbutz hamadia for 2 years came back to sa 7 years later and live in cape town
bernard winikoff
I lived and worked on two Kibbutzim : Maagan Michael 1968-1969 and AMIR 1970 - 1972 married my wife on Ammir and went into IDF for nine months than emmigrated to the U.S. specifically Los Angeles Califonia where I have lived ever since.
janet vanGoudswaard
I was an english volenteer on Kibbutz Hulda from January until July 1975. It was a fabulous time . My name then was Janet Tustin...my kibbutz father was Amos Oz !
OISA..Eus de groot
Spent 3 1/2 years all together between 1972 -1976 in Beit Guvrin. Wonderful, best years of my life, especially during Jomkipur war.
Yvonne Mechler Debelja
I am from Sydney, Australia and was a volunteer on Kfar Blum in the Upper Galilee near Kiryat Shmona during 1993/94, I had the best time on the kibbutz, was able to utlise my skills in the guest house and met hundreds of people from all over the world. The best thing is that I made some priceless friends and have very fond memories. During my time in Israel I also volunteered in the Army through Sar El where I gained a huge understanding of what Israeli's do and how their borders are protected.
Maarit Hakkarainen
I am from Finland and was in two kibbutzim. First in 1979 in Kibbutz Einat and second time in Kibbutz Netzer Sireni in ulpan and after that as a volunteer during years 1982-83. Loved those times in the kibbutzim and miss them alot. I have many golden memories from those years and good friends.
Jette Andersen
Andrew Mollatt
most memorable time in my life at Kibbutz Hulda in 1975. met my wife there and we are still in contact with most of the other volunteers in our group.
Murray Peters
I lived in Degania A for almost a year during 1972. Issie Nathan and Bracha Weiner were in charge of the vollies. Had a fantastic time and worked in the bannanot fields.
Judy Karni
I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Massada from 1969 to 1971...
David Harrold
I was a volunteer at Kibbutz Hamadiya in Northern Israel in 1977. I have very fond memories of both fellow volunteers/kibbutzniks and the country. We planted date palms next to the river Jordan, picked pomegranates
Yvonne Sheccoury Nee Thompson
I was a volunteer from Australia, during the 6 day war and after 1967 to 1969 and again from 1970 - 1973 as went and joined the IDF from Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi then also was on Kibbutz Tel Katzir and Kibbutz allumot all in the North, ended up living in Israel permanently,I married and had two boys still living in Israel, but not on Kibbutz. Loved every minute of my time on Kibbutz and today have some contact with a few of the volunteers from Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi, my Kibbutz parents were Jim and Esther and their 6 kids, they had 8 but two still remained in Australia.
Steve Black
My name is Steve Black from the UK. I was in sarid through 1969 to 1970, amazing times especially when we were given real rooms to live in, the old shacks had character but that was all. The time there was in retrospect, amazing but not sure if I appreciated it at 4am in the morning. Especially as bed had only been reached two or three hours previously. The wonderful benefit of youth, but now as an ancient pensioner I have swapped Israel for Brasil and at least have wonderful weather. I wish all the volunteers well. Steve
Michael Esterman
I got to Israel on teh last day of the war. I was a member of Younger Poalay Zion. Stayed on Kibbutz Sde Nehamiah for 14 months. Came back to UK. Went back to Israel in the 80s with my wife and little daughter. We had son who was born on Kibbutz Barkai where we lived for 5 years when we returned to to the UK.
Sharon Peltz
I volunteered on kibbutz Geva in 1979, Einat in 1981 and Givat Brenner in 1984 I have many unforgettable memories of Kibbutz life. Sharon
Julie Akers (Pulfer)
My friend Caz and I were volunteers in Kibbutz Eilot in 1981, we met lots of other volunteers from all over the world.We picked melons, pruned dates and did stints in the loos!and the kitchen.I got very fat on the lovely eggy bread!!!Anyone in Eilot in March 1981?
Valerie Baum
I was on Kibbutz Sde Eliyhau in 1973 for six months which I enjoyed very much. From Valerie Baum
Clive potter
I was at kibbutz Eliot in 1976 to 1977. Used to walk in the mountains behind the kibbutz and made friends with many.
Tim Harness
I was sorting out my papers and discovered a certificate thanking me for my contribution as a volunteer at Mishmar Haemek signed by Lydia. I was there from June to March 1977. it was only 3 months but I had a wonderful time in Israel. I have a great photo of me dressed a a punk at a Purim party in the air raid shelter!
John Winlow
I was on kibbutz Kabri 1970 Mishmar haEmek 1971. Amiad as an occasional visitor 1970/71/72/78/81/82/83/ 2000/2009 Israel Aretz sheli!
John Winlow
I did an ulpan on Mishmar back in 1971, kitah aleph/bet. Our teacher was Ruti. I worked with an old fellow who drove a horse and cart, and also in the alfalfa doing irrigation. I had asthma and the kibbutz doctor's son also had asthma, so I was very well looked after. The kibbutz invited me to become a member. I was very honoured but declined. Altogether I spent five years in Israel and I loved every minute.
stephen robertson
I would like to hear of anyone who stayed at kibbutz amir in 1983. My girlfriend and I were on this kibbutz in October 1983 for 3-4 months and met some lovely people - just on the off chance wondered if there were an outside chance of finding out where and how they got on in life.
Karen Goldblum
What a great project! I often think of the summer of 1973 when I volunteered at kibbutz Amiad and I wonder what has happened to many of the friends I met there! I would love to know! I am coming to Israel next week and I will be stopping in at Amiad..the older I get the more I relish the fond memories ( and CRAZY memories) of my youth!!!!
Shalom! My friend, Donna and I volunteered at Kfar Blum in the Golan Heights in October 1983. We had the most fantastic time. We folded sheets, worked in the kitchen making gallons of mayonaise and lots of other stuff. the evenings were spent dancing away at the club called Shabloo (or perhaps it was just once a week!). We eventually went to Givat Brenner and Nir Oz and also spent a bit of time on the Moshav Neot Hakikar. All wonderful and brilliant experiences for us young east end gals.
Rik Swanink
Hi, I was in Kibbutz Amiad from Sep 1973-April 1974 and later in 1976 again. Originally Dutch and immigrated to Canada, Calgary in 1980. Still have contact with some Amiad friends and please feel free to contact me to talk about old times! Have a great day! Rik Swanink rswanink@shaw.ca
David Globerman
I was at Kfar Hanassi from Oct - Dec. 1973....anyone else out there at the same place and time?
marc backer
I was on Maagan Michael 1975-76. Worked hard, played hard and enjoyed every minute.
Bradley Botkin
Hi Lydia!-- I did ulpan and volunteered there from July 1977 to May 1978. One of the best years of my life then. I rode a bicycle most of the way there from Maine, rode up from Lod through the West Bank to the kibbutz, I don't think anyone in Israel had ever seen a road bike and the army had never encountered anyone sleeping in a field on the side of the road. My sister (Dianne Lior) was married and living on Mishmar Haemek then. Loved working (mostly) in the refet with Yoash, Reuven, Doran, Penny, and a few others, terrific bunch of volunteers and kibbutzniks.
Ron Bloomfield
I worked on Kibbutz Hamadiya for three months in the Spring of 1969 in the cotton fields. It was so hot
Steve Bullock
Hi Lydia I was on mishmar haemek in 77/78 for two Ulpans. Saw Sadat in the old city when he visited. Still have great memories of my time spent there. I saw that you were in Toronto giving a talk at Ryerson,my old school.
Peter kean
I caught snakes in 1984
Rosalyn Ellison Richman
lived on kfar hanassi June 1966 to august 1967 attended Ulpan theb worked on the kibbutz looking to reconnect with anyone who remembers me
I spent the Summer of 1977 on kibbutz ein hahoresh.What a fantastic time! Beautiful country full of great people
Stu Weisbrod
I was a volunteer at Kibbutz Masada in the summer of 1971. Anyone have pictures of the group? Thanks
David Morrill
Some of my happiest memories were being a volunteer on Kibbutz Kinneret during the 80's.
Claude Cohen
Hi everybody, I was a french volonteer in 1982 for six months on kibbutz Réim. Good times and good memories.
Brian Ferns
Volunteer at Kibutz Kabri August 1963 - February 1964. Workman in the bananas. Did much travelling every six weeks visiting most areas from north to south but only part of Jerusalem as in that time some of the city was still in Arab hands.
Martyn Borovick
Was in Israel June 1961for six months .I started off on Nahal Nirchen Then I went back as a volunteer on Kibbutz Masada from start of June 1967 for six months . I have been back a few times unfortunately most of the people I knew had left or died. It was a pity to see the how dilapidated it had become . I worked for nearly the whole time on the banana trees with two other volunteers , under the guidance of a kibbutz member called Jonathon who had come originally from India. Occasionally I worked when needed on irrigation.I treasure the memories. Shalom
Sylvia Fokkens
I was a volanteer in 1977 in kibboets Dvir , i had a great time, did you?
Peter Edwardsson
Was a volunteer at Kibbutz Ma'ale HaHamisha autumn 1983 and at kibbutz Nir Oz spring of 1984. Have strong memories from both kibbutzim. Often think back on the time in Israel as a special time in my life. Went back for a visit to the kibbutzim during the summer of 1992 together with my wife. Still living in Sweden, but have been back in Israel several times.

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About the author

Lydia Aisenberg

Lydia Aisenberg is a journalist, informal educator and special study tour guide. Born in 1946, Lydia is originally from South Wales, Britain and came to live in Israel in 1967 and has been a member...

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